Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Jowetts, speed limits and the big picture

click photos to enlarge
Our dismal government seems consumed with the desire to make almost daily proclamations about policy and legislation. Its febrile activity (and its political inclinations) usually result in bad decisions and frequent U-turns. The latest nonsense involves a proposal to increase the maximum speed limit to 80mph. This announcement - like many - seems to be driven by an unwholesome mixture of wanting to appeal to its voters, an ideological commitment to the individual over the community, and a sop to the "hard-pressed motorists" (copyright the AA, RAC, Daily Mail, Jeremy Clarkson, et al).

You'd think that the hands-off, managerialist style of our prime minister, David Cameron, would allow him to see the big picture that the ministers and "think tanks" who come up with these individual proposals don't. But, no, that seems beyond him. His role-model, Tony Blair, would not have been so careless. So, in the spirit of succouring the needy here are some reasons why he should conclude that it's a bad idea.

The de facto maximum speed on less congested parts of our motorways is already around 80mph. Many motorists seem convinced that they won't be prosecuted unless they go more than 10mph over the limit. There is a great danger that a legal rise to 80mph will increase the actual maximum to 90mph. Then there's the fact that the government is committed to a specific pecentage decrease in carbon emissions: a higher speed limit will burn more fuel and make us miss that by an even bigger margin than currently seems likely. Journey times on many motorways are not governed by the maximum speed limit but by congestion, so in most cases an 80mph limit will simply have the effect of speeding the driver to the next hold-up with no reduction in overall journey time. Britain's relatively good statistics on deaths and injuries involving motor vehicles will inevitably worsen should the proposals come about. Finally, if despite all the above, a higher speed limit does actually result in shorter journey times it would negatively impact on the sustainability of more efficient forms of medium and long distance travel such as buses and trains.

Today's main photograph shows a Jowett Jupiter, a British sports car from a different era when 1500cc and a top speed of 86mph was more than enough to enjoy open-topped motoring. The Bradford-based manufacturer went out of business in 1955 but some of its cars live on in museums and in the hands of enthusiasts. I photographed this example, one of a dozen or so on a club tour to the Isle of Man, when I was photographing the Midland Hotel, Morecambe. More Jowetts can be seen lined up in the smaller photograph.

photographs and text (c) T. Boughen

Main Photo
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 33mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/400
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: N/A