A Utopian Shangri-La for all but the motorist

BEFORE anyone gets on their high horse, bicycle or tandem, I am not against 20mph speed limits on roads in Wales IF those roads happen to be in locations where children and the elderly gather in numbers or struggle to traverse the road safely.

The plans by Welsh Government to make most 30mph roads in Wales 20mph has attracted enormous amounts of people who have objected. Of course the same number who approve do not appear in large numbers for obvious reasons.

Those who object also fall into the ‘it’s ok outside schools and old people’s homes’ bracket. There are those who would claim that the Welsh Government has overstepped the mark and has really become a dictatorial regime wearing Nanny’s aprons. It is understandable but they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Falling foul of much of the negativity around the 20mph plans is the Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS. His Twitter feed and Facebook page is usually awash with nay sayers arguing their point or just plain hurling insults. Who’d be a politician eh?

If one picks through some of the comments there are many that make valid points. 23,000 people in Wales and a previous petition against the plans on Change.org attracted 58,000 signatures. Policy is one thing but convincing the people of Wales is another. Politics in Wales really has been a one horse trick for the last 20 years. That is not good for democracy. Those elected to govern would argue I am sure that fair’s fair and they were the first past the post and so deserve their position. Changing the voting system is for another editorial.

One of my work vehicles

I have been fortunate enough to live in rural areas of Wales with the only rush of traffic being the school run and the tea time commuters homeward bound. I lived in London for many years and cycled to work for most of that time or used public transport. There really was no need for a car. That metropolis has changed so much in favour of the pedestrian the cyclist and the user of public transport. How I wish it were like that when I struggled to dodge the traffic crossing the Brompton Road at the Harrods intersection armed only with a bell and a charcoal mask. I even reverted back to the bike for work in my 50s and have recently purchased three more bikes and a tandem hitting 60; years old that is. That reminds me. Who monitors the speed of cyclists in a 20mph zone?

My new Work Vehicle

There has always been animosity between cyclists and road users. Cycling on country roads in Wales 20 or 30 years ago was perilous. You were fair game for those who liked to play ‘skim the cyclist’s legs’. Changes mean that cyclists do have a better time of it albeit sheltered from the rants and abuse hurled at them from behind windscreens. The pseudo Tour De France 50 somethings bulging at the lycra seems like a sack of squashy melons wearing all the gear and choosing the main roads over the cycle paths to show off all that expensive kit. You won’t get change out of £4k if you want to look like Miguel Indurain, plastic surgery not included.

I digress and I am veering from the centre line sometimes to the loony left and sometimes to the bonkers right. It’s a good job the plod are not in the area. That brings me to one of the main issues surrounding the 20mph plans. I assume that in the early halcyon days the police will be rubbing their hands with glee as the speeding fines mount up. Where and when will they enforce the checks? One would like to think that it would be outside schools or where there has been a particular nuisance from speeding motorists. Will we all simply slow down and obey the signs and the law? Will our habits change? Will we see a large reduction in road accidents. Will there be less pollution? Will people get so fed up that they take to the bike, bus or train? Mr Waters has said that in years to come we will all wonder what the fuss was all about.

Here in rural Carmarthenshire in our small village, which has a speed limit of 20mph we are blighted by speeding motorists. It becomes worse in the evenings when I am guessing Carlos Fandangos knows full well that the Police are ensconced in a Kebab shop somewhere between Llanelli and Carmarthen. Speeds close to land speed records can be recorded on occasion.

I have always been a fan of the Mercedes car and engineering. My old C200 had a gadget which limited the speed. I used to use this in 30mph zones to ensure I remained points and fines free. I can still see and hear the motorists in my wake screaming and beeping the horn for me to speed up. 20 is the new 30 and we are all going to have to adjust because that is what we do. An hour on our commute, a lighter touch on the accelerator, a more patient and considerate approach to other road users and pedestrians. We are all together as one in the fluffy Shangri-La of the politician’s mind. A Utopia for all but the motorist. Might I suggest that in order to get into the swing of things one downloads ‘the funeral march’ from iTunes for that morning start from Sunday, September 17th. Honk if you are happy.

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