40 MPH Rural Speed Limits
For very many years speed limits have been set using guidance which included two basic tried & tested criteria. They may still be, for all I know. I retired a few years ago & things may have changed.
The first, the speed criteria, was based on the assumption, a valid assumption in my view, that 85% of all road users drive at a reasonable speed, appropriate to prevailing conditions, highway layouts, etc. This by definition implied that the fastest 15% of drivers are the ones who do so without due regard for the prevailing conditions. Speed limits were set at a level which would only target the fastest 15%. An 85ile speed in the low 30s would point to a 30mph speed limit being set and so on.
The second, the environmental criteria, relied on the level of development along the road in question. Basically, development in depth alond both sides of the road would indicate a 30mph limit. This is the level of development one would expect in densely populated urban areas, with considerable levels of housing, schools, numerous side turnings, etc. In these areas, an experienced motorcyclist or motorist will percieve the likelyhood of potential hazards to be great, & drive appropriately. Similarly, ribbon development, or single sided development in depth, as one might expect in a rural village, would indicate a 40mph speed limit.
These criteria, together with additional guidance for 20mph speed limits in certain circumstances, for the most part led to the development of a countrywide system of appropriate speed limits which could be enforced by reasonable levels of policing & largely had the respect of the motorist.
It should be remembered, however, that Highway Authorities are responsible for setting speed limits, & these are headed up by elected members, who act, for the most part following the advice of their officers, but sometimes,often for well-meaning reasons, stray outside the criteria & set inappropriately low limits.
If speed limits continue to be set by Highway Authorities, with elected members following the advice of well trained officers who have a background in, & an in-depth knowledge of, traffic engineering, then we have little to fear.
What worries me is that, at least from what has been reported so far, the coalition, supposedly pro-motorist, government are advocating a blanket approach to speed limit setting, which will inevitably lead to inappropriate speed limits, as perfectly good riding roads are lumped in with minor low speed ones.
I'm afraid that Ian Mutch is going to be busy!!