Dear Editor, I hope you will give me the opportunity to respond to the letter proposing 20mph zones throughout the West Midlands which do not involve physical measures and instead relying solely on signage to reduce speeds – (see ‘More can be done to bring down road casualties’ - April 1).
The Department for Transport commissioned a report on the effectiveness of such zones. The results can be seen in the Transport Research Laboratory report 363 – “Urban Speed Management Methods”. The conclusion of the report was that signage alone would not reduce vehicle speeds nor accidents sufficiently. Small reductions in speed and accidents would only be achieved with the additional use of information and enforcement campaigns. However, the speeds in these zones would remain well above 20mph.
It is still the opinion of the Department for Transport that the only way to reduce vehicle speeds is by the introduction of physical or enforcement measures.
One of the later letters (Cutting speed limits to 20mph does save lives – April 10) claimed “20mph schemes in North Lanarkshire, enforced with nothing more than road signs, have led to a significant reduction in casualties without the need for traffic calming measures”. Unfortunately, this is not entirely true.
The 20mph zones in North Lanarkshire reduced traffic speeds by about 1mph. It has been recognised by North Lanarkshire Council that their Twenty’s Plenty initiative was unlikely to have been solely responsible for the significant reduction in accidents. Instead, the significant reduction in accidents has been attributed to a number of other measures that were also taking place at the same time, namely: a series of physical measures to reduce speeds and enforcement action by Strathclyde Police on speeding.
We all want to continually reduce traffic accidents, but the debate is how to achieve this. I believe that the current policy of focusing both physical and enforcement measures at the locations that traffic accidents repeatedly happen is sensible. It would be very helpful if the Government could find a way to allow insurance companies to provide councils with their accident data, which would not breach the Data Protection laws. This would allow councils to introduce measures at a location a long time before someone is seriously injured. More educational campaigns are needed, maybe focused on areas where the victims of traffic accidents live.
20mph zones should only be introduced if they include physical or enforcement measures to reduce the traffic speeds. Without these physical or enforcement measures the 20mph zones don’t reduce accidents and instead clutter up the street environment with their signage.
Coun Martin Mullaney
Moseley and Kings Heath Ward, Birmingham