There is a growing national movement to reduce the speed limit in residential areas from 30mph to 20mph. Many residents are getting frustrated at the risks involved in walking, cycling and crossing the road in their own neighbourhood due to the increased volume and speed of traffic where they live. They believe the time is right to ‘civilise’ our streets once again and promote increased walking, cycling and a sense of community in our neighbourhoods. The 30 mph default urban speed limit dates to 1934 when there were fewer than 2 million motor vehicles. There are over 33m today!
Chester Liberal Democrats have long been in favour of pursuing 20mph limits in Chester in order to catch up with the changes happening in many other cities across the UK. We are very happy that the recent Liberal Democrat conference approved a national policy in favour of 20mph Limits.
As of October 2011, over 7 million people live in UK authorities who have implemented, or are committed to adopt, a 20 mph default limit in residential areas. Heritage cities such as York and Cambridge are introducing 20mph zoning and more locally, Warrington, Lancashire and Liverpool are also launching it. Research into the effect of introducing 20mph limits has demonstrated that:
- pollution and congestion are reduced,
- police enforcement is possible
- car journey times are not significantly altered.
- casualties reduce (22% fewer casualties in Portsmouth by year 2)
- financial savings,
- cuts danger by 95% to walkers and cyclists
- roads are quieter
- there is better air quality
- walking and cycling increases
- health improves
- congestion decreases
- property values increase
- higher footfall increases shop takings.
The Tory run Cheshire West and Chester Council is, however, awaiting new government guidelines before moving forward on this matter. Current rules say 20mph zone can be introduced where the average speed limit is already only 20! This is not greatly helpful but there are moves to change this. The new guidelines are due for publication later this year and we sincerely hope that 20mph limits can then finally be introduced across Chester. Chester Tory’s have been promising 20mph zones since 2008!
Hoole has had a test 20mph zone for a number of years and residents in other areas like Newton and Great Boughton have been calling for similar speed reduction measures to be introduced in order that their communities may benefit from the same degree of safety and ‘civilising’ of residential streets.
There is a distinction between 20mph ‘zones’ and 20mph ‘limits’. Zones refer to streets where traffic calming (humps, chicanes etc) reduce speed. Limits may be introduced without such traffic calming measures. In 20mph limit areas, nothing prevents drivers exceeding 20 mph limits other than personal responsibility, other limit-conforming drivers and police enforcement. 20 mph limits are community led and establishment endorsed. Strong community support and a focus on community policing help 20 mph limits to be enforced with a "light touch".
Because "zones" are “self-enforcing”, the police generally leave these streets un-enforced. However, 20 mph “limits” without traffic calming are just as enforceable as 30 mph limits. By wrongly calling 20 mph initiatives without calming "20 mph zones", one may inadvertently get a police response that 20mph limits are not generally enforced. Wherever communities have adopted a Total 20 policy then this has also resulted in the local police assisting with “light touch” enforcement.
“Limits” cost about a fiftieth of “zones”. That means that for the same cost of a zone comprising a single street then you can implement 20 mph limits over 50 streets in a complete community. Isolated “zones” are effective in reducing speeds within the zone but may contribute to increased traffic speeds outside the zone as drivers speed up once they leave the zone. Because ‘limits’ are implemented on a wider area for the same cost, they can be far more effective at reducing overall community speeds and hence casualties.
We believe it is time Chester caught up with the progress made in many other cities and towns in the UK and that Chester residents should enjoy the same degree of safety and community development that many other UK residents are currently benefitting from. In short, it is time to civilise our streets once again and introduce 20mph limits across Chester residential areas.
If you would like to more information about the ‘20s plenty’ campaign nationally, this can be accessed via the following website www.20splentyforus.org.uk. To add more weight to our campaign, please contact your local councillors directly and raise the importance of introducing 20mph limits in Chester now!