Motorists are speeding up on Peterborough’s main roads thanks to lockdown traffic levels
Motorists increased their speeds on Peterborough’s main routes last year as coronavirus lockdown restrictions sparked a drop in traffic levels, figures reveal.
The RAC says some drivers across the country took advantage of the emptier roads to drive at “dangerous speeds”, including in residential areas.
Department for Transport data shows cars and light vans travelled at an average speed of 40 mph on ‘A’ roads in Peterborough last year.
That was up from 37.3 mph in 2019 – a rise of seven per cent.
The A1260 saw the biggest rise in speeds, up 14 per cent to 50.2 mph, followed by the A15, up 11 per cent to 34.6mph.
Across England, the average speed of cars and light vans on ‘A’ roads rose by eight per cent last year to 27.3 mph.
This was caused by a steady increase in speeds following the imposing of Covid-19 stay-at-home restrictions in March last year, the DfT said.
Densely populated areas, where normally there would be congestion and traffic queues, saw the biggest rise in average speeds – up 13 per cent – compared to a four per cent rise on open, rural roads where there would be less change in overall speed.
Simon Williams RAC road safety spokesman, said the impact of the pandemic on the country’s roads was “something of a double-edged sword”.
He added: “On the one hand, fewer delays is positive and may well have led to an improvement in overall air quality, but on the flipside, we know that some drivers have taken advantage of quieter roads by driving at dangerous speeds.
“This has been a particular problem on 30mph roads in residential areas.”
Mr Williams said it is important police forces continue to crack down on excessive speeders and that there are consequences for their “totally unacceptable” actions.
The figures cover only ‘A’ roads, which account for around 10 per cent of England’s highway network but carry around a third of all traffic.
Speeds were measured using samples of vehicles recorded at different times of the day.
The data also reveals the impact of quieter roads on delays along the country’s A roads last year.
In Peterborough, road users were held up 17.7 seconds per mile on average compared to the pace they would have made if travelling up to the speed limit in free-flowing conditions.
That was a decrease of a quarter (25 per cent) compared to 2019.
The road with the biggest drop in delays was the A1260, with a 39 per cent fall in the average hold-up time.
Across England, delays on A roads fell 23 per cent to 34 seconds per mile on average.
The DfT said the average speed of motorists across the main road network, including motorways, stood at 61.8 mph last year – below the speed limits for the majority of roads where vehicles were recorded.
The department also said average speeds and delays are returning to pre-pandemic levels as Covid-19 restrictions continue to be eased.
But this has not been welcomed by environmental group Friends of the Earth, which now wants increased funding for public transport and cycle ways to keep people away from their cars.
Jenny Bates, a FotE campaigner, said: “There’s a serious risk that the benefits to our health and environment that came with quieter roads are going to become a distant memory.”