Why I support the introduction of 20mph zones

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 .

In conclusion:

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

If you do one thing today: email your MP about a safer school run

I was saddened to read the following statistic from Sustrans this week: ‘In 2012, the number of children killed while walking or cycling on our roads was equivalent to over one primary school class, and the equivalent of over seven whole primary schools were seriously injured. Road danger is the biggest cause of preventable death and injury among children.’

No wonder, then, that despite most children living within walking or cycling distance of their school, less than half walk and far fewer cycle. This is having an impact on their health, as this lack of activity, could mean that this is the first generation of children who live shorter lives than their parents through inactivity.

Sustrans wants to change this by getting our children active and healthy – starting with the school run – with their Campaign for Safer Streets. They are putting pressure on MPs and local councils to get:
• Dedicated funding – provides the resources needed to transform routes and invest in walking and cycling at the local level.
• 20mph default speed limit across built up areas – makes everyone’s route safer;
• Stronger duties and incentives on Local Authorities to develop routes and promote walking and cycling.

In my local area of Ham, Richmond and North Kingston we are incredibly poorly served by bicycle lanes, safe or otherwise, roads are pot-holed and congestion creates poor air quality for cyclists and pedestrians alike. As a cyclist myself with two children, cycling around here is only made bearable by Richmond Park and the tow path along the Thames. However, the latter is in a shocking state and needs improving to provide a safer, more comfortable and appealing ride.

And, just imagine if cyclists were forced to cycle on Richmond Road in Petersham. How many accidents do you think there would be? The lack of public transport to Ham itself means this area is crying out for better cycling provision, and yet, where is it? Practically non-existent. A cycle lane along Ham Common and up to Ham Street towards Grey Court would be a start. Or even better, put cycle paths around the edges of Ham Common, so cyclists are kept apart from traffic altogether. These could then link with Ham Avenue so it’s easy to get to the tow path. A cycle lane from Kingston that doesn’t end at the crossroads of Tudor Drive and Richmond Road is essential, too. As is a cycle lane up Tudor Drive itself. Given the widths of the pavement along this road, couldn’t it be shared with pedestrians, like the one that is part way along Richmond Road just near the Hawker Centre.

For more information about the campaign go here: http://www.sustrans.org.uk/safetoschool, where it helps you to email your MP about their support. For information on local pressure groups go to Richmond Cycling Campaign and Kingston Cycling Campaign.