Lambeth – A Failure of Road Safety and Transport Policy

The London Borough of Lambeth have published their draft Local Implementation Plan (LIP) for Transport. As previously reported, all London boroughs have to prepare one to accord with the Mayor’s Transport Strategy. Lambeth is a notoriously anti-car borough and the document shows how past policies have failed in many respects. That includes on improving road safety and providing an efficient transport network.

Lambeth claims that their road safety policies have been successful in reducing accidents. This is the chart showing KSIs (Killed and Seriously Injured) in the borough since 2005 from their report:

Lambeth KSIs 2017

The report suggests the last two years data (coloured in orange) should be ignored because there was a change in the definition of a “serious accident” which has not yet been factored in. But slight injuries increased from 1,173 in 2005 to 1,301 in 2015 which rather suggests that there is some other explanation. That increase has occurred despite the fact that a 20 mph speed limit was imposed on all but a very few borough roads – the result was a really big reduction of 0.8 mph on the average speed of traffic on borough roads!

Indeed if you look at the KSIs broken down by type of road user, the figures for 2016 and 2017 show substantial increases in accidents involved pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists as a proportion of all accidents. In other words, encouraging people to use cars less and cycle more is likely to have increased overall casualty numbers.

Lambeth is one of the most densely populated London boroughs with significant immigration over many years. Population growth is expected to continue. The public transport network is under severe strain. Average bus speed in the borough is only 8.3 mph and train services severely congested – for example on the Northern Line there are 4 standing people per square meter in the AM peak through the borough!).

What does the Council propose in its LIP to improve matters? This includes:

  • More enforcement of the 20 mph speed limit which is widely ignored, including the wish to obtain powers to do it themselves, and more physical measures (road humps, road narrowing, etc, no doubt).
  • Putting 20 mph speed limits on TfL roads (i.e. all the main roads through the borough except for the South Circular).
  • An aim to reduce car ownership in the borough from 65,600 to 62,400. How will this be done? By ensuring all new housing and other developments will be “car-free”, i.e. no parking provision and by many other measures to discourage car use and make it more expensive, e.g. more bus lanes, more cycle lanes, more permit parking schemes, etc.
  • They will also lobby to extend the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to the whole of London so that all parts of the borough are included within it (the South Circular bisects the borough).
  • They also want “stricter liability laws” to protect vulnerable road users – this sounds like a big threat to all vehicle users.

So it’s going to be more of the same with no attempt to improve the road network or tackle road safety in a way that will likely have a substantial impact.

You can read Lambeth’s LIP and respond to their on-line consultation here: .


Roger Lawson


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Additional Permit Parking Charges for Diesel Cars in Lambeth

The London Borough of Lambeth are proposing to implement additional permit parking changes for diesel cars that do not meet the Euro 6 standard – that means all of them that are more than a few years old. The additional charge will be £40 per year.

The ABD has sent in objections simply on the grounds that this is a political gesture that will have minimal impact on air pollution in the borough, or is motivated by a desire to raise revenue for the Council. A similar calculation recently for Merton showed that the impact might be a reduction of 0.4% in overall NOX emissions which is too small to be measurable in practice. In addition, as clearly there will be additional revenue raised for council budgets, without any offsetting reduction in charges for other vehicles, this change is effectively a revenue raising measure and hence illegal. It has been established by more than one legal precedent that permit parking charges cannot be used to raise revenue but can only cover administration and enforcement costs.

Roger Lawson

Lambeth Reopens Loughborough Junction Roads

Lambeth Council have reopened four of the six roads they closed around Loughborough Junction, allegedly in response to a formal complaint from the London Fire Brigade. However there was an enormous amount of public opposition to the closure under an “experimental traffic scheme” that was due to last six months. The scheme frequently created gridlock and a worse environment than before.

A steering group has now been formed of stakeholders, including a group named “LJ Road Madness” who opposed the scheme and who have a Facebook page if you wish to support them. They would like the two remaining roads reopened also.

Comment: It just shows that it pays to complain and get opposition organised if your local council comes up with plans that you disagree with. London councils are often dominated by a certain kind of person (and I am talking here about both councillors and council staff) who would like to remove all road vehicles from our streets, to the enormous inconvenience of most residents and those who have to go about their business such as delivering goods, and that’s not counting the needs of the emergency services. If you need advice from the ABD on how to tackle such problems, just send us an email or give us a call. See the Contact page of our web site here:

Roger Lawson

Lambeth 20 Mph Scheme

Lambeth Council are pushing ahead with a borough wide 20 mph speed limit. See for the details.

Anyone who has any views on this should send them to Barbara Poulter at the Council (email address: ) . Here’s some comments this writer has already sent her (and the initial results from the 20mph speed limit in the City of London covered in another recent blog post show what a waste of money such schemes are and can actually increase accidents not reduce them):

Please note that the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) is not opposed to 20 mph speed limits in all locations – for example where the natural speed of traffic is near that speed. In many residential streets that is the case. However we are opposed to blanket wide area 20-mph limits because they are not a cost effective road safety measure, are not likely to be complied with and needlessly slow traffic.

  1. Let me first refer to your published document entitled “Lambeth Goes 20mph -Guide” which unfortunately contains a lot of inaccuracies.

For example, it states that “driving slower on residential roads has been proven to reduce traffic accidents,……”. Unfortunately there is no such evidence. Perhaps you could care to produce the evidence on that which is of course not supplied in the document concerned. Furthermore you say that “By reducing speeds to 20mph, it will reduce the number of casualties in the borough, improve pedestrian safety, encourage more confidence among cyclists and cut the number of incidents around schools”, but again there is no evidence for those claims.

  1. The facts are these:

a – In general the benefits of 20 mph signed area wide area schemes are grossly exaggerated. The average reduction in the speed of traffic is typically about 1 mph (assuming that there is no bias in the collection of data or other influences that might affect traffic speeds which is a dubious assumption).

Such a speed reduction is not likely to have a significant or measureable impact on road traffic accidents and not have any impact on the general environment of the roads concerned. Neither is it likely to encourage cycling or walking or discourage driving so the general health benefits will be nil – indeed there is no good evidence yet available for any such positive benefits (cities such as Bristol have claimed such benefits but their evidence is statistically dubious in the extreme).

b – The suggestion that a reduction in traffic speed translates into a significant reduction in collisions is not borne out by the real world evidence but is based on a biased analysis of traffic speeds on different types of roads. There has been no proper “controlled” trial of the use of signed only speed limits. The results in Portsmouth (which are mentioned in your document who claim an 8% reduction in collisions) do not provide firm evidence that there is any real benefit. Indeed KSIs in Portsmouth actually rose. I wrote this article on the bias inherent in the claims by Portsmouth that gives more information:

You also refer to data from Nottingham which only covers one year and any road safety engineer will tell you that one year is too short a time to be significant, particularly as there tends to be a short-lived reduction in accidents if the road environment is changed. And as you are no doubt well aware, it is more normal to only consider 3 year before and after periods as showing any significant change.

c – There is no good evidence that 20 mph sign only schemes provide any real, statistically significant, and below trend accident reduction. It is also worth pointing out that the Department of Transport (DfT) have recently commissioned a three year study into the effectiveness of 20 mph schemes as they suggest that current evidence is “inconclusive”. It would be rash of Lambeth Council to spend large amounts of money on any 20 Mph, signed only, schemes before more evidence is available on their financial benefit and effectiveness.

  1. There is no cost/benefit justification provided for the large expenditure of £700,000 on these proposals, money that would be better spent on other road safety measures. The key question is whether the benefits of that expenditure outweigh the costs, i.e. that it is a superior cost/benefit ratio to spending that money on other things.
  2. More evidence. Historically there was a 20-mph speed limit across the whole of the UK before 1930 when accident figures were much higher. Accidents fell after it was removed. See this note for more information:  .
  3. In general the evidence put forward by those who support 20 mph wide area speed limits as a road safety measure is dubious and I would welcome the opportunity to contradict any that you receive. They often rely on selection of the data while ignoring other factors that might affect the results. In practice, their understanding of statistical evidence and the scientific method is weak in the extreme.
  4. So the key question, is whether spending £700,000 on such a scheme is worthwhile, or whether it would not be better to spend it on other road safety measures!

Regrettably a proposal to reduce traffic speeds looks both simple and attractive which is why politically it can appear to be sensible. But road safety is a much more complex matter that is not amenable to simplistic solutions. Smaller, focused road safety schemes would be likely to create much more benefit than putting up 20 mph signs everywhere (which will of course be ignored by many road users who will consider it an inappropriate speed for many roads in Lambeth).

  1. Imposing a speed limit that is lower than necessary will slow traffic of all kinds, and will not be adhered to unless there is massive expenditure on enforcement (which of course has to be taken into account in the cost/benefit calculations as has the cost of increased travel times).

Finally, let me say that these proposals are being put forward by those who have little understanding of road safety or how to reduce accidents. In reality it is “gesture politics” of the worst kind. It it likely to result in fewer reductions in road casualties, and hence possibly more deaths, by wasting money that would be better spent on other road safety measures.

Roger Lawson

Road Closures in Lambeth around Loughborough Junction

Lambeth Council have closed a number of roads around Loughborough Junction on an “experimental basis” for 6 months. That includes closures in Loughborough Road, Barrington Road, Calais Street, Padfield Road, Lilford Road and Gordon Grove. These closures are causing enormous difficulties for both local residents and those travelling within the borough. For example, Loughborough Road was used by 13,000 vehicles each day according to the council and those vehicles will now have to find alternative routes.

The aim of the scheme is to enable “public space improvements”. The council did consult local residents but only 633 people responded. Over 750 people signed a petition organised by Loughborough Estate Tenants and Residents Association against the closures. The Brixton Society have also called the consultation “fundamentally flawed” and neither anyone living outside the affected zone nor the ABD were consulted – in other words a lot of the road users were ignored.

More information is present here:

Please send your objections to Barbara Poulter at

This is of course a typical example of the degradation of the road network in London of late, supported by councils such as Lambeth, and the Mayor, who take little notice of the impact these closures have on the day to day life of those who live or work in the area.

Postscript: there is a petition launched by local residents against these proposals – see here: . Please sign it!

Roger Lawson