Saturday, 20 April 2013
We have been very busy since my last blog in 2011. Now we have 193 local campaigns and nearly 9m people live in local authorities with a policy of giving most of their residential streets 20mph limits. We also have nearly 1,000 followers in twitter. Because of all our activity then our blogging has been a little neglected. However, here is the text of a guest blog which I was asked to contribute to the European Cyclists federation about the European Citizen's Initiative which we are involved with :-
I started campaigning for 20mph/30kmh speed limits after a cycle trip to Hilden in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2004. There 23% of their in-town trips were by bicycle after implementing a 30kmh speed limit on almost all of their roads in 1991. It was cutting the relative speed between motor cars and cyclists that was seen as the single most important thing that could be done to make cycling safer and more comfortable. And for a cyclist at 22kmh the relative speed difference with a 40kmh car is 18kmh which drops to just 8kmh if the car is doing 30kmh. That means more than twice the distance and time for avoiding each other.
But there is much more than this which makes 30kmh as a default for urban and residential streets so important for cycling. It’s the fact that such a policy benefits pedestrians and drivers as much as cyclists. It’s a policy which provides universal benefits to the majority of the population rather than just the minority who cycle. It’s a policy that can dramatically improve the liveability of our streets with particular benefits for the young and old who may lack the mental acuity to assess the speed of vehicles or the physical agility to move quickly.
It is also a policy which questions our values about streets and how they are public spaces to be shared for the good of the whole community rather than simply roads for car drivers. It questions the benefits of driving at 40kmh+ in residential and urban roads and puts them against the wide public benefits that come from lower speeds with safer walking and cycling, quieter streets, less polluted streets and a far greater civic amenity.
Of course lower vehicle speeds inevitably requires a change in behaviour and this can best be done when it provides benefits to the people whose behaviour we need to change. The driver is the father of the child who wants to walk or cycle to school, or is the daughter of the elderly person who wants to keep on walking to the shops regularly. It’s about the driver as a citizen creating better communities by understanding the benefits that driving slower brings to those communities.
Most importantly, by focussing on a single and widely beneficial initiative it brings together cyclists, pedestrians, children, elderly, disabled and civic amenity groups all in mutual support for behaviour change. It becomes the catalyst for a fundamental review of how we share our public spaces for transport.
Of course this does not displace the need for properly designed cycle facilities, but does provide a foundation for safer and more equitable transport policies in our communities.
But the universal benefit of 30kmh speed limits and the desire for change goes far beyond a single country and can be harnessed across a complete continent. And that is the purpose of the European Citizen’s Initiative which is looking to gather and show support across the EU. Cyclists can make a huge difference for not only themselves but the whole of society by supporting this important initiative.
You can sign up to the initiative at www.20mph4.eu