A guest article from Tom Platt, London Coordinator, Living Streets
How we might work towards a safer, more liveable London is a topic debated energetically at each month’s Street Talks. Whether it is the pros and cons of shared space or the practicalities of segregated cycle lanes, the desire is to create a safer London where people feel comfortable to walk, cycle and spend time. Yet the fact remains that last year alone, 65 pedestrians and 16 cyclists were killed on the capital’s streets. So what can be done?
Living Streets is the national charity working to create safe, attractive and enjoyable streets around the UK. In our opinion the single biggest change we can make to creating a more liveable London is to reduce vehicle speeds across the capital.
That’s why this year in the lead up to the London mayoral elections Living Streets, Sustrans and a coalition of 27 other prominent organisations are asking for mayoral candidates to commit to introducing 20mph on parts of the mayoral controlled streets where we live, work and shop in our campaign a City of 20.
Simply put, if you get hit by a car driving at 30 mph you are much more likely to get seriously injured or killed than at 20 mph. If fact a pedestrian struck at 20 mph has a 97% chance of survival whilst at 30 mph the figure is 80%, falling to 50% at 35 mph.
In London, Transport for London (TfL) found 20 mph limits to have cut fatal and serious casualties by almost a half. Applying results from previous TfL research to the four hundred 20 mph zones London has today suggests an equivalent of 192 killed and seriously injured casualties are already being prevented each year.
So far most 20mph campaigning in London has focused on residential streets and near to schools. We strongly support this and are calling for the next Mayor of London to inspire and encourage local authorities to follow Islington’s example by implementing a default 20 mph speed limit on all residential streets.
However we also know that around a third of London’s collisions are happening on those streets controlled by the Mayor (the TLRN) and that’s despite it only making up 5% of the street network. The reason the City of 20 campaign is focusing on parts of the TLRN where we live, work and shop is simple -that’s where the biggest impact can be made. By first tackling those streets where the greatest risk of conflict arises we can make the greatest benefit to people’s everyday lives. These are community centres and local high streets – the streets where people live, walk to school and go to their local shops.
Of course 20 mph doesn’t just make our streets safer, it also makes for better streets where people are more likely to walk and cycle. Unsurprisingly, in Europe 30km/h (18mph) speed limits are the foundation of cycling and walking policies in Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
Importantly 20 mph can be implemented at low cost, and is easy to do. Portsmouth converted 1,200 streets in the city to 20mph for a cost of just over half a million pounds. Prior to this, they had been planning to spend £2 million on ten targeted 20 mph zones over five years. New government legislation makes it now possible to introduce 20 mph limits without expensive roads calming measures. In fact the cost of road casualties suggests a sound economic argument for 20mph simply with the amount casualties it will prevent, with the DfT estimating that a road fatality costs in the region of £2 million.
There simply is no excuse for the entirety of the TLRN to be exempt from 20 mph. Already other main roads such as the Walworth Road in Southwark have a 20 mph limit. Islington has recently announced plans to expand 20mph from residential to all main roads in the borough. Getting London to be a truly world class city for walking and cycling is a huge challenge but 20 mph speed limits on the streets where we live, work and shop would be an excellent start. Please join the campaign by writing to the future Mayor of London today.
For any enquiries about the City of 20 campaign, please contact Tom Platt on 020 7377 4900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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The UK could look to Spain for a lead.
A specific reform that would save a great deal of friction on the road would be the clearly stated right for cyclists to hold the centre of the lane on urban roads. In Spain, the Dirección General de Tráfico (the equivalent to the Department for Transport) has proposed a draft bill that would give cyclists this precisely specified right on all urban roads with a speed limit of 50 kph (30 mph) or less. As an added bonus, the same draft proposes that most urban roads be limited to 30 kph.
This draft bill is awaiting approval from the recently elected conservative government. Meanwhile, Valencia city council (which has some legislative powers over local roads) has already approved this right.
As a cyclist in Valencia, I can tell you that it has made a very positive difference to driver attitudes.
I think you’ll find that 30kph is a rarity in Denmark. Unfortunately.