As an avid cyclist and parent of school-age, both of whom walk or cycle to school, I would like to see the introduction of 20mph zones. There are two reasons why:
The first is Safety
Studies have shown that when pedestrians are involved in accidents with motor vehicles the risk of serious injury and death are reduced by cutting speed limits. At 20mph the risk of death is 7 times less than at 30mph. Indeed, the World Health Organisation says introducing wide-area 20mph limits, rather than individual roads, help protect walkers.
Many elderly people and families with young children are put off from walking or cycling because they are scared for their safety. Some parents don’t even allow their older children to cycle by themselves because of these fears. This results in people using their cars more, adding to the congestion on our roads.
Plus, cyclists sometimes end up going on the pavements rather than the roads if they feel unsafe, which further affects people’s decision to take their car rather than walk.
My second reason is Health
Not allowing children to walk or cycle to school, to see their friends or go out to the cinema means means they are not getting enough exercise. Most children get nowhere near the 60 minutes of exercise per day that is recommended and it is having a serious effect on their health. 22% of year 6 children in London are obese. Surely, by now we all know the problems caused by obesity, such as diabetes, increased risk of cardio-vascular disease and so on. All of these then cause greater demands on the National Health Service.
Furthermore, cutting speed limits improves the condition of the air that we breathe, by reducing the amount of particulates we inhale. Last year, the Greater London Authority issued a report on air pollution, in which they stated that the problems caused by air quality fall most on the vulnerable ie children and the elderly. So taking measures to reduce speed and volume of traffic will help improve air quality but also have public health benefits. Eg reducing injuries and fractures in elderly, and cutting premature death from certain cancers and cardio vascular disease.
When I asked the Clean Air Campaign about deaths resulting from pollution in the Borough of Richmond, I was told that there were 46 deaths so far this year. These figures were ascertained using using the Birkett Index, which reports the health impact of long-term exposure to dangerous airborne particles (PM2.5) for the population in England .
So, if you cut speed limits,
- you will prevent deaths on our roads from accidents,
- you will encourage more people to exercise more which reduces obesity and long-term health affects;
- And you will improve the air quality, which also improves health and reduces the number of deaths.
And, let’s not forget the environment. Driving slowly, cutting the number of car journeys made and reducing traffic congestion all release less CO2 into the atmosphere, the key cause of global warming.
Addendum: If you’re interested, there’s a new petition asking Surrey County Council to do something about the fact they have the highest number of cycling fatalities in England. You can sign it here: http://petitions.surreycc.gov.uk/SaferRoads/
And, if you want to find out more, and/or support the 20s Plenty campaign click on: www.20splentyforus.org.uk