Sunday, 3 April 2011

Comment made to Warrington Traffic Committee - 14th March 2011

On 14th march the Traffic Committee at Warrington Borough Council met to approve the Traffic Refgulation Order for nearly 200 roads being set at 20mph. This is what I said at the meeting :-

Councillors, ladies and gentlemen
It was 7 years ago that I decided to cycle to Warrington’s twin town Hilden to find out what they had done to get 23% of their in-town trips made by bicycle. With another 20% of trips being made on buses they had far few cars on the road per person travelling than in Warrington.

And so on 29th June 2004, the late Councillor Lafferty, as mayor, waived me off from in front of the town hall.

Little did I know that the journey I was commencing would last many years and take in cities all around the country and even as far as Brussels and New York when I subsequently set up 20’s Plenty for Us as a national campaign to support lower speed limits for residential streets. We now have over 70 local campaign groups and a growing national and international reputation.

The secret of Hilden’s success in cycling, walking and avoiding congestion was the simple recognition in the early 1990’s that in order to maximise the choice of citizens to cycle and walk then it was necessary to get the speeds of walkers and cyclists closer to that of motor vehicles. They reasoned that the only solution was to introduce a 30 kph or 18 mph speed limit as the default across the whole town. This was the foundation of them increasing active travel and creating a safer and better street environment for all.

Of course they were not alone in Northern Europe and in many countries from Norway to Belgium and France then 30 kph speed limits for residential and urban roads have become the norm.

Perhaps I can point out some of the things which I have personally learnt during that journey that started in 2004:-

  • That with pedestrian deaths 4 times more in number than cyclists then lower speed limits really are crucial to pedestrians whether they area adults or children. Furthermore the results from 20mph town-wide speed limits in Portsmouth show that motor vehicle passenger casualties reduce by some 37%. This is a road safety initiative that benefits all road users. It is certainly not anti-car, but merely pro-people. 
  • That the more drivers themselves who live in a 20mph street then the greater will be their benefits for them and their family and also their compliance with other people’s 20mph limits. 
  • I realised that journey times are almost completely determined by how long we are stopped and that maximum speed has a minimal effect. 
  • I learnt that Directors of Public Health are some of the strongest supporters of 20mph limits, particularly in the North West where child and adult casualties are higher than the national average. 
  • I realised that in Warrington we injure or kill 1,000 people a year on our roads at an estimated cost of £37m per annum. And that in almost every one of those a child was involved. Perhaps not directly being injured or killed, but in the inevitable aftermath of a casualty in the family. For a child losing a relative suddenly, violently and wastefully is a huge emotional burden.  
  • I also learnt that minds can change. That officers who maybe had been less convinced were able to take their own path through the evidence and through the Warrington pilots and then come out in support of this important initiative. And those minds are not just here in Warrington but in Portsmouth, Oxford, Lancashire, Islington, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Hartlepool and Bristol where local authorities are implementing 20mph limits on a town-wide basis. I am pleased to have been asked for a meeting with transport minister Norman Baker in 3 weeks time to discuss 20mph implementations around the country 
  • And I have also learnt  that here in Warrington, we can replace angst with action. That not only can councillors debate and decide in favour of lower speeds, but also that Warrington citizens can moderate their speed in order to make the roads a better place to be.

And for Warrington Borough Council this journey enters a new phase with the recent executive board decision to roll-out 20mph across the whole town. I note that the debate about which roads to exclude from benefiting is to be conducted at Scrutiny Committee level. This is all democracy in action. The ability to take an almost universal aspiration to make our streets better is being community led and establishment endorsed.

Finally, I would like to thank councillors and officers for their time over the years in getting to where we are today. And I would most of all like to thank you and them on behalf of the people who you will never hear about.
·        The teenager who realises just in time that there is a car coming, but at a speed which avoids a collision

·        The elderly person that now feels safe to walk to the shops.

·        The mother who can now get by without the second family car because her children can feel safe to cycle or walk to school.

·        The middle aged couple who avoided a collision because they had more time to do so.

·        The 5 year child who runs out into the road and the driver who safely stops.

For these will not be the people you see in the statistics or in the news. They may not even realise that your actions today will have saved their lives or their injury. But they will all be beneficiaries of your decision to implement this Traffic Order and the future Traffic Orders on the rest of the Warrington residential roads.
I thank you for listening and encourage you to vote in favour.


I am pleased to report that the committee approved the Traffic Orders and that these will become effective on 15th April 2011.

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