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No-humping 20mph limit for London

Wireless enforcement/revenue panopticon expansion

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Immediately following this week's demands by safety lobbyists fearing for their jobs that the UK adopt a default 20mph speed limit in urban areas, London Mayor Ken Livingstone popped up aboard the bandwagon (this happened so quickly, indeed, that one might suspect he was aboard in advance).

Mayor Ken - the cheeky chappie's cheeky chappie - announced yesterday that the capital will soon have ANPR* camera-enforced 20mph limits on "every residential street".

Trials are to begin next year, apparently using wireless cameras for ease and economy of installation. Ken's people say the plan is to minimise pain and grief for drivers by eschewing the use of road humps, chicanes etc, which are "cheap and miserable", according to the Mayor.

If technology trials are successful, Mr Livingstone says: "You could roll out camera enforcement of 20mph lanes right the way across London... My broad view is that in a residential area, there should be a 20mph limit... without the road humps there won't be any opposition."

Mayoral road-safety henchperson Jenny Jones told the Evening Standard that "making 20mph the normal speed limit in London would save lives, save money, and give a major boost to cycling[**]. There would be exemptions for some major roads, but all London's residential areas would be covered by the zone.

"The big advantage of having a London wide reduction in the speed limit is that we could reduce speeds without having to put in all the road humps, chicanes, and other traffic calming measures that drivers hate."

It seems that Transport for London (TfL) has £10m to spend on speed limit zones this year; though of course some soreheads may speculate that this will soon be recovered by automated tribute exacted from speeding motorists as they gaily bowl along the hump-free, camera-studded streets of old London town.

There will also be grumbles about surveillance and vehicle tracking. However, Londoners already live and drive within an ANPR panopticon. TfL's congestion-charge cameras are already used by terror plods to track any vehicle they like and the so-called "Ring of Steel" security cams installed around the City in the wake of various IRA bombings can do it too. This latest extension of plod/spook watching capability will probably pass largely unchallenged.

There's hope for the rebellious tech-head, however, in the news that the cams will be wireless. If they don't have any onboard logging/buffering, one will be able to carry a jammer in one's vehicle and speed with impunity (or, more justifiably perhaps, drive about safely without being tracked).

If the machinery can cope with temporary interference, different measures may be required; but there will be ways to beat the camera, despite the Daily Mail's gloomy prognostications. ®

*Automatic Numberplate Recognition

**Somehow. Your correspondent commutes by cycle, but still can't understand why a 20mph limit for drivers does cyclists a favour.

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