Inside the Council: Busting the myths of 20mph zones

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In October the new Conservative administration of the council honoured the decision of the previous Labour administration to introduce 20mph restrictions in all residential areas in Calderdale, writes Coun Ann McAllister (Conservative, Rastrick).

Like many of you who may be reading this, I was initially sceptical about how this could be achieved and enforced. However, I have recently been to an illuminating presentation from Rod King MBE, who is a leading light in this field. I’m going to share with you the “myth busters” he shared with us.

20mph, especially on side roads, doesn’t significantly alter trip times or inconvenience drivers. Jams and stops do. Constant 30mph is rare due to bends, junctions, etc.

Going fast between obstructions equals extra waiting time at the next stop.

Eighty per cent 0f child casualties happen on non-school trips. Families need wide area limits for child protection from road injury – their top risk. Older people are even more likely to die or be seriously injured.

At 20mph it is ten times safer than 30mph for people aged 60 and above compared to seven times for others.

Variable limit digital signs are costly and can’t go on a wide network, so limits end up being inconsistent, confusing and don’t reduce the fear of speed or increase active travel significantly.

Detractors cherry pick data, pointing to raised killed or seriously injured in some places – by tiny, insignificant amounts. Thankfully these are rare events, but small datasets are unreliable. In most 20mph places these fall along with total casualties

The number and length 0f 20mph roads is rising and 30mph roads falling. Absolute numbers of injuries on 20mph roads could rise, whilst casualties per kilometre fall.

The police are not using 20mph limits to add points to licences or to remove driving rights.

Average and faster road speeds decrease casualties. Even if drivers ignore the 20mph limit they are more likely to keep their speed down.

Modern vehicles are efficient at 20mph. a lower gear isn’t always necessary. Fuel use and pollution fall due to smoother driving.

These are just a few of the “Myth Busters”. Slowing speed limits contributes to increasing the attractiveness of cycling and walking.

There will be some of you reading who will remain sceptical. I just believe that knowing the rules, the vast majority will stick to them.