Tuesday, 31 May 2011

An important 2 weeks for 20's Plenty for Us

Its been an important couple of weeks for 20’s Plenty for Us. First we  had the May 5th elections where a number of local councils had shifts in council make-up which provides new opportunities to gain support for implementing Total 20 policies.
Congratulations to Anna Semlyen, our Campaign Manager, who won a seat on City of York council and where Total 20 is now a policy of the majority party.
Last week (May 17th) saw us working with PTRC-Training and Warrington Borough Council to hold the “20mph City” conference. This was  the first conference focussed solely on 20mph speed limits and attracted delegates from a wide range of local authorities, charity organisations, health and a strong presence from 20’s Plenty for Us campaigners. The conference was really significant in that other conferences that had included, but not focussed on, 20mph limits had been looking at Portsmouth which was the only 20mph city at the time. With Oxford, Islington, Bristol, Warrington, Lancashire, Hartlepool and Edinburgh all now implementing and in various stages of rolling out Total 20 , this was the first “post Portsmouth” discussion of 20mph limits.
The conference first heard from Mark Tune on the 197 road pilot that Warrington Borough Council concluded last year. Mark related how he had been “genuinely surprised” at the reduction in speeds and casualties. This had changed the council’s perception of the opportunity presented for a town-wide roll-out. As a result the “experimental” 20mph limits were replaced by permanent ones on all but two of the piloted roads. The Borough Council’s Executive Board decided it wanted these same advantages for Warrington citizens and this is now to be rolled out to all areas.
I then presented on the way that the 20’s Plenty for Us campaign is succeeding and included an update on implementations around the country. I also pointed out the great “value for money” of Total 20 with it being 6.5 times more cost-effective than speed bumps and other physical 20mph zones. I highlighted the way current “isolated” 20mph zones actually maintain high speeds on the rest of the urban and residential road network.
Duncan Price of DfT related the government’s current position on its Road Safety Framework for 2011-2020. There was not much on 20mph in this and he said that a new “speed limit review” is expected in 9-12 months. Hence the current Dec 2009 guidance still applies encouraging 20mph for all residential roads.
Alan Tapp of University of West of England then looked at how Total 20 could be socially marketed. Pointing out the importance of simple clear messages and empathy with people who may want to change their behaviour. Key stages in social marketing are  :-
1.       Build values and beliefs
2.       Appeal to self-interest
3.       Counter myths and objections
He also emphasised the need to enable people to understand that their views are shared by others. With social attitudes consistently showing that people support 20mph limits for residential roads, we need to remind people that their lower speed aspirations are widely held.
We will be developing some new campaign material adopting these ideas shortly.
Lunch was a great opportunity meet with many campaigners and other delegates. After lunch, delegates heard Anna reciting our 20’s Plenty for Us rap poem before more presentations.  Alistair Smith (Assistant Director Transport and Engineering) and Councillor Stephen Thomas from Hartlepool Borough Council talked us through the process they had followed with a scrutiny committee to debate and gather evidence on Total 20. Alistair also remembered and related how I had placed chocolate on each of Councillors’ places at the meeting I had presented at. Ending my presentation I asked them  to look at the wrappers where they found that the chocolates were “Quality Streets”. Hartlepool are rolling-out 20mph for most of their residential roads shortly.
John Whitelegg of Liverpool John Moores University is a former Councillor in Lancashire. Having also worked in Europe on road danger reduction he gave us a very informed view of how to win political support.
He talked about the need to express with stark clarity the costs of not changing the road environment for the better for vulnerable road users. The cost is death and injury to local people. There is probably no other area of local politics where Councillors can wield such power for good or where inaction will cost so much.  In our communities we have the choice between delivering safe streets or nasty dangerous streets which kill and injure.  Sweden has a “Vison Zero” policy of aiming for no road deaths.
Dominic Harrison is the joint Director of Public Health for Blackburn with Darwen and Blackburn. He looked at 20mph limits from a health perspective, particularly with regard to the benefits and also “Large Scale Change Methods”. I felt that a particular slide was relevant which said :-
Evidence suggests that LSC (Large Scale Change) is an emergent process that involves: 
       Articulating a vision of something much better than status quo
       Focusing on some key themes
       Tapping into and mobilising the imagination, will, and energy of a large number of diverse stakeholders
       Creating concrete, mutually reinforcing change in multiple processes and systems
       Continually refreshing the story and attracting new, active supporters
       Monitoring progress and adapting as you go
       Bringing about such deep changes in attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours that sustainability becomes largely inherent
      Paul Plsek, Director, Academy for Large-Scale Change
This resonates with the 20’s Plenty for Us campaign. The widening body of professional support for lower speeds on residential roads is very much creating the moral and financial imperative for change in how we share our streets.
Professor Danny Dorling of Sheffield University approaches 20 mph limits from a completely practical perspective as a geographer. His work on morbidity was one of the first to highlight the role which the roads play in early death.  Being a pedestrian hit by a motor vehicle is the biggest cause of death for children from 3 to 16. Something which if it had been a disease would be seen as the greatest challenge for the medical profession. He compared our attitudes to road casualties as being similar to the way that streets were used as open sewers till the mid 19th century. Deaths caused were seen as inevitable and it was not until this was recognised that the sewers, that today we take for granted, were built. And the 20th century had smoking which was thought to be cool, warming and even able to help soothe respiratory conditions. Yet now we all know it to be the cause of so much harm.
And he looked to the future and pondered as to how future academics will look back on the 21st century and not the dates that we finally realised that we need to change our priorities to put people above cars. His historical perspective reminds us that the large scale change is possible and that we should never give up just because the initial establishment responses are negative.
Najeed Neky from Living Streets (formerly the Pedestrians Association) talked on how 20mph limits are foundations for a more pedestrian oriented street environment. That once vehicle speeds are limited to 20mph then so much more becomes possible. Whilst he showed places where engineering had been used to create a different streetscape, it is the wide area benefits of 20mph limits which really offer a great opportunity to transform our streets.
Feedback from delegates was excellent and we felt that the conference marked an important step in our campaign.  Conference slides / presentations will go on the www.20splentyforus.org.uk site.
Just 5 days later I was off to Brussels at the invitation of Keith Taylor (MEP for South East). Here I met several MEPs on the Transport and Tourism Committee who are going through the process of adopting a report on European Road Safety 2011-2020. A key amendment being added is :-
24a. Encourages the Commission to propose speed limits of 30 kmh in urban areas, with the possibility for local authorities to introduce other limits for particular cases, and of 120 kmh on highways, with more efficient enforcement;

I understand that through the discussions and compromises that inevitably take place when agreement across so many countries is required this has been softened slightly to “strongly recommend” 30 kmh on residential roads. However this will be an important recognition of the benefits of 30kph limits and its acceptance as European wide “best practice”.
I was therefore very pleased to meet a number of MEPs on the committee and tell them how strongly 20’s Plenty for Us was progressing. I was also able to meet representatives from the European Commission which is the administrative rather than political part of the EU. Whilst they explained that on transport the actual legislation was devolved to member countries it was useful to both highlight our campaign and the benefits from harmonising on 30kph for residential and urban roads. They also pointed to their work on comparing the record of different countries on road safety.
This was interesting because I also met up with representatives from ETSC (European Transport Safety Council) who recently showed whilst UK is the “Safest” EU country in terms of total fatalities per million inhabitants in 2009, for pedestrians and cyclists it is falling way behind other countries and the EU average. One of the key recommendations of ETSC is 30kph limits for residential roads and those shared with pedestrians and cyclists. The latest report can be found at :-
They are also pushing the Transport and Tourism committee to recommend “strong” interventions for vulnerable road users.
I met the European Cyclists Federation who are co-ordinating efforts from EU-wide cycling organisations, including CTC, Cyclenation and Sustrans.
I also had the opportunity to sit in on one of the committee meetings, complete with translators etc. It really brought home the breadth of EU member involvement and the wide range of opinions.
The meetings were therefore an excellent opportunity to talk about the achievements that have been made in the UK in progressive local authorities implementing 20mph on an authority-wide basis. The Transport and Tourism Committee will be finalising its report over the next few weeks, and we will be continuing our lobbying of committee MEPs. Our briefing sheet is available on our web site at www.20splentyforus.org.uk/briefingsheets/30kph_good_for_UK-Good_for_EU.pdf
In conclusion, we are making great progress. Our reach is extending and more and more local authorities are looking at Total 20 as the foundation for their strategies to make community streets better places to be. We are now receiving support from a wide range of professionals including transport, health, education, social mobility and access and environment.
Of course getting Total 20 implemented is still no easy task. Large scale social change never is. And as Professor Danny Dorling reminds us, none of the major changes such as open sewers, smoking, clean beaches, etc ., were ever easy. The status quo, lethargy, complacency and vested interests all make it difficult and our progress will vary from community to community, but I truly believe that the breadth of support for our campaign, together with consistent results of lower speeds and reduced casualties wherever Total 20 is deployed, are turning heads and making wide scale adoption a realistic objective.

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