Since moving to Strathpeffer as we did in 2018, and living as we do close to the A834 the speed and noise of the traffic as it comes into the village from Dingwall in the east has always been a concern. It seems to me that there is a marked disparity to the action that has been taken in Dingwall and other villages to calm the traffic on the A834 there than to calm the same road through Strathpeffer. I recently decided to conduct my own traffic survey into one of the major things that blights the village, not only for its residents but also any visitors we see in the future now that lockdown measures have been relaxed. I did it by blu-tacking my mobile phone to the bedroom window and just letting it run. I then analysed the time it took vehicles to move between two fixed points on the road to estimate their speeds. I say estimate but the values I calculate must be quite accurate even though (most) eastbound vehicles are still slowing even though they are at least 100 M inside the 30 MPH zone.
Less than 3% of westbound drivers obeying speed limit
I made my unofficial traffic survey between 0600 and 0915 on Tuesday the 20th of April. It’s only a small sample because it takes many hours to estimate the speed of 367 vehicles! I found that only 12% of vehicles were obeying the 30 mph speed limit eastbound, and only 3% were observing it heading west, and clearly shows how little effect the present speed limit is having on traffic either approaching the village westbound, or those exiting the village eastbound towards Dingwall. It’s clear that the higher speeds are from vehicles entering the village from the east. I found that as many as 8% of vehicles had speeds of 50 mph or more as they entered the village in this short survey. On previous days I was astounded to find vehicle speeds in excess of 70 mph westbound, and on numerous occasions vehicles passed each other with approach speeds well in excess of 100 mph. You’ll know that the carriageway on this part of the road is quite narrow, only a little over 6 M wide (~20 feet) with an old stone wall and no pavement on the right hand side as you’re leaving the village.
Not just the speed but the volume
It’s not only about the speed of the traffic it’s also about the volume of it. Here are the results of traffic volume between 0600 and 0915 to give you some idea of the volume. As you can see they steadily increase during the early morning and although volumes are only modest at the moment in these lockdown days, they can only increase as visitors and residents from the new housing scheme that’s being built in the village take to the roads. As far as I can ascertain there has been no previous road traffic survey done on the A834 through the village to make any direct comparison with, which is a great pity, and something I would have thought should have been a prerequisite before the housing scheme had been given approval.
What measures could be introduced to calm traffic on the A834?
- Extend the 40 mph zone – extend the 40 mph zone that exists through Blairninich westward to the existing 30 mph zone through Strathpeffer. This would then encourage drivers not to increase their speed to 60 mph or more before entering the 30 mph zone as they approach the village.
- Vehicle-activated Signs (VAS) – Research has split Vehicle-activated signs into two categories; roundel signs, which show the speed limit; and warning signs, which advise of an upcoming bend or junction. Roundel signs on 30 mph roads have reduced motor vehicle speeds between 2.6 to 7.1 mph. The amount of motorists exceeding the speed limit dropped by 18 to 34 percentage points. The effect of a warning sign is more variable. In a built-up area with a 30mph speed limit, a junction warning sign can be expected to reduce motor vehicle speeds by approximately 7%.
- Chicanes – Adding a chicane to the start of the 30 mph zone on the westbound carriageway as they have done in Dingwall in their 20 mph zone on the same road. Vehicles are likely to travel at around 21 mph through a single lane chicane. Between two chicanes, vehicles are likely to travel at 23mph.
- Speed cushions – Motor vehicles are likely to travel at around 17 mph over a speed cushion. If there’s a series of speed cushions, motor vehicles are likely to travel at 22 mph between them. Speed cushions are effective at reducing motor vehicle speeds, however they are not as effective as speed tables or speed humps.
- Speed humps – Motor vehicles are likely to travel at around 15 mph over a speed hump. If there’s a series of speed humps, vehicles are likely to travel at 20 mph between them. Speed humps do not slow motor vehicle traffic as much as speed tables, however they are more effective than speed cushions.
- Speed tables – Motor vehicles are likely to travel at around 13 mph over a speed table. If there’s more than one speed table, motor vehicles are likely to travel at 20 mph between them. These are the lowest speeds of all traffic calming treatments compared on Traffic Choices, which means the greatest safety benefit can be expected.
It’s noticeable when comparing Strathpeffer to other places nearby such as Dingwall, Maryburgh and Conon Bridge, how Strathpeffer seems to have missed out on many of the traffic calming measures such as vehicle activated signs, 20 mph speed limits, zebra crossings or chicanes, that other villages have adopted. I have approached the community council with my concerns and it was discussed by them in their regular monthly meeting this week. I am sure that by better enforcing the existing 30 mph speed limit through the village will make it both a safer and much more attractive place for both residents and visitors alike.