20mph for equality, public health and wellbeing

Today is International Women’s Day and on Friday, I attended the Mayor’s Annual International Women’s Day coffee morning in Faversham’s Guildhall. I took a seat, surrounded by women from my local community, listening intently to the immensely compassionate, knowledgeable and inspiring speaker, Claire Murdoch, National Director for Mental Health, who also happens to be the sister of our town Mayor Alison Reynolds.

The event set me thinking about 20mph limits, how they are rooted in the Equality Act 2010 and the foundational role they play in improving public health and wellbeing for all.

From my personal experience as a parent of a young child, I can see that the loss of independent mobility amongst children impacts on their health and freedom and that of their parents and carers, who are most often women ferrying them to and from school and various activities.

Research conducted by the Policy Studies Institute found that in 2010, only 25 per cent of primary school children in England travel home from school alone compared with 86 per cent in 1971. http://www.psi.org.uk/images/uploads/CIM_Final_report_v9_3_FINAL.PDF

Much of this is caused by fear of the volume and speed of vehicles and dirty air but it is a vicious circle that is starkly evident in the obesity rates for Year 6 children in St Ann’s ward (amongst the highest in the country) as well as rising levels of pollution.

Anna Semlyen Campaign Manager for 20’s Plenty for Us says

“All genders enjoy a better quality of life in wide areas of 20mph, with women benefiting most. Calmer speeds lead to greater street confidence, freedom from some child escort duties, a greater ability to exercise safely and more time due to less escort duties. 20mph is a feminist issue. Surveys consistently find women more in favour of 20mph than men with overall support consistently around 70%.  Yet men are more often the ones in power making transport decisions,”

Her excellent briefing on this subject is here: http://www.20splenty.org/women_20

In contrast to the typically male-dominated leadership mentioned above, the 20’s Plenty Community Working Group has always been gender-balanced. Its long term volunteers Tim Stonor, Ellie Jupp, Gulliver Immink, Alison Eardley, Chris Oswald Jones and myself have worked together with town, borough and county councillors for five years to make this project happen.

We campaign because we know that the simple act of slowing down traffic leads to greater equality on our streets and better quality of life for everyone in our communities, especially the most vulnerable.

20mph limits start from the understanding that all people make mistakes. As speeds reduce, those mistakes aren’t as serious. Small differences in speed make large differences in safety! We need kinder, more forgiving streets.

Furthermore in 2011, Prof John Wann of Royal Holloway, University of London found that at vehicle speeds faster than 20mph, primary age children may not be able to detect cars approaching.

“This is not a matter of children not paying attention, but a problem related to low-level visual detection mechanisms, so even when children are paying very close attention they may fail to detect a fast approaching vehicle.”

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0956797611400917

Slower speed streets lead to greater community cohesion and a sense of place; both are key for mental health and wellbeing in our communities.

Faversham’s town-wide 20mph scheme sets out to achieve three aims:

  1. fewer accidents
  2. cleaner air
  3. greater levels of physical activity.

And successful schemes up and down the country are delivering on many more benefits that improve the overall safety, health, wellbeing and affluence of communities. This is why 20mph schemes tend to be more popular after implementation.

Road safety organisations (BRAKE, RoadPeace, ROSPA,) walking and cycling organisations (British Cycling, Sustrans, the CTC, Living Streets) and public health organisations (NICE, WHO) all support 20mph limits due to overwhelming evidence that they are one of the most effective ways of making our streets safer for children, older people, those with disabilities, pedestrians and cyclists as well as being healthier and less polluted.

The Stockholm Agreement reiterated and gold stamped this in February and linked road safety to other sustainable challenges, in recognition that fast moving traffic is the single biggest barrier to walking and cycling as well as a direct cause of pollution. http://www.20splenty.org/stockholm_declaration

Rod King, Campaign Director of 20’s Plenty for Us has said:

“Fast traffic is scary. Speed becomes greed when it stops the vulnerable from being able to get around.”

Cllr Carole Jackson, St Anne’s ward (left) and Mayor Alison Reynolds with 20’s Plenty campaigner Amanda Russell (right.) Carole sits on the 20’s Plenty committee and Faversham Town Council has committed 28K funding to the town-wide scheme.

Here’s a general update from the 20’s Plenty Community Working Group

OCT 2019:

Phil Jones and I were invited to speak at the 20’s Plenty National Conference in Waltham Forest, entitled: 20’s Plenty for the 2020’s.

Phil Jones is the transport consultant appointed to advise the Community Working Group in 2016. He was the obvious choice because of his unparalleled integrated knowledge of not just highways but also cycle and pedestrian infrastructure design. It’s very rare to find a transport designer at the forefront of all three. Phil was recommended by our campaigner and Faversham resident Tim Stonor, an architect and urban planner and internationally recognised expert, who has devoted his career to the analysis and design of human behaviour patterns – the ways in which people move, interact and transact in buildings and urban places.

During the Q&A session, Phil and I were asked to explain how we gained KCC’s approval for a town-wide scheme in March last year and helped to influence their policy change. These are changes that will make it easier for the community to call for 20mph limits, and more achievable for local authorities to implement them. It was great to share this knowledge with the wider 20’s Plenty community and in recent weeks I have seen how these changes have galvanised residents from four of our surrounding villages, all of whom are demanding 20mph on their streets. It was clear that Faversham is of immense interest to the wider 20’s Plenty community and we benefit greatly from their ongoing support.

DEC 2019

The 20’s Plenty Community Working Group (CWG) reinforced our request for Phil Jones to be re-appointed as leading consultant for the scheme. We think it’s imperative that he continues in his role designing and advising the scheme. The town council approved his reappointment and commissioned the next set of design drawings, which are currently being reviewed. They will provide in depth technical detail for Kent Highways, enable the scheme to be fully costed and reflect the feedback gathered so far from residents.

Next is a further stage of community engagement. Its key aims will be to raise awareness and gain further acceptance for the scheme by continuing to communicate its many benefits and enable residents to discuss the recommended physical changes in specific streets.

Feb 2020

To our delight, Faversham Town Council commit 28K in funding towards the town-wide 20mph scheme.

March 2020

The CWG hopes to co-ordinate with the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee to contextualise town-wide 20mph within its aims and advise on technical, design and policy matters as required.

Cycle Fest 2020

The CWG will be attending Faversham’s Cycle Fest event on April 4th, so please come along to say hello, bag a wheelie bin sticker or sign up to volunteer. There is a programme of events here:

https://www.faversham.org/events/festivals/cycle-fest-2020

Thank you for your support.

Amanda Russell – Chair 20’s Plenty Community Working Group

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20's Plenty for Faversham

Faversham fan, campaigning for road safety in our town.

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