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Safety Transport

Slower speeds, safer streets

Damage after crashSurrey’s Conservative Leader, David Hodge, when giving evidence about 20mph speed limits to a House of Commons Select Committee in 2014 said: “The problem is that it is all very well putting in a 20mph limit, but unless somebody is going to enforce it you have wasted a whole lot of money. My view is that I have no intention of wasting public money putting in 20mph limits.”

John Furey, Surrey’s portfolio holder for transport told me that he had no mind to implement 20mph limits because it hindered people’s business and he wanted growth for Surrey.  But this view does not bear scrutiny.

Let’s do a quick calculation.  Most car journeys are under five miles long. They usually begin on a side street, pass along a few main roads and end on a side street.  Let’s assume that the journey is 5 miles long – 4.6 miles on main roads and 0.4 miles on the two sides streets at each end.  Let us also assume that the driver can drive at the maximum speed along the whole journey – hardly likely during the day (even at night either) – no stopping to give way at junctions, no traffic lights, no zebra crossings and no congestion. At 30mph the journey would take ten minutes door-to door.  Given that the maximum speeds in the side streets would be 20mph – the journey in such a case would be 10.4 minutes door-to door. The difference is 24 seconds.  In other words, the journey would take 4% longer.  The longer the journey the proportionally smaller the time difference.  During the middle of the day the difference would be too small to notice.  Yet for the sake of a few seconds lives are lost and injuries greater.

But the 20mph limit on side streets makes a greater difference. Surveys across the country have shown that mothers will cycle if the streets are seen to be safe and, more importantly, they will let their children cycle too.  In general mothers have more influence on their children cycling than fathers.  The greater the switch to cycling the lower the air pollution, the more pleasant the environment, and the healthier the people.

Given that between the ages of 5 and 40 the greatest single cause of death in Britain is being killed by a moving vehicle (whether driving it, being a passenger or being a passerby) it is important to reduce this loss of life.  Enforcing a 20mph speed limit on side streets would be the single most effective way for the police service to protect us.

Currently the cost of 20mph limits is a small 20mph roundel on every other lamppost.

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