Do you believe motorists are speeding through your neighbourhood? Shaftesbury Town Council wants you tell them where their new speed indicator sign should be placed. But there are concerns that Dorset Council’s criteria may rule many of our town’s roads as ineligible.
Last year, Shaftesbury Town Council bought a mobile, electronic signboard which flashes up the speed of approaching vehicles. Town Clerk Claire Commons says it won’t record number plates or take pictures for fining or endorsement purposes.
“They collect data but not personal data,” she explained. “They record the number of cars roughly, and the speeds that they are going. Different chassis lengths create data results. It is a guide – an illustration of the traffic speed and movement.”
“They are effective at alerting people to the fact that they are pushing it a bit,” continued Claire. “At Longcross and the Gillingham Road there are issues because you’re going downhill and out of town. There is a natural feeling of acceleration. These (signs) are saying ‘Hold on a minute. You’re not quite there yet. Pull back’. Evidence shows it is effective.”
Earlier this month, council officer Brie Logan shared Dorset Council’s data. In places where these signs are positioned, there is an average 68% drop in the number of vehicles exceeding 35mph in a 30mph zone. Those are county-wide statistics and are not Shaftesbury-specific.
Two Shaftesbury roads, suggested by locals as needed speeding awareness measures last year, are currently sharing the electronic sign. “The two locations successful from the last exercise are at Long Cross and the B3081 towards Gillingham. We have had the first speed indicator device in place for six weeks at Long Cross and it has just been moved to the Gillingham Road. The evidence shows that they are most effective when they are moved regularly, on a six-week cycle,” explained Mrs Commons.
But some areas of town that locals suggested for these speed signs were turned down. Chair of the Planning and Highways committee, John Lewer, felt that gaining permission to place this sign in a potential speeding spot isn’t straightforward. A survey must indicate that 85% of the traffic is exceeding 35mph, if it is a 30mph limit. The threshold is calculated using the formula of 10% of the speed limit, plus 2mph.
“Dorset Council won’t allow us to put them in places where these criteria aren’t met,” Mrs Commons confirmed to ThisIsAlfred.com. “Part of that is their drive to reduce ‘street clutter’ so there are not too many disruptions for motorists,” she added.
“It’s almost impossible to meet this. It is set very high,” said John Lewer. He argued that most cars would need to travel at 24mph along the High Street’s 20mph zone, if that road was to be eligible for a speed indicator, which it isn’t.
In 2018, residents suggested that drivers were going too fast along St James Street, the town side of Bimport and also Calves Lane, which links the A30 Long Cross with the Shaftesbury to Gillingham Road. All these streets failed the test, along with Pound Lane, often at the centre of speeding complaints. Cllr Matthew Welch suggested that if the speed sensors had been placed on the straight stretch of that road, Pound Lane would have been identified as eligible for a speed sign.
In recent months, residents have requested speed checks on Mampitts Lane and King Alfred’s Way. Cllr Lewer believes that Salisbury Street should also be surveyed. “It’s a 30mph limit there and I swear a lot of people do more than 35mph before they hit the narrow bit,” said John.
The first survey will cost £250 and each subsequent exercise, up to six sites, is charged at an additional £100. Claire says the Town Council can access data to see if suggested streets might be eligible, before committing cash to a survey. “If people let us know where they think there might be problems, we can check them off against the criteria we have got. We have traffic speed studies and if we need additional information from Dorset Highways, we can verify that. If there are other areas that meet the requirements, we can add them onto our six-week rotation cycle.”
Claire says the signs can’t be placed in some locations because of safety considerations. “You can’t have one where you’ve just come around the corner and suddenly you’re presented with a sign saying, ‘You’re going too fast’, because that causes traffic issues if people slam their brakes on. Junctions are also a consideration.”
Councillors resolved to use social media, their website and other media for residents who are not online, to solicit sites for future speeding surveys. But Cllr Lewer warned, “They will be disappointed when they find out how places qualify.”