Friday, August 9, 2013

60MPH Rural Tracks

Joe Wilkins was a family man, a firefighter, a father of two, and by all accounts a universally well-liked man.

He was killed on his bike, by a Ford Focus travelling at 60MPH, on an unrestricted (60MPH) road, Eaton Road, near Appleton in Oxfordshire.

Here is an image of the road:

View Larger Map

As you can see this is a narrow country road. The collision happened at 9:20PM on May 24th 2012. Sunset would have been at 9PM, so there would likely still have been some natural light. It appears Wilkins' bike had no lights or reflectors. The exact point the collision occurred isn't stated in the reports I've seen.

At 60MPH, things happen pretty quickly. You do not have much time to see and react to any hazards, such as pedestrians or cyclists, who may be hidden temporarily from view. For example, in the image above, there is a slight right-hand deviation in the road that limits visibility. It is roughly 350 feet from the speed limit sign to the limit of visibility. The stopping distance for a car in the dry from 60MPH is 240 feet. So that leaves 110 feet - that's just over a second at 60MPH - spare. With a typical flashing cycle light, it will probably take a couple of flashes for even an alert driver to register the presence of a cyclist, so there really is very little margin for error, even under ideal conditions. Now consider that these figures may be optimistic. If a cyclist is travelling towards the driver at 20MPH, not unlikely with a fit rider on a level road, the distance in which a driver would have to react and stop is significantly reduced.

It seems pretty clear to me that driving at 60MPH on this type of road even on a well-lit day is not safe. At night, while eating a sandwich, that's got to qualify as dangerous, doesn't it? Well, in the UK justice system, apparently not.

In 2010, 49% of UK road deaths took place on single-carriageway rural roads with a 60MPH limit. According to Ralph Smyth, chair of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, "It seems strange that you've got minor roads, often that are just tarmaced tracks, that have a speed limit of 60mph - just 10mph less than the motorways."

We agree.


  1. I've cycled that road a number of times and can assure you that 60mph is far too fast to drive along it. It's straight too so the driver had no excuse for not spotting the cyclist

    1. I don't know wheter to call a 60 mph speed-limit on a 'road' like this cynical or criminal; 30 mph at the most, especially if people have to share it. It's an old road, I guess, from the days people traveled on foot or at horse-speed.

  2. I seem to recall that local authorities have little say on setting speed limits on this type of road, or at any rate that was the case until the latest DfT speed limit circular issued earlier this year, which I think gives them the discretion to lower speed limits on rural roads to 40mph.

    Presumably the same old objection would emerge - that the police would refuse to enforce it so would not support the change. There are various objections to that: the police should do as they are bloody well told by the people who pay their wages, ie you and me, and start to enforce; there isn't much sign that they enforce 30mph limits in towns or 60mph limits outside either; just because many drivers habitually break speed limits doesn't mean they all do, and if we assume that say a third will always obey a limit once it is imposed, that is still a large improvement, especially as the convoy effect will often force the lawless behind them to follow suit.

  3. Speed limits don't apply if a Driver can operate a SatNav device whilst at speed which is a remarkably similar process to texting, prohibiting operation by software design where the vehicle is stationary is a beginning. Mandatory hivis for cyclists on such dark roads would be akin to the introduction of the Seat Belt Law for motorists, saving lives.

  4. Most roads like this should be 40mph maximum. I drive as well as cycle. I know that I never feel confident over 40mph incase I round a corner and see a cyclist.
    The number of times when driving to work that cars are going so fast round corners on roads like this, that they end up on the other side of the road is scary to say the least.
    Save the speeds for motorways and dual carriage A-roads only

  5. I read the story and was shocked at the lenient sentence, but I hadn't realised that the road in question looked like *this* - I'd assumed it was a wide main road, not some lane.