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A conference held in Shrewsbury on 20mph speed limits heard that Shropshire is significantly worse than the England average for killed or seriously injured on the roads and how a 20mph speed limit can help save lives.
Over 50 delegates attended the conference including Shropshire Council councillors, parish and town councillors and local campaigners who heard the case for a general wide-area 20mph speed limit to improve road safety.
The national “20’s Plenty for Us” campaign has groups in Ludlow, Shrewsbury, Church Stretton, Oswestry and Shifnal. It says that a reduction in the speed limit from 30mph to 20mph can dramatically increase the chances of a pedestrian or cyclist surviving an accident and has environmental and public health benefits.
General 20mph Speed Limit a “No-brainer”
Professor John Whitelegg, conference organiser spoke to JT Hughes about his frustration at the lack of support from Shropshire Council and West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner for a general 20mph speed limit.
He said that a general 20mph speed limit is a “no-brainer” and supported by public health organisations and individuals but not in Shropshire.
“Every 30mph limit in Shropshire should be redesignated as a 20mph limit. The reason there is a debate about zones is that one street is 30mph and another is 20mph. There will be a bigger impact on road safety if every street is designated at 20mph.”
Campaigners say that a general 20mph speed limit on all residential roads is a proven, highly effective public health measure that saves lives, encourages walking and cycling, and reduces pressure on A&E, reduces congestion and reduces air pollution.
Urging Shropshire Council to take action, John added: “Please can we improve road safety. We do have a problem in Shropshire, compounded by the director of public health who isn’t open to looking at the evidence.”
30mph is “Unjust and Unjustified”
Rod King MBE, Founder and Campaign Director for the national 20’s Plenty for Us, who spoke at the conference in Shropshire told JT Hughes that a 20mph limit is a foundation for public health and road safety.
“It’s not just about reducing casualties but also the fear of becoming a casualty. 20mph is a key milestone in speeds. Children have very much reduced skills when processing information about vehicles travelling above 20mph.”
According to statistics from the Department for Transport published two weeks ago, of the 129,837 reported causalities in 2016 on built-up roads, 105,981 were on 30mph roads. Figures also show that 588 (11 a week) were killed and a further 12,849 (246 a week) were seriously injured on 30mph roads.
Rod King recently said: “Across the world 30mph (50kmh) limits are being replaced by 20mph (30kmh) as the right standard where motor vehicles mix with pedestrians and cyclists.”
“The 30mph limit that was plucked out of the air in 1934 as being better than no limit is no longer fit for purpose.”
“It is unjust, unjustifiable and needs to be consigned to history. A routinely enforced 20mph limit should be the new urban norm with higher speeds only allowed on those roads that protect pedestrians and cyclists with appropriate crossing and segregated facilities.”
“It would transform our urban environment and be the foundation for a healthier and more productive nation.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that “Best practice suggests that when motorized traffic mixes with pedestrians and cyclists, travelling speeds should be under 30 km/h.”
“A safe speed on roads with possible conflicts between cars and pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users is 30 km/h (20mph)”
Will Blanket 20mph on All Streets Work?
There is no disputing the evidence: being hit by a car at 20mph increases your chances of surviving than if you were hit at 30mph. However, reducing casualties does rely on drivers following the speed limit.
So far, 25 percent of the UK population currently have a general 20mph speed limit in place with statistics showing a reduction in casualties.
In Newcastle, a 2007 study of eight, 20mph limit areas in residential areas showed 56 percent fewer casualties. Lancashire County Council reported in 2014, following an independent assessment into the early phases of the program, interim results showed a 30 percent decrease in casualties. The highways authority Lancashire County Council has rolled out a 20mph limit across 200 streets across St Annes.
Meanwhile, in Scotland, there is a proposed bill to replace the current 30mph default speed limit on restricted roads with a 20mph limit.
Emma Bullard from the Green Party in Shropshire attended the conference and spoke to JT Hughes about her support for the Shropshire campaign and how 20mph on all streets would be more effective than 20mph zones.
“The problem with 20mph zones is that they start outside and people brake suddenly. The whole journey to school is not addressed, so there are lots of things wrong with this.”
“There is the expense of installing speed humps, whereas drivers could get used to a speed change, so rather it be a 30mph default it’s a 20mph default speed limit.”
Rod King added: “It also makes for a calmer and less stressful environment for all road users.”
Drivers Ignoring ‘20’s Plenty’ Campaign in Shifnal
Shropshire Star reported in June this year that the 20’s Plenty campaign was being ignored by drivers, with a survey saying that 11.5 percent of cars travelling over 35 mph.
Keith Dovaston, member of Shifnal Neighbourhood Watch says in the report: “Is ‘20’s Plenty’ working? The answer at this stage is no.”
“On ‘20’s plenty’ only areas around schools and town centre, with regards to all other roads, there must be enforcement either by police or community speed-watch in the first instance.”
“Owing to lack of police resources and time, a community speed watch group could monitor certain roads and streets and identify areas and time of day in which the problem of speeding is occurring and work with police to save time and effort plus valuable resources.”
Speeding Drivers Shamed by Kids’ Courts
In the West Midlands, police are committed to ensuring the 20mph speed limits are rigorously enforced, saying on their blog that drivers ignored the 30mph limit for decades, so it is no surprise that the same goes for 20mph limits.
They said: “We know 20mph limits are evidently the most important speed limit to our communities, and have the largest potential of any limit to positively affect lifestyle choices and reduce the amount of people killed or seriously injured on our roads, so why not enforce them?”
“Those who oppose the idea will in time come around as the concepts of ‘children being able to play in the street, cycle to school, parents taking the healthier option to walk or cycle to the shops’ become a reality as the motor vehicle, for so long the negative influence that prevents positive lifestyle choices, is forced into community chosen compliance where it still has a large part to play to the transport infrastructure of our region, but a safer and healthier one.”
These measures have been complemented by ‘kids’ courts’ where speeding drivers who have been caught in Birmingham are questioned by and have to explain their actions to a jury of 11-year-olds at the local school.
20mph Not “One-Size-Fits-All”
Police and Crime Commissioner for West Merica, John Campion provided a statement to JT Hughes which saying that alterations to the speed limit are a decision for local authorities and a 20mph zone only works in certain circumstances.
He said: “These decisions should be made on a case by case basis, dependant on the needs of the local community.
“I agree that 20mph zones work in certain circumstances, such as outside schools or in small sections of town centres but I don’t feel that a one size fits all approach of imposing blanket 20mph zones is effective.”
He added: “I will continue to listen to the specific needs of our communities, in relation to speeding, and I have taken a number of steps to ensure these are addressed.
“This includes traffic calming measures, improved signage and the investment I have made in the Community Speedwatch Scheme, empowering people to take an active role in the issues that matter to them.
“I will continue to hold West Mercia Police to account to ensure that measures are being taken to keep our roads safer and that they continue to work with the Safer Roads Partnership on initiatives which will reduce speeding and keep the public safe.”
20mph Policy Will Not Address Rural Road Safety Concern
Councillor Lee Chapman and Councillor Steve Davenport provided position statement saying:
“Shropshire Council is very much focussed on Road safety and recognises it’s an important issue for all of Shropshire’s resident and visitors to the county.
“There is, of course, a shared responsibility for promoting safety on our highways. There is a role for each of us as pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, as well as the role local and national government play to promote safe systems.”
“Shropshire Council recognises that the scheme known as “20s Plenty” offers one approach to promoting road safety and indeed 20 mph zones exist in some parts of the County. Shropshire Council also recognises that this model focuses on urban communities whereas Shropshire is a predominantly rural area.”
“It has been suggested that Shropshire Council should adopt a “20s Plenty” policy across all its urban areas, however, such an approach will not address the major road safety concern locally, that is serious accidents on rural roads.”
“The data available over several years indicates that most serious accidents, including those that resulted in a death, were on our rural roads. Many of these accidents involve a single vehicle and its occupants, with no other people involved.”
“Accidents on rural roads were generally of a more serious nature than those on urban roads. In view of this pattern, there appears to be a limited basis for adopting a universal “20s Plenty” across our towns and villages. That said Shropshire Council is willing to work with communities where there is strong support for creating a 20 mph zone. “
“Where such a scheme was to be adopted Shropshire Council would not be in favour of introducing measures such as “speed humps” as there appears to be mixed evidence of their effectiveness in reducing the speed of vehicles.”
Local Support Growing for Campaign
Ironically the adoption of a general 20mph limit seems to be going slowly, but John Whitelegg is confident that it will happen.
He praised Ludlow campaigners who went door-to-door to conduct a survey and revealed that 94 percent of those who gave a response want the speed limit in their street reduced to 20mph, with 80 percent supporting a 20mph limit across town.
The majority of those who attended the conference in Shrewsbury supported a call for a policy decision on the wide-area 20mph as soon as possible and implementation to begin in the financial year 2018-2019. The agreed text was sent to all Shropshire Council cabinet members.
There will be a public meeting at the United Reform Church in Shrewsbury, Coleham Head, SY3 7BJ at 3pm on Saturday 25th November to discuss Shropshire Council’s reply to the request.
Supporters can join a local campaign, purchase stickers to go on wheelie bins, windows or car bumpers.
Emma Bullard also advised that people can get involved by writing to their councillor or take inspiration from campaigners in Ludlow and carry out a survey.