Below is my response to news that the local 20 is Plenty signs may have to be taken down. The letter was copied to Parish councillors and the County councillor.
Cartoon: First we have the rubbish incl Highways signage that was left after the snow (see here), now we have news that the 20 is Plenty signage might need to be removed - as Russ in this cartoon suggests Highways would no doubt be delighted if the 20 is Plenty signs disappear.
Letter to John Kay, Stakeholder Manager (Central), Gloucestershire Highways.
I write regarding efforts by myself and both Randwick Parish and Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish Councils to ensure traffic calming measures are adopted in our area. Indeed many residents have also identified it as a priority for the Councils, as has the newly elected County Councillor for the area.
Four years ago we were told that we were on the verge of getting a mandatory 20 mph across the two wards. I understand we were misinformed at the time, the police then objected at the last minute and plans were shelved. Since then I have had a number of site meetings with and without Highways Officers, as have the Parish Councils. We have sought measures to calm traffic and while Officers have on occasions been helpful we have also been repeatedly frustrated. The latest issue of concern is the call by Highways to remove the '20 is Plenty' signage.
I would welcome a discussion and plan about how to take this issue forward. In particular:
1. A mandatory 20 mph.
The arguments for 20 mph are overwhelming. As you will know when a pedestrian is hit by a car at 40 mph they only have a 15% chance of surviving, at 30mph, 55%, but at 20mph the chance of survival increases to 95%. This is more than sufficient justification for a default 20 mph in residential areas. Amazingly even a 1 mph drop in average speed is estimated to reduce accidents by 6% in urban areas. However research also shows that 20mph limits are a critical success factor in promoting walking, cycling and public transport as alternatives to the private car. This means less CO2 emissions and healthier residents. 20 mph limits help create 'living streets' as this is the speed at which drivers can have eye contact with other users of the street. It is the speed at which pedestrians feel more confident about crossing the road, children play outside their homes and it is quiet enough to hold a conversation.
Both Parish Councils and myself seek a mandatory 20 mph. We are told the Police object to 20 mph in our Parishes. However we read of many other places that are doing it. For example since March 2008 Portsmouth City Council has set all residential roads, bar arterial routes, with a speed limit of 20 mph. No bumps or humps, but most importantly a decision not just made by Traffic Officers but the whole community as they sought a way to deliver lower speeds and a better quality of life for their residents. The argument that police cannot enforce is not, in my view, a sufficient argument to not proceed. A 20 mph is part of how we change the culture.
(i) We would like to work with the Police to overcome their objections. There may for example be traffic calming measures at key sites that will allow the Police to accept our plans for a mandatory 20mph.
(ii) We accept that their are costs attached to Traffic Regulation Orders eg £1,500 plus other charges and staff time. However many in the community feel strongly about this and it maybe possible to find some of this funding.
(iii) We understand that Highways are producing guidance on 20 mph zones and we would very much like to be consulted on this matter - indeed would welcome more information about the plans.
(iv) I note that there is little benefit for a 20 mph zone along the narrower roads: it would need to cover the main roads through Whiteshill and Randwick.
2. 20 is Plenty
Photos: Randwicks' 20 is Plenty signage
Some of us accept that the additional signage (ie the '20 is Plenty' signs) could be distracting to drivers. However we also know that there is strong evidence that such signage slows traffic. Indeed the motivations of accepting County and District advice to go down the '20 is Plenty' route was that it would lead to lower speeds. I for one, was hopeful that this would lead to greater acceptance for a mandatory 20 mph in the area.
I am therefore deeply disappointed by GCC's recent response that the signs must now be temporary. I note that at no time in my discussions nor in any of the emails or paperwork that I have seen, was there a mention of this. I have also tried to look at the Traffic Signs Regulations of 2002 and other regulations and cannot see the part that prevents the signage. I understand that Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish have also not had any indication that the signs must be temporary. Indeed both Parishes have sought metal signs to be durable and better looking because they understood the signs would be up for a while.
(i) I would be interested to know on what basis GCC are asking for removal? I understand some are not best sited but if this was rectified I would welcome the legal reasons for removing the signs. Indeed I cannot think that removing the signs will play well with most of the community.
(ii) How soon can we put the signs up again?
(iii) Why can other areas have long term '20 is Plenty' zones?
(iv) It would seem important to measure the speeds before signs are taken down to see what effect they have had on speeds. It is clear some vehicles ignore them but I have noticed a change in driving by some cars. Indeed a neighbour says she now never goes faster than 20 mph in the area because the sign reminds her.
3. Other traffic calming measures
Photos: Standish gateways designed to slow traffic as they make drivers think they are going into a different area
Both Parishes have discussed other measures to calm traffic. Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish have for example had meetings with the public and discussions. Ideas include:
(i) Removal of middle white line in some areas as this is known to slow traffic: this appears to have been done in some places?
(ii) The addition of some form of 'gateway' like at Bibury or Standish to slow traffic entering the village.
(iii) White lines at the edge of roads to give a sense of more narrow roads.
(iv) Possible changes to parking arrangements to help slow traffic on the main road.
(v) Stickers on recycling boxes to say '20 is Plenty' so that once a fortnight drivers get a reminder. This has already been done.
(vi) Measures at the school to slow traffic: road paint was added although this was not welcomed by all as the best way to slow traffic at that site.
I apologise for the length of this letter but wanted to get across some of the issues we have been trying to address. We would welcome thoughts on how best to take this forward? We recognise that the County and yourselves in Highways are particularly stretched in terms of resources, but hope that this will be an opportunity for us all to develop a route map to what is wanted by the local community?
All the best - Philip
Cllr. Philip Booth,
Stroud District councillor for the Randwick, Whiteshill and Ruscombe ward