Surrey bikers fight back: Councillor bids to show riders in positive light

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Reports of bikers potentially being banned from Surrey’s green lanes, along with pilot 20mph speed limits on some country roads, have prompted a district councillor to try to give riders a more positive public image.

Mole Valley District Council Chairman, Paul Potter, says riders have become the victims of a minority fuelling an ‘anti-bike’ sentiment.

“We are doing some publicity to go on a Surrey County Council website to hopefully promote a more positive side to motorcycling,” Cllr Potter explained.

Byway map check

As the Surrey Hills are a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, he says the area is a magnet for both lovers of the countryside, plus on- and off-road two-wheelers.

Potter told MCN that the recent 20mph speed limit proposals down from 60mph across the south and southwest of the region and increased calls for a biking green lane ban, as campaigned for by the Green Lane Environmental Action Movement (GLEAM), are evidence of the anti[1]bike sentiment in the region.

He, however, is working to establish a conversation: “It’s not just about the speed restrictions but an underlying trend and negative publicity by Surrey County Council and GLEAM.

Standing up is a good idea when riding off road, as you can see more and allow the bike to move around underneath you

“I’ve been working with Off The Kerb, who offer a green lane experience around Dorking, and the Dorking & District Motorcycle Club to try to get a more positive message across to the public.

“We’ve also been clearing up rubbish, speaking to residents, the police came up, which was good, and now it’s gone from ‘Let’s ban it all’ to some kind of dialogue.

“The people ruining it are the minority. If they keep ruining it, it’s gonna go,” he added. “But from what started out as a real negative it’s now becoming a real positive, and you don’t often hear that.”

‘Smacks of the war on riders’: Anger over plan to slash limits from 60 to just 30mph

First published on 16 August 2022

Entering a national speed limit stretch of road on a motorbike

Plans to cut speed limits on rural roads from 60mph to 30mph, and in some cases just 20mph, have been given the thumbs-down by riders and biking pressure groups.

Surrey County Council have confirmed to MCN that the plan is due to be implemented on roads across the south and southwest of the region as early as this autumn with the idea being to reduce accidents, cut injuries and improve the environment.

The council are still waiting for contractors to line up their resources to begin, with much of the cost being covered by the Drive SMART Surrey Road Safety Partnership who have agreed to provide £100,000.

Motorbike enters 30mph zone

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the idea has not been welcomed by riders’ groups. Colin Brown, the Director of Campaigns and Political Engagement at the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), told MCN: “I believe that the vast majority of motorcyclists will be uneasy with, if not totally opposed to, the proposed trials in Surrey. 

“Sadly, from what little information is published, I think the trials are misguided and likely to result in more problems than they solve,” Brown continued. “A speed limit is just that – a limit – and should not be regarded as a target.” 

He added: “I do not believe this is the right approach, though naturally it is the easy option for road safety. MAG has long used the slogan ‘educate don’t legislate’ and this is certainly a case where that principle needs application.”

Is this the beginning of the end of 60mph roads?

No one from Surrey County Council was available to comment or provide a full breakdown of the changes, but they did offer up a map of the areas involved. This showed a substantial number of new 20mph limits between the Mole Valley, Guildford, and Waverley. It appears no 60mph limits would remain in the test area, with some relegated to 40mph.

“A lot of the roads they are dealing with – at least in the presentation I saw – were very narrow country lanes and narrow roads through villages where a 60mph limit is probably inappropriate anyway,” said IAM Road Smart Director of Policy and Research, Neil Greig, having been shown the plans during an online meeting in June.

“A 60mph road going down to a 20mph is a big change,” he added. “If you don’t change the road, you don’t really give the driver or the rider important clues as to why you changed that limit.

“Every road looks different, and every road feels different. It’s going to look and feel different to every rider and driver and they are going to react differently,” Greig said. “Simply changing the speed limit over half a county is going to be difficult because each road is going to be so different.”

National speed limit sign

MCN readers have also been reacting to the proposals. Warwickshire-based rider Paul Roberts told us: “There are many roads around the country where it would be insane to drive at the legal speed [of the national limit].

“I regularly ride along a road where if two vehicles meet at 30mph, it can cause sudden braking from both parties. Would lowering the limit help? Sensible road users drive these roads accordingly, and understand the limit is not a target. The others who drive inappropriately for the conditions, would ignore the new limits anyway.”

Daryl Williams from Chatham, Kent, raised futher concerns, saying: “This smacks of the war on motorists and the wider issue of priming a population for having no personal transport in the future and having to rely totally on public transport.

“If you erode the benefits of owning one’s own transport by strangling it, slowing everyone down to walking speeds and making fuel too expensive, people will abandon cars and bikes.”

Does reducing speed limits work?

Surrey aren’t the only authority looking to lower speed limits. In July, the Welsh Government announced that all ‘restricted’ 30mph residential roads would drop to 20mph in September 2023. This was in an attempt to increase safety for all road users and lower pollution.

Eight areas in Wales have been early adopters. These are: Abergavenny and Severnside in Monmouthshire, Central North Cardiff, Buckley in Flintshire, Cilfriw Village in Neath and Port Talbot, St Dogmaels in Pembrokeshire, St Brides Major in Vale of Glamorgan and Llanelli North in Carmarthenshire.

However, concerns have now been raised in Monmouthshire and political leaders there are looking to reinstate a 30mph limit on some stretches among other changes amid a public consultation exercise.

40mph speed limit sign

“Although there has been clear support for 20mph on residential side streets, concerns have been received regarding the speed limit on the B4245,” a Monmouthshire County Council document stated.

“The proposed changes seek to address some of the community concerns raised while balancing this with the benefits of reducing speed limits.”

Two areas of the road are set to jump back up from 20mph to 30mph, but it’s also looking likely that another rural 60mph limit will be reduced to 40mph.

The changes underwent a 28-day consultation process across August with a decision expected to be made this autumn.

Speed limits cut to 20mph on rural roads in Surrey pilot scheme

First published on 16 August 2022 by Phil West

30mph speed limit sign

Rural roads with a 60mph national speed limit are to be restricted to just 30 and even 20mph under a new pilot scheme.

Surrey County Council has announced plans to trial the new speed limits on roads previously restricted to 60mph over an area covering 80 square miles south of Guildford and Dorking. It has not yet revealed when the pilot scheme will begin or how long it will run for.

The move comes following calls for urgent changes to road speeds – particularly those on single carriageway rural roads which are often subject to the 60mph national speed limit.

Motorbike enters 30mph zone

In April, in a new policy paper, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT), called for a raft of changes including new national guidance on setting speed limits.

Now, Surrey County Council has become the first to take things further by announcing the new pilot scheme. Matt Furniss, Surrey County Council cabinet member for transport, infrastructure and economy said: “Most rural roads in the area are still subject to the national speed limit of 60mph, which is inappropriate for these types of roads.

“Evidence suggests that implementing lower speed limits should reduce the number and severity of road collisions.” Only time will tell if this leads to further reductions in speed limits on winding rural roads…

Stuart Prestidge

By Stuart Prestidge