Taxi drivers lose fight against 20mph speed limit as Brighton becomes latest city to introduce restrictions

Cabbies claim drivers would be endangered by passengers travelling late at night who thought they were being driven deliberately slowly in order to inflate fares

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The Independent Online

Brighton tonight became the latest British city to introduce a 20mph speed limit.

The measure marks the end of a three-year battle to slow traffic through the streets of the south coast resort and comes despite virulent opposition by local taxi drivers who lobbied a meeting of the minority Green-led council’s transport committee over the proposal.

Cabbies claim that drivers would be endangered by passengers travelling late at night who thought they were being driven deliberately slowly in order to inflate fares. The move means that most city centre shopping and residential streets will now be governed by 20mph limits.

The £1.5m scheme is expected to be rolled out across Brighton and Hove over the next four years making it one of the most comprehensive in the country. Major routes in and out of the city will be excluded and remain at 30mph.

Green Cllr Ian Davey, who chairs the transport committee, said slower traffic would improve quality of life and lead to safer roads. “We are delighted this important scheme has been given the green light. I am mindful of taxi drivers’ concerns but in reality any increase in journey times is likely to be minimal and we need to balance them against the significant road safety benefits we hope this will bring across the city.” 

Research carried out by The Independent last month revealed that motorists could face 20mph limits in up to a third of local authority areas. A ComRes survey found that public backing for slow down zones in built-up areas has reached more than 60 per cent. Brighton now joins Liverpool, Bristol, York, Oxford, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and parts of London which have already introduced the policy.

Mick Hildreth, GMB professional drivers’ national organising secretary, said the union supported attempts to improve road safety but as lone workers at night they faced unique problems.

“To put in a total 20mph limit on the whole city 24 hours a day will have an adverse effect on our members especially in the evening when there is no traffic about,” he said.

In a representation to councillors the union cited an example of a taxi driver in Cambridge who was allegedly attacked whilst driving a passenger to hospital who accused him going too slowly.

Like the majority of 20 mph zones in other areas, Sussex police is expected to follow the advice of the Association of Chief Police Officers and rely on self-enforcement by motorists.

Brighton and Hove is the first council to be run by the Greens after the party took minority control in 2011. The party has 22 seats out of 54 with the Conservatives the second biggest with 18. The Government is seeking to encourage local authorities to use their powers to promote quality of life and safer roads. Eight of the 10 members of the Green-dominated transport committee voted in favour of the new speed limit.

A continent-wide coalition of safety campaigners, environmentalists and community organisations are seeking one million backers for a European Union petition which could see a lower limit of 30km/h (20mph) become mandatory from next year in all 27 member states.