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Are you prepared to wait 20 years for 20mph speed limits?

Article first published in the Buntingford Journal, May 2022

The 20’s Plenty for Us campaigning message is a simple one, that 20mph should be the normal speed limit on urban and residential roads where vulnerable road users mix with motor vehicles. This acknowledges the danger that people (pedestrians, cyclists or horse riders) are exposed to as road users and that a 20mph speed limit goes a very long way in protecting them from serious injury or death. In fact, casualty rates are reduced by 20% and the chance of surviving a collision improves by 7 to 10 times on 20mph roads compared to 30mph. You would hope that a local authority would be keen to roll out a 20mph speed management strategy to protect as many people as possible from road danger in urban and rural communities alike (in effect a wide area policy). This certainly is the case in counties such as Oxfordshire, where the county council has announced the roll out of 20mph speed limits on 80% of roads. Other counties from Cambridgeshire to Cornwall are adopting a similar approach and in London a total of 136 miles of road will have a 20mph speed limit by 2024.

In early 2021, Hertfordshire County Council announced a budget of £7m to be spent

on 20mph zones over a four year period. You would hope that, following such an announcement, the decision-making process for the roll out would be fair and transparent, with the main focus being on the need to protect as many vulnerable road users as possible from the potential harm. In January 2022, a Potential 20mph Schemes document was released by HCC (a ranked list of proposed 20mph schemes). It is understood that of the list of 552 locations the ratio of urban to rural schemes is 4 to 1 and that only the first 100 schemes will get the go ahead in the four year time frame.

Through an FOI request, 20’s Plenty for Buntingford has obtained the full list of Potential Schemes and the map for our County Councillor’s Division. It really doesn’t make good reading for our local communities. Of the first 100 schemes the top 33 are urban and just 8 of the first 100 are rural locations. Locally, of the 5 schemes listed for Buntingford they are ranked 155th, 259th, 291st, 379th and 548th. Puckeridge is ranked 306th, Great Hormead 446th, Braughing 467th, Westmill 501st and Cottered 507th. This means, potentially, that there is not one town or village in our Division that will see 20mph speed limits implemented in the next 6 years and potentially this decade, or even longer. We have also learned that the actual pace of roll out is even slower than the proposals suggests. To date, necessary location data has only been collected on 4 proposed schemes from the top 100 list and just 6 schemes will be put out to public consultation this summer - a process that could take many months and may not even result in implementation.

Local residents rate road danger as one of the main concerns in their communities (as reflected time after time in local policing priorities). There is also strong desire for 20mph speed limits to improve road safety and people’s quality of life. Surely we all deserve safer, happier communities wherever we live better? The only way to affect change is for more local people to make their voices heard.

Sue Nicholls

Campaign Leader, 20's Plenty for Buntingford

Joint-Coordinator, 20's Plenty for Hertfordshire

Graphic Adviser, 20's Plenty for Us

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