Sheffield on the Move/Motorists Forum talk 03/10.04.2014.
Hello, my name is Richard Attwood, I’m a member of the ‘20splentyforsheffield’ campaign group, which is affiliated to the ‘20’splentyforus’ organization, the National campaign group promoting the value of lower speeds where people Live, Work, Shop and Play.
So what’s it all about? In some ways Sheffield is at a crossroads.
In my experience driving in Sheffield has become increasingly stressful, competing for space on congested roads, umpteen signs saying do this/don’t do that, cyclists and pedestrians all over the place, cameras, humps and chicanes to negotiate, trying to get a parking space and so on.
Sheffield council (SCC) wants to improve this and has a “Vision is for excellent transport in Sheffield” – the stated aim is to empower people to make informed choices about the way they travel, with a Transport policy that contributes to the social, economic and environmental improvements we want for this city, thus creating:
• Increased opportunities for everybody
• A competitive low-carbon economy
• A better environment
• A healthier population
• A culture where the car is not always the first choice
Laudable aims, however right now our city is congested and air pollution is worsening. Public health is worsening, public health budgets are being cut whilst levels of obesity and heart disease are rising. Climate change is here, and we must make profound changes to the way we live, work and travel if we are to pass healthy cities to our own children.
It’s about a Modal shift for personal and societal health:
The Government’s chief medical adviser, Councils (eg SCC’s ‘Fairness Commission’ report) and umpteen various bodies have produced evidence papers and guidelines saying we need a Modal Shift in our Travel Choices.
Around two thirds of UK journeys under five miles are made by car, compromising our health, our environment and our communities.
‘Active Travel’ on the other hand, be it using our feet or our cycles and/or public transport, means we build health giving and social exercise into our everyday lives, rather than maybe driving to an expensive Gym.
People who are active have significantly lower risk of physical problems such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes and also mental illnesses such as Anxiety and Depression are reduced. (This author’s own high Blood Pressure/Cholesterol levels were reduced by adopting cycle commuting, avoiding the need for medication.)
So why don’t more of us do this, and encourage our children too?
It’s about Choice: People tell you the reason they don’t choose healthier travel modes is Fear, people get anxious for themselves and for their children around speeding vehicles.
Fear of traffic keeps children and old people shut up at home while those who would like to get out and lead a healthier life find that their anxieties in our street environment stop them from doing so. Tragically, our road safety record is now worsening, and more than half of road deaths and serious injuries, mainly children, occur on roads with 30 mph limits.
Britain has the highest percentage of pedestrian road fatalities in Europe (22.5%) and one of the lowest levels of children walking or cycling to school. Sheffield parents consistently cite traffic speed as the main reason why they drive children to school, rather than letting them walk or cycle.
20’s Plenty for Sheffield believes there is a solution: Lowering urban and residential speed limits to 20 mph has been found to decrease child pedestrian accidents by up to 70%, whilst increasing urban journeys by just 40 seconds maximum. In Portsmouth the 20mph limit on all residential roads has reduced casualties by 22%. In Bristol walking and cycling increased significantly. That’s why so much of the UK is adopting 20mph as the default speed limit in residential areas, and places where the main business of the road; shopping, schools, leisure and work, is around people and their movements, rather than vehicles.
It’s about ‘Place’: In cities like London, Portsmouth, Newcastle, Hull, Leicester, Oxford, Bristol, Manchester and Warrington, council officials are using the recent DfT Guidelines, and now monies from the public health budget, to introduce blanket 20 mph limits on appropriate streets.
In National surveys 80% of the public and 75% of drivers support 20 mph as a speed limit on residential streets, and in places like Coventry wide 20mph areas have dramatically improved the experience for all road users. In Friday rush hour traffic in Coventry this author witnessed:
- More and safer people using a more inviting/relaxed city centre.
- Vehicles queues reduced or eliminated as flow improves.
- Improved parking provision for motorists.
- Taxis and buses moving easily (contrary to their initial fears)
- People in vehicles/on foot/cycles interacting calmly for shared space.
- Not one angry car horn blast!!
As a result Coventry is finding satisfaction and retail confidence is up.
Better public realm and streets where traffic is perceived as less threatening are seen as more attractive to investors, having greater ‘footfall’ as people get out and about, spending their money locally, facilitating a more resilient local economy.
It’s about road use: It doesn’t mean that all roads should be 20mph.
We need to decide speeds on the basis of how the road is used, not whether it’s a ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ or a “distributor” road. Some of these roads are the very roads that children could walk or cycle to school on, or older people use to walk to the local shops in comfort and safety.
It is time for appropriate roads to be equitably shared with all users, setting an appropriate speed limit that protects the young and the vulnerable. Streets where people concentrate to Live, Work, Shop and Play should be 20mph – it’s as simple as that.
It’s about Culture shift: implementing a 20 mph limit requires an active public education campaign, consultation, signage, and/or road markings, changing traffic regulation orders through advertising in local media plus local authority officer time, and the move to considerate and calm driving will take time to become established as a social norm, just as initiatives such as seat belts and the indoor smoking ban took years of education and culture shift before they became custom and practice. But like lower speeds the benefits are clear.
‘Light touch’ (ie normal) policing can enforce 20 limits in the usual manner. ACPO now says that where drivers are regularly and wilfully breaking the law ‘we would expect that officers will enforce the limit and prosecute offenders speeding over 24mph.’
It’s about Taking the 20 Challenge! Try sticking to 20mph as you drive the new 20mph roads, and in doing so you may notice two things:
Personally I became aware that I really could stop quickly if I needed to, avoiding the stress and potential tragedy of a collision, rather than my usual ‘hoping I don’t have to try’ approach when I travel at 30mph.
I also noticed that I invariably end up at the next junction or queue in pretty much the same manner as before, with the same vehicle in front of me, regardless of its speed down the same stretch of road in the interim.
As a 20 driver I am less stressed, use less fuel, feel safer, and I know that I am having much less impact on my neighbourhood, increasing the chances that others will feel safe enough to begin making healthier travel choices for themselves and their children. I’ve noticed too that all these benefits come at little or no cost to my journey time.
It’s about talking to your Councillors:
Councillors set speeds and are required to do what’s best for us.
Ask your councillors to push for lower speeds and safer, more people friendly streets where you and your family live, work, shop and play, aand do so sooner rather than later. Sheffield City Council has had 20mph ‘zones’ for years, and adopted the principle of city wide 20mph in 2011, but progress implementing it is too slow. By taking an area by area approach over 10+ years, our Council is going down a path that denies the many benefits of lower speeds to many Sheffielders, confuses drivers, and increases the costs of implementation by at least double SCC’s 2012 cost estimate of £3m for whole city implementation.
It’s about us all pushing for 20mph across Sheffield by 2020!