13 Jul 2010

500 words on: '20 mph: Why we need it'

The Citizen asked for 500 words on 20 mph - a great opportunity to set out some of the arguments again - see below and see my full report here - and tomorrow my letter to GCC scrutiny members who meet to discuss this issue.

20 mph: Why we need it

On Wednesday the County Council's Environment Scrutiny committee will be considering support for 20 mph zones in Gloucestershire.

Newent have just got 20 mph limits. Many other communities are also crying out for speed reductions. In Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish 300 people have just signed a petition for a 20 mph limit and the Parish Council has offered payment towards traffic calming.

20 mph makes sense

20 mph is the speed that drivers can respond to pedestrian presence. A pedestrian struck at 20 mph has a 97% chance of survival. At 30 mph the figure is 80%, falling to 50% at 35 mph. While progress has been made on reducing road casualties, no one can be satisfied when the equivalent of 60 classrooms full of children were seriously injured or killed on UK roads last year.

Research shows: 'The speed of motor vehicles is at the core of the road injury problem.' Knowing this, how can we continue with 30 mph in residential areas?

20 mph isn't just about reducing injuries and deaths

Communities can also be divided by roads. In Whiteshill, for example, children find it difficult to cross safely to the playing fields. 20 mph helps create more pleasant neighbourhoods and research shows that it is a critical factor in supporting people to walk and cycle more. This is better for our health, cuts CO2 emissions and can reduce congestion.

20 mph limits not zones

20 mph zones are often an improvement, but what we need are 20 mph limits across all residential areas. Portsmouth, for example, has just made their whole city 20 mph, except the main arterial routes. In the first year they cut collisions by 14% and saw a 7 mph drop in speeds on many roads. Other Councils are making similar moves.

This 'Total 20' approach significantly reduces costs compared to the 'bite by bite' approach with 20 mph zones. It is well established in other countries. The evidence is that drivers understand and more readily follow consistent speed limits. It can also mean less expenditure on cycle lanes as cyclists feel safe to use the roads.

Can we enforce 20 mph?

An increasing number of councils say that the benefits of 20 mph outweigh concerns that more motorists might break the law. Police in Surrey will no longer object to speed limits proposed by local communities and in Oxford they they will enforce 20 mph. In Portsmouth, the police now take a targeted, educational approach: regular violators can opt to attend a road safety presentation instead of a fine.

Streets are where we live, play, work, and socialize. They should be safe, attractive and enjoyable places for everyone. Yet half of drivers admit to regularly 'driving significantly above' the 30 mph current default speed limit for built up areas.

The framework is in place for local authorities to implement 20 mph limits cheaply and easily. It is time Gloucestershire followed other Councils and got serious about cutting casualties and creating more pleasant neighbourhoods.

Cllr Philip Booth, Stroud District councillor for Randwick, Whiteshill and Ruscombe ward


Anonymous said...

Its not just about being able to enforce a limit, if most drivers support its intentions they will willingly slow down anyway and not because they may face a fine or worse, an accident as a consequence. Their slower speed will calm the road speed.

In Whiteshill the facilities (shop, pub, playing field, school and scout hut) are all on one side of the busy main road so traffic speeds which deter people from crossing it cut them off from these.

Anonymous said...

Agree with last comment - and people don't feel guilty or so pressured if travelling at 20 mph in a 20 mph and some geezer is up their ar*e.