Making maps has made me look at my surroundings much more carefully. I have found things close to home that I didn't know existed and it has focussed my attention for detail. A couple of weeks ago we saw a speed limit sign which displayed the usual circular 40 speed limit, except it had the word zone written below it. We saw some more the other day and it seemed unusual, so I investigated some more. Finally I got an email from someone in the Highways department at East Riding of Yorkshire council. In it she stated
"Draft guidance from the Department for
Transport on setting speed limits supports the introduction of lower limits
on routes in rural areas where high speeds are inappropriate and there
are significant numbers of leisure users such as cyclists, horse riders
She goes on to explain,
"The implementation of a 40 zone requires
less signage than a conventional 40mph speed limit, therefore is less intrusive
on the rural environment. Special authorisation for the signs was
sought from the Department for Transport. A Traffic Regulation Order
is in place for the 40 zone, which means it is enforceable by the Police.
The routes selected for the zones are
pilot schemes and are being closely monitored."
I find this both interesting and a little puzzling. Firstly I'm in favour of reducing traffic speeds on some rural roads. Fatal accident rates for both vehicles and cyclists is higher on some types of rural roads and one way to try to reduce this is slow down traffic. Speed limits alone won't help much unless they are enforced which seems highly unlikely on quiet rural roads, but it may help a little. Today I was driving along one of the newly changed roads at 40 mph being tail-gated by an impatient driver from behind and almost forced off the road by a Mercedes-moron coming the opposite way doing much, much more than 40 mph.
The signs are subtly different. The initial 40 sign is the same size as normal but has the word ZONE below it. This is in upper case, which I think breaks the usual use of mixed case. 40 mph limits normally have small repeaters every few hundred metres to remind the drivers they are in a speed limit. This does not. It does have reminders every mile or so. To me this is too far apart. The sign carries a 40 mph circular sign at the same size as the beginning of the limit with 'ZONE reminder' below.
The road itself can have extra markings. Some parts have 40 roundels painted on the road occasionally and some parts have broken white lines painted down both sides of the road, but not at sharp corners.
The end of the zone can either be the national speed limit or a lower limit such as 30 mph when the road enters a village, say. Where there used to be a simple 30 mph sign there now has to be a new sign with a plaque saying the 40 zone ends.
The only other zones I have come across are 20 mph zones such as ones outside schools. Some 20 mph areas are not zones, they are simply a 20 mph speed limit. I do wonder what kind of bureaucratic mind dreams up these subtleties in the Department for Transport and imposes the hapless motorist with these distractingly different signs?
One other point is that the guidance from the DfT is draft, so what happens if the final guidance does not include this kind of road or if the signage is different?