Saturday, 20 April 2013

Blogging again

We have been very busy since my last blog in 2011. Now we have 193 local campaigns and nearly 9m people live in local authorities with a policy of giving most of their residential streets 20mph limits. We also have nearly 1,000 followers in twitter. Because of all our activity then our blogging has been a little neglected. However, here is the text of a guest blog which I was asked to contribute to the European Cyclists federation about the European Citizen's Initiative which we are involved with :-

I started campaigning for 20mph/30kmh speed limits after a cycle trip to Hilden in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2004. There 23% of their in-town trips were by bicycle after implementing a 30kmh speed limit on almost all of their roads in 1991. It was cutting the relative speed between motor cars and cyclists that was seen as the single most important thing that could be done to make cycling safer and more comfortable. And for a cyclist at 22kmh the relative speed difference with a 40kmh car is 18kmh which drops to just 8kmh if the car is doing 30kmh. That means more than twice the distance and time for avoiding each other.

But there is much more than this which makes 30kmh as a default for urban and residential streets so important for cycling. It’s the fact that such a policy benefits pedestrians and drivers as much as cyclists. It’s a policy which provides universal benefits to the majority of the population rather than just the minority who cycle. It’s a policy that can dramatically improve the liveability of our streets with particular benefits for the young and old who may lack the mental acuity to assess the speed of vehicles or the physical agility to move quickly.

It is also a policy which questions our values about streets and how they are public spaces to be shared for the good of the whole community rather than simply roads for car drivers. It questions the benefits of driving at 40kmh+ in residential and urban roads and puts them against the wide public benefits that come from lower speeds with safer walking and cycling, quieter streets, less polluted streets and a far greater civic amenity.

Of course lower vehicle speeds inevitably requires a change in behaviour and this can best be done when it provides benefits to the people whose behaviour we need to change. The driver is the father of the child who wants to walk or cycle to school, or is the daughter of the elderly person who wants to keep on walking to the shops regularly. It’s about the driver as a citizen creating better communities by understanding the benefits that driving slower brings to those communities.

Most importantly, by focussing on a single and widely beneficial initiative it brings together cyclists, pedestrians, children, elderly, disabled and civic amenity groups all in mutual support for behaviour change. It becomes the catalyst for a fundamental review of how we share our public spaces for transport.

Of course this does not displace the need for properly designed cycle facilities, but does provide a foundation for safer and more equitable transport policies in our communities.

But the universal benefit of 30kmh speed limits and the desire for change goes far beyond a single country and can be harnessed across a complete continent. And that is the purpose of the European Citizen’s Initiative which is looking to gather and show support across the EU. Cyclists can make a huge difference for not only themselves but the whole of society by supporting this important initiative.
You can sign up to the initiative at

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Reflections on a presentation made in 2005

Whilst tidying up my office I came across the transcript of the presentation I made in 2005.  Much of this is still relevant today. But rather than in my presentation only being able to say that Kingston-upon-Hull was a 20mph town, we can now inlcude Portsmouth, Oxford, Liverpool, Warrington, Lancashire, Sheffield, York, Brighton & Hove, Bristol, Edinburgh, Bath & North East Somerset and Middlesbrough as being places that either have or are implementing 20mph limits for all residential roads.

Moving Cycling into the Mainstream

Rod King’s address to the Streets Ahead CTC/CCN Conference in Warrington, November 2005

I would like you to meet Jane, Fred, Peter, Mary and Nigel. None of them cycle. Jane has just started at University and is home for the weekend, Fred works in a call centre, Peter runs his own advertising agency, Mary is very active with her grandchildren, especially Nigel whom she takes to the nursery each day.

They all started today variously Christmas shopping, visiting friends, taking the children swimming - without even a thought of doing these activities by bicycle. Is it our job to encourage them to cycle? How can we make it safe and enjoyable for them? If they were to cycle would it reduce congestion on our roads? Would they have a healthier lifestyle and be more independent?

None of them will become cyclists or contribute to modal shift. In statistical terms they are the five people who died on UK roads today. They all met very violent deaths - and none of them were cyclists. Some were drivers, some passengers, others pedestrians

Jane, Fred, Peter, Mary and Nigel are not the only victims. By the end of today Jill, Frank, Amanda, David and Collette will also have been killed on our roads. A hundred more will be seriously injured and disabled.

Tomorrow there will be a similar number of fatalities - and one will be a cyclist. Between now and the end of the month 180 will die and 1,800 be seriously injured on our roads. This total for 18 days exceeds the number of rail deaths in the last ten years. Only 4 per cent will be cyclists but together with pedestrians they make up over a quarter of road deaths.

As campaigners we believe that cycling is not dangerous and proclaim its many benefits to the community - less congestion, healthier lifestyle, better mobility for children, reduced air pollution. We arm ourselves with a copy of Cyclecraft, display our cycle maps highlighting the quieter routes. We take advantage of cycle lanes and specially treated junctions. We devise Safe Routes to Schools and Travel Plans, we encourage employers to install showers, we work with councils to produce cycle friendly Local Transport Plans (LTPs), we organise cycle rides for novices, we implement training schemes. Yet despite all our good work cycling declined from 4.5 billion kilometres in 2003 to 3.9 in 2004. And car use rose inexorably.

Why has there been no modal shift to cycling? The answer is that the British public is too frightened to cycle on our roads. We can argue that such fear is perceived rather than real but we must not make the mistake of denying its impact. We compound this error by our contradictory actions. It is illogical to deny the dangers of cycling while at the same time campaigning to reduce them.

Over the last 10 years much has been achieved campaigning for better highway engineering and establishing cycling within LTPs. However, to make a real and lasting difference we must address the fears of non-cyclists rather than the needs of current cyclists.

Much that we do in life involves risk and danger but is balanced by expected gain. As parents we celebrate the day when our child takes their first steps, we cheer when they ride a bike. For our children the pain of occasionally falling off is offset by the gain of independent travel.

We adults then curtail our children's rights and freedoms to ride, walk, play, run and jump in their streets. Enthusiasm wanes and anxiety increases as we (over) stress the risks. “Watch you don't get killed,” “Wear a helmet, “Wear bright clothing”, “Pull over, stop, dismount”, and “Walk across when turning right.” These dire warnings inculcate a terror of roads in our children, deflecting responsibility from the source of the danger - the motorist - onto pedestrians and cyclists.

Safe Routes to Schools seek to encourage walking and cycling by identifying preferred routes. This initiative ignores the right of pedestrians and cyclists to expect respect from drivers - wherever they are. Instead we marshal children along routes providing the minimal inconvenience to motorists. All routes are safe routes to school - it is only motorists that take away the safety. We should be asking not “What can children do to avoid motorists?” but “What can motorists do to avoid children?”

Millions of pounds are spent on cycle lanes and tracks. Yet this very visible public expenditure has not resulted in more cycling. Segregation is only useful if continuous and without intersection conflict which quickly discourages new cyclists. High urban speeds in the UK make it particularly expensive to engineer the same degree of safety for pedestrians and cyclists compared to countries with lower speeds. It costs 25 times more to make a junction safe for cyclists where a 30 mph limit operates compared to 20 mph. Why bother with £50,000 of highway engineering when £50 spent on a few 20 mph repeater signs achieves the same result, that is - more and safer cycling?

Focussing on the engineering of roads, rather than the behaviour of motorists, aids and abets the marginalisation of cycling. It supports the idea that the problem is the cyclist on our roads rather than the inequitable sharing of road space. At junctions and roundabouts cyclists and pedestrians are diverted via a circuitous route so as not to delay the motor traffic. Too often the fast, hard car gets priority over the slow and vulnerable highway user.

Motor manufacturers emphasise the safety aspects of their products. This marketing is directed at the car’s occupants rather than any other highway users the car may encounter -reinforcing the view that it is dangerous to be without a protective steel shell. Every advert that extols the safety of a motor vehicle sub-consciously highlights the dangers for cyclists and pedestrians.

This neurosis is nurtured by thousands of road safety campaigners, teachers, and millions of pounds of vehicle manufacturer advertising. Cycle campaigners are also guilty. Instead of striving in vain to reduce the risks of cycling we should boldly declare, “Walking and Cycling are safe – Driving is dangerous.”

Speed cameras save lives yet people still complain when they are caught breaking the law.
Lack of speed enforcement continues to favour the seat belt-protected motorist against the comatosed cyclist or pedestrian.

Fear of traffic has created a society where young people are denied independent mobility, the opportunity to expand their geographical boundaries in preparation for adulthood. Levels of independent youth travel in the UK are 20 per cent those in Europe. Our youth are frightened of riding on our roads, so have little empathy for cyclists when, as adults they acquire their own motorised transport.

Warrington is twinned with Hilden, a German city midway between Düsseldorf and Köln
where car ownership is higher than the national average. Over the last 15 years the council has implemented a systematic programme of traffic calming with the co-operation of residents. Now 75 per cent of the urban area has a speed limit of 30 kph (20 mph) and in Home Zones it is as low as 5 mph. In 1989 cycling accounted for 9 per cent of all journeys and 14 per cent of town centre traffic, in 2004 the figures rose to 14 and 23 per cent respectively. Lutz Groll, a Hilden planner concludes, “Traffic calming is a fundamental element in successful bicycle promotion.”

There are similar success stories throughout northern Europe. In Britain only Kingston upon Hull has pioneered a comprehensive 20 mph speed limit. This bold experiment has reduced crashes causing deaths or serious injuries by 90 per cent and child pedestrian casualties by 74 per cent.

We must follow the example of Hilden and Hull and avoid the car-dependent culture of America. We should strive to emulate our European neighbours where citizens use the streets to play, gossip, shop, walk, run, cycle, gather and linger without fear of being killed.

Maximum vehicle speeds must be reduced in all our urban and residential areas to 20 mph. The viability, convenience, safety, directness and simple right to walk or cycle on our roads cannot be compromised in order to maintain high traffic speeds in our towns, cities and villages. We must champion the rights of all to choose their mode of transport without fear. We must stop giving disproportionate mobility rights to car owners and motorists when one quarter of all households has no access to a car.

A default speed limit of 20 mph will have only a marginal impact on journey time, on average adding one minute to a 15 minute journey - but will significantly increase safety and reduce fear for pedestrians and cyclists. It will benefit all: streets will become more peaceful, traffic will flow more smoothly, air pollution will decrease as will road maintenance costs. There will be fewer deaths and injuries for pedestrian, cyclists - and motorists. Children will reclaim the right to walk and cycle independently to school, parents will be freed from the slavery of the school run - and all at minimal cost to cash-strapped councils.

There will be several desirable side effects to a rise in cycling: more exercise, slimmer children, social inclusion, community cohesion, better air quality, less congestion. Elsewhere cycling is not perceived in such complex terms. In Europe bicycles are not expected to deliver key government policies but just get you from A to B.

In Britain those that cycle tend to be fit, brave and very assertive. Such clearly independent creatures seldom evoke sympathy. To achieve slower speeds it is vital to collaborate with a larger force, walkers. After all, we are all pedestrians – even a motorist when he steps out of his car. As pedestrians we represent the majority rather than the minority. It is better to campaign for every child in a school, everyone who walks rather than the 5 per cent who cycle. We can better promote safe cycling not as cyclists but as pedestrians who also cycle.

We must stimulate a wide public debate on the moral issues of excessive speed and the rights of individuals to enjoy their streets as pedestrians or cyclists without fear. Our stance must be pro-safer motoring not anti-motorist.

Lower blanket speeds must become the priority for pedestrian, cycle, road safety and civic campaigners. Implementation will be more beneficial than all the cycle schemes, facilities and routes installed to date. We must think very carefully whether to assist the development of segregated facilities.

We must use the media to pursue our cause through letters, articles and press releases. Remember we are not campaigning for cyclists but mainly for pedestrians who outnumber cyclist deaths by four to one. The Warrington Guardian now refers to me as Rod King, Speed Campaigner rather than Rod King, Cycle Campaigner.

We must work locally and nationally to campaign for speed reduction. We should join political parties and influence from the inside. Active support for the Twenty's Plenty campaign will move cycling into the mainstream. TWENTY'S PLENTY must become our rallying cry.

Our responsibility is to lead and influence our society towards a better future in which
everyone has the right to ride, the right to walk, the right to life. Let us not forget Jane, Fred, Peter, Mary, Nigel, Jill, Frank, Amanda, David and Collette.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Some thoughts on 9/11

Few people will have got through yesterday without being reminded of the event 10 years ago that has changed so much of our history in the first decade of the 21st century. The killing of nearly 3,000 people in a few hours in the terrorist attack on the United States both directly affected so many families of not just US workers but also foreign nationals who were victims, but also was a call to action to governments around the world to change their domestic and foreign security policies. It was an affront to democracy and the civil liberties which so many of us hold dearly.

We are all shocked by the carnage and more so because we see the images on our screens and feel for the people involved. We respect and honour their memory.

There has been much analysis and discussion since then. Western powers have been involved in wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. We have seen further terrorist attacks in London, Bali and Madrid as well as a huge loss of life in the Middle East.

The world is indeed a changed place since 9/11. With hindsight we can see so many connected issues :- Palestine, Suni/Shia sectarianism, US presence in Saudi Arabia, Al Qaeda, the “fog of war”, “collateral damage”, “hate crimes”, the instability created in the financial markets, “the Arab Spring”, etc.
And through all of these we see a commodity lurking in the background – Oil. Of course no one directly connects all of these events to the Western demand for oil as energy, but it certainly seems to be implicated in most of these issues.

Personally, I do not have the knowledge or the expertise to make finer judgments on theses connection. But my role as a Road Danger Reduction advocate means that I am aware of some outcomes that really do require consideration. I wonder if you know how many people have died on US roads in the last 10 years since the nearly 3,000 deaths of 9/11. Would it be 10,000? That would be terrible. What if it were 50,000?... or even 100,000!!!

Well the actual figure was over 390,000 people (1). All of these violent deaths came to members of US communities and all of their families were devastated by the loss of their loved ones.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not trying to belittle the events of 9/11 or say that the event was one which we should ignore or put on some lesser level than road deaths. Nor is it any criticism of the US, its people or government. But it does show in stark reality that as communities we are sensitised to certain events and desensitised to others. The fact that those 390,000 deaths were distributed across all states and over 10 years means that the steady “drip of deaths” is not big news or a single event.

And we see similar discrepancies in the UK. We all respect the people of Wooton Bassett when they have paid their respects to the dead servicemen as they return to their homeland. And 558 have died in fighting for our values and security. Brave men and women who do what we choose not to, but do so on our behalf. In that same 10 year period 27,000 have died on our UK roads. Maybe if we could route all of those 27,000 funerals through one small town then we would see the carnage on our roads differently.

But, as I have said, this is not a claim to belittle the suffering from 9/11 either here or across the world. But if we consider the way in which governments have responded to the events of 9/11. The huge efforts and cost that went into the ensuing strategies, policies and actions, then one wonders why we cannot do the same for the way in which we share our roads. If “motorism” is the “addiction to or practice of motoring” then what is the “cost of motorism” for our communities. In the UK the Dept for Transport estimate each death as costing our community £1.4m or $2.2m. That’s a total cost in the US of $858,000,000,000 over the last 10 years. And of course you can probably multiply that by 5 or 10 times to take account of the far larger number of non fatal injuries and damage only collisions.

In our Northern European neighbours they have both lower casualty rates and far more vulnerable road users as cyclists and pedestrians on their roads. In Sweden they have their “Vision Zero” strategy which recognises that every road death is avoidable and are constantly re-assessing what they need to do in order to deliver that vision. They know that whilst lowers speeds are not the sole answer they are a necessity if their strategies are to be convincing and successful. In Britain our default residential and urban roads have a speed limit of 30mph which is 60% higher than their 18.5mph (30 kph). They also have “stricter liability” laws which help address the imbalance of protection between vulnerable road users and motor vehicles. They also put real funds into protecting vulnerable road users through adequate and well designed pedestrian and cycle facilities.

Its time that our governments in both the UK and around the world recognise that whilst we do and should take care to protect ourselves against malicious attacks from enemies and terrorists, we should be equally aware that the lives lost through our “addiction to motoring” are just as tragic, and somehow the fact that no-one intends for them to happen makes them even more so. We need leadership and action. We need to “normalise” our relationship with the motor vehicle. We need to recognise that “speed becomes greed” when it takes away the choice for others to walk or cycle without fear. It does not mean banning motor vehicles and certainly is not anti-motorist. But it does recognise that we need to re-assess the whole way in which we use our public spaces for transport.

Some have made comments about governments who show the slightest regard to enforced behaviour change as being evidence of a “war on motorists”. Others have pointed out that fining law breakers, taxing fuel and paying for parking hardly registers on the scale of “wars or persecutions” as they really exist around the world.

So whilst there never was a “war on the motorist”, maybe its time that we did start a “war on motorism”. Our governments should use this anniversary, not only to recognise the loss of life and freedom that have come from the events of 9/11 but also to recognise that there is an issue within our communities that causes death and destruction on an appalling scale and requires addressing with the same vigour, commitment and resolution that we have shown in response to those events.

(1) National Highway Traffic safety Administration

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

An important 2 weeks for 20's Plenty for Us

Its been an important couple of weeks for 20’s Plenty for Us. First we  had the May 5th elections where a number of local councils had shifts in council make-up which provides new opportunities to gain support for implementing Total 20 policies.
Congratulations to Anna Semlyen, our Campaign Manager, who won a seat on City of York council and where Total 20 is now a policy of the majority party.
Last week (May 17th) saw us working with PTRC-Training and Warrington Borough Council to hold the “20mph City” conference. This was  the first conference focussed solely on 20mph speed limits and attracted delegates from a wide range of local authorities, charity organisations, health and a strong presence from 20’s Plenty for Us campaigners. The conference was really significant in that other conferences that had included, but not focussed on, 20mph limits had been looking at Portsmouth which was the only 20mph city at the time. With Oxford, Islington, Bristol, Warrington, Lancashire, Hartlepool and Edinburgh all now implementing and in various stages of rolling out Total 20 , this was the first “post Portsmouth” discussion of 20mph limits.
The conference first heard from Mark Tune on the 197 road pilot that Warrington Borough Council concluded last year. Mark related how he had been “genuinely surprised” at the reduction in speeds and casualties. This had changed the council’s perception of the opportunity presented for a town-wide roll-out. As a result the “experimental” 20mph limits were replaced by permanent ones on all but two of the piloted roads. The Borough Council’s Executive Board decided it wanted these same advantages for Warrington citizens and this is now to be rolled out to all areas.
I then presented on the way that the 20’s Plenty for Us campaign is succeeding and included an update on implementations around the country. I also pointed out the great “value for money” of Total 20 with it being 6.5 times more cost-effective than speed bumps and other physical 20mph zones. I highlighted the way current “isolated” 20mph zones actually maintain high speeds on the rest of the urban and residential road network.
Duncan Price of DfT related the government’s current position on its Road Safety Framework for 2011-2020. There was not much on 20mph in this and he said that a new “speed limit review” is expected in 9-12 months. Hence the current Dec 2009 guidance still applies encouraging 20mph for all residential roads.
Alan Tapp of University of West of England then looked at how Total 20 could be socially marketed. Pointing out the importance of simple clear messages and empathy with people who may want to change their behaviour. Key stages in social marketing are  :-
1.       Build values and beliefs
2.       Appeal to self-interest
3.       Counter myths and objections
He also emphasised the need to enable people to understand that their views are shared by others. With social attitudes consistently showing that people support 20mph limits for residential roads, we need to remind people that their lower speed aspirations are widely held.
We will be developing some new campaign material adopting these ideas shortly.
Lunch was a great opportunity meet with many campaigners and other delegates. After lunch, delegates heard Anna reciting our 20’s Plenty for Us rap poem before more presentations.  Alistair Smith (Assistant Director Transport and Engineering) and Councillor Stephen Thomas from Hartlepool Borough Council talked us through the process they had followed with a scrutiny committee to debate and gather evidence on Total 20. Alistair also remembered and related how I had placed chocolate on each of Councillors’ places at the meeting I had presented at. Ending my presentation I asked them  to look at the wrappers where they found that the chocolates were “Quality Streets”. Hartlepool are rolling-out 20mph for most of their residential roads shortly.
John Whitelegg of Liverpool John Moores University is a former Councillor in Lancashire. Having also worked in Europe on road danger reduction he gave us a very informed view of how to win political support.
He talked about the need to express with stark clarity the costs of not changing the road environment for the better for vulnerable road users. The cost is death and injury to local people. There is probably no other area of local politics where Councillors can wield such power for good or where inaction will cost so much.  In our communities we have the choice between delivering safe streets or nasty dangerous streets which kill and injure.  Sweden has a “Vison Zero” policy of aiming for no road deaths.
Dominic Harrison is the joint Director of Public Health for Blackburn with Darwen and Blackburn. He looked at 20mph limits from a health perspective, particularly with regard to the benefits and also “Large Scale Change Methods”. I felt that a particular slide was relevant which said :-
Evidence suggests that LSC (Large Scale Change) is an emergent process that involves: 
       Articulating a vision of something much better than status quo
       Focusing on some key themes
       Tapping into and mobilising the imagination, will, and energy of a large number of diverse stakeholders
       Creating concrete, mutually reinforcing change in multiple processes and systems
       Continually refreshing the story and attracting new, active supporters
       Monitoring progress and adapting as you go
       Bringing about such deep changes in attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours that sustainability becomes largely inherent
      Paul Plsek, Director, Academy for Large-Scale Change
This resonates with the 20’s Plenty for Us campaign. The widening body of professional support for lower speeds on residential roads is very much creating the moral and financial imperative for change in how we share our streets.
Professor Danny Dorling of Sheffield University approaches 20 mph limits from a completely practical perspective as a geographer. His work on morbidity was one of the first to highlight the role which the roads play in early death.  Being a pedestrian hit by a motor vehicle is the biggest cause of death for children from 3 to 16. Something which if it had been a disease would be seen as the greatest challenge for the medical profession. He compared our attitudes to road casualties as being similar to the way that streets were used as open sewers till the mid 19th century. Deaths caused were seen as inevitable and it was not until this was recognised that the sewers, that today we take for granted, were built. And the 20th century had smoking which was thought to be cool, warming and even able to help soothe respiratory conditions. Yet now we all know it to be the cause of so much harm.
And he looked to the future and pondered as to how future academics will look back on the 21st century and not the dates that we finally realised that we need to change our priorities to put people above cars. His historical perspective reminds us that the large scale change is possible and that we should never give up just because the initial establishment responses are negative.
Najeed Neky from Living Streets (formerly the Pedestrians Association) talked on how 20mph limits are foundations for a more pedestrian oriented street environment. That once vehicle speeds are limited to 20mph then so much more becomes possible. Whilst he showed places where engineering had been used to create a different streetscape, it is the wide area benefits of 20mph limits which really offer a great opportunity to transform our streets.
Feedback from delegates was excellent and we felt that the conference marked an important step in our campaign.  Conference slides / presentations will go on the site.
Just 5 days later I was off to Brussels at the invitation of Keith Taylor (MEP for South East). Here I met several MEPs on the Transport and Tourism Committee who are going through the process of adopting a report on European Road Safety 2011-2020. A key amendment being added is :-
24a. Encourages the Commission to propose speed limits of 30 kmh in urban areas, with the possibility for local authorities to introduce other limits for particular cases, and of 120 kmh on highways, with more efficient enforcement;

I understand that through the discussions and compromises that inevitably take place when agreement across so many countries is required this has been softened slightly to “strongly recommend” 30 kmh on residential roads. However this will be an important recognition of the benefits of 30kph limits and its acceptance as European wide “best practice”.
I was therefore very pleased to meet a number of MEPs on the committee and tell them how strongly 20’s Plenty for Us was progressing. I was also able to meet representatives from the European Commission which is the administrative rather than political part of the EU. Whilst they explained that on transport the actual legislation was devolved to member countries it was useful to both highlight our campaign and the benefits from harmonising on 30kph for residential and urban roads. They also pointed to their work on comparing the record of different countries on road safety.
This was interesting because I also met up with representatives from ETSC (European Transport Safety Council) who recently showed whilst UK is the “Safest” EU country in terms of total fatalities per million inhabitants in 2009, for pedestrians and cyclists it is falling way behind other countries and the EU average. One of the key recommendations of ETSC is 30kph limits for residential roads and those shared with pedestrians and cyclists. The latest report can be found at :-
They are also pushing the Transport and Tourism committee to recommend “strong” interventions for vulnerable road users.
I met the European Cyclists Federation who are co-ordinating efforts from EU-wide cycling organisations, including CTC, Cyclenation and Sustrans.
I also had the opportunity to sit in on one of the committee meetings, complete with translators etc. It really brought home the breadth of EU member involvement and the wide range of opinions.
The meetings were therefore an excellent opportunity to talk about the achievements that have been made in the UK in progressive local authorities implementing 20mph on an authority-wide basis. The Transport and Tourism Committee will be finalising its report over the next few weeks, and we will be continuing our lobbying of committee MEPs. Our briefing sheet is available on our web site at
In conclusion, we are making great progress. Our reach is extending and more and more local authorities are looking at Total 20 as the foundation for their strategies to make community streets better places to be. We are now receiving support from a wide range of professionals including transport, health, education, social mobility and access and environment.
Of course getting Total 20 implemented is still no easy task. Large scale social change never is. And as Professor Danny Dorling reminds us, none of the major changes such as open sewers, smoking, clean beaches, etc ., were ever easy. The status quo, lethargy, complacency and vested interests all make it difficult and our progress will vary from community to community, but I truly believe that the breadth of support for our campaign, together with consistent results of lower speeds and reduced casualties wherever Total 20 is deployed, are turning heads and making wide scale adoption a realistic objective.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Comment made to Warrington Traffic Committee - 14th March 2011

On 14th march the Traffic Committee at Warrington Borough Council met to approve the Traffic Refgulation Order for nearly 200 roads being set at 20mph. This is what I said at the meeting :-

Councillors, ladies and gentlemen
It was 7 years ago that I decided to cycle to Warrington’s twin town Hilden to find out what they had done to get 23% of their in-town trips made by bicycle. With another 20% of trips being made on buses they had far few cars on the road per person travelling than in Warrington.

And so on 29th June 2004, the late Councillor Lafferty, as mayor, waived me off from in front of the town hall.

Little did I know that the journey I was commencing would last many years and take in cities all around the country and even as far as Brussels and New York when I subsequently set up 20’s Plenty for Us as a national campaign to support lower speed limits for residential streets. We now have over 70 local campaign groups and a growing national and international reputation.

The secret of Hilden’s success in cycling, walking and avoiding congestion was the simple recognition in the early 1990’s that in order to maximise the choice of citizens to cycle and walk then it was necessary to get the speeds of walkers and cyclists closer to that of motor vehicles. They reasoned that the only solution was to introduce a 30 kph or 18 mph speed limit as the default across the whole town. This was the foundation of them increasing active travel and creating a safer and better street environment for all.

Of course they were not alone in Northern Europe and in many countries from Norway to Belgium and France then 30 kph speed limits for residential and urban roads have become the norm.

Perhaps I can point out some of the things which I have personally learnt during that journey that started in 2004:-

  • That with pedestrian deaths 4 times more in number than cyclists then lower speed limits really are crucial to pedestrians whether they area adults or children. Furthermore the results from 20mph town-wide speed limits in Portsmouth show that motor vehicle passenger casualties reduce by some 37%. This is a road safety initiative that benefits all road users. It is certainly not anti-car, but merely pro-people. 
  • That the more drivers themselves who live in a 20mph street then the greater will be their benefits for them and their family and also their compliance with other people’s 20mph limits. 
  • I realised that journey times are almost completely determined by how long we are stopped and that maximum speed has a minimal effect. 
  • I learnt that Directors of Public Health are some of the strongest supporters of 20mph limits, particularly in the North West where child and adult casualties are higher than the national average. 
  • I realised that in Warrington we injure or kill 1,000 people a year on our roads at an estimated cost of £37m per annum. And that in almost every one of those a child was involved. Perhaps not directly being injured or killed, but in the inevitable aftermath of a casualty in the family. For a child losing a relative suddenly, violently and wastefully is a huge emotional burden.  
  • I also learnt that minds can change. That officers who maybe had been less convinced were able to take their own path through the evidence and through the Warrington pilots and then come out in support of this important initiative. And those minds are not just here in Warrington but in Portsmouth, Oxford, Lancashire, Islington, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Hartlepool and Bristol where local authorities are implementing 20mph limits on a town-wide basis. I am pleased to have been asked for a meeting with transport minister Norman Baker in 3 weeks time to discuss 20mph implementations around the country 
  • And I have also learnt  that here in Warrington, we can replace angst with action. That not only can councillors debate and decide in favour of lower speeds, but also that Warrington citizens can moderate their speed in order to make the roads a better place to be.

And for Warrington Borough Council this journey enters a new phase with the recent executive board decision to roll-out 20mph across the whole town. I note that the debate about which roads to exclude from benefiting is to be conducted at Scrutiny Committee level. This is all democracy in action. The ability to take an almost universal aspiration to make our streets better is being community led and establishment endorsed.

Finally, I would like to thank councillors and officers for their time over the years in getting to where we are today. And I would most of all like to thank you and them on behalf of the people who you will never hear about.
·        The teenager who realises just in time that there is a car coming, but at a speed which avoids a collision

·        The elderly person that now feels safe to walk to the shops.

·        The mother who can now get by without the second family car because her children can feel safe to cycle or walk to school.

·        The middle aged couple who avoided a collision because they had more time to do so.

·        The 5 year child who runs out into the road and the driver who safely stops.

For these will not be the people you see in the statistics or in the news. They may not even realise that your actions today will have saved their lives or their injury. But they will all be beneficiaries of your decision to implement this Traffic Order and the future Traffic Orders on the rest of the Warrington residential roads.
I thank you for listening and encourage you to vote in favour.


I am pleased to report that the committee approved the Traffic Orders and that these will become effective on 15th April 2011.