14 Jul 2010

GCC: letter to scrutiny re 20 mph

Today Glos County Environment Scrutiny committee meet at Shire Hall - I can't be there due to work commitments - but in any case am not allowed to speak. However I have written the following letter which I sent last week to councillors on that committee - I have also spoken with our local county councillor Tony Blackburn who is supportive - and also with Green County councillor Sarah Lunnon who has put in a proposal to that meeting to set up an inquiry into 20 mph.

BBC Glos are also doing a piece this morning - were going to have a radio car in Ruscombe this morning at 7pm but it will be in Slimbridge with a headmaster there - but still covering the 20 mph story with the Forest of Dean towns who have just got their 20 mph zones.

I have also written a 10 page report "20: Why we need it." This report was published on this blog in tiny font here and yesterday on my blog there was the 500 words about 20 mph for The Citizen. I am really hoping that this time the County will listen.

Photo: we want more than '20 is Plenty'

See the County Council agenda and papers here.

To: Letter to members of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee at Gloucestershire County Council:

You will be aware that Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish and Randwick Parish are seeking a 20 mph limit across all their residential areas. This has widespread support within the community and already close to 300 residents have signed a petition. Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish Council is willing to make payments to assist with implementation of traffic calming.

On 14/07/2010, the Environment Scrutiny Committee is due to hold a welcomed discussion on the issue of 20 mph zones. The County Council papers note the experience of Portsmouth but appear to be recommending a 'bite by bite' approach which is more costly and misses some of the wider benefits of a 'Total 20' approach. Indeed a 'Total 20' approach does not appear to be discussed in the papers. This is where a 20 mph speed limit is set for for all residential roads (unless the LA determines otherwise) and it offers huge benefits in both cost and casualty terms.

More Councils (e.g. Portsmouth, Oxford, Norwich, Leicester) are making all residential areas 20 mph, rather than adopting the more expensive zone approach to 20 mph. This approach is well-established in countries such as Germany and Norway, where the evidence is that drivers benefit from consistent speed limits on residential and arterial roads. I welcome the moves in Newent to make the whole town 20 mph - an important step in changing the culture of speed in Gloucestershire.

In a time of recession, we need to take extra care of public funds. However, the cost and enforceability of 20 mph are not the significant issues that many once thought. I enclose a report with more details but in brief:

Costs and Benefits:

• Over the first year in Portsmouth, speeds on faster roads were reduced by 7 mph with an initiative that is 50 times cheaper than conventional road humps. The key to this achievement was based on “ownership” of the initiative: most drivers now themselves live on a 20 mph street and therefore also “own” the benefits.
• Some Parish Councils will make significant payments towards costs of some traffic calming measures.
• 20 mph is proven to cut casualties (a pedestrian struck at 20 mph has a 97% chance of survival, at 30 mph - 80%, at 35 mph 50%).
• 20 mph has been shown to increase the number of people walking and cycling. Research shows this can reduce congestion, cut CO2 emissions and improve the sociability of neighbourhoods (this would benefit Whiteshill, where the Main Road divides the community as traffic travels too fast to enable safe crossing).

Enforceability: Several councils (e.g.Oxfordshire, West Sussex) have challenged the interpretation of DfT's national guidance: "Mean speeds should be used as the basis for determining local speed limits." These councils say that community benefits should outweigh concerns that more motorists might break the law. In Surrey, the Chief Constable has said that in future the police will not object to speed limits proposed by local communities. In Portsmouth, the police now take a targeted, educational approach to enforcing the speed limit: regular violators can opt to attend a road safety presentation instead of receiving a £60 Fixed Penalty Notice.

The Speed Limit Review ( DfT Circular 01/2006) requires the review all A and B roads by 2011. This guidance includes the principle that 'The needs of vulnerable road users must be fully taken into account to further encourage these modes of travel and improve their safety.' This would be better accomplished if a 'holistic'� approach could be taken to the road network. The use of a 'Total 20' approach that sets all residential roads (apart from those which are arterial) at 20 mph has significant benefits:

• It combines the A & B road review with residential roads.
• It enables a consistent and clear decision making process for the community.
• It maximises the effect of any speed limit campaigns
• It helps to develop a collective community commitment to lower speeds.
• It provides a cost effective method for implementing all changes to speed limits

In addition, the latest revision to the guidance on local speed limits (Speed Limit Circular, Dec 2009) encourages all local authorities to introduce 20 mph speed limits into:
• streets which are primarily residential in nature
• town or city streets where pedestrians and cyclist movements are high e.g. around schools, shops, markets, playgrounds etc.,which are not part of any major through route.

I attach some background notes and also recommend the 20s Plenty website with information on local authorities:

I hope that the evidence presented here will encourage the committee to consider in more depth the benefits and possibilities for widespread implementation of 20 mph. All the best - Philip

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

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