In 2015, following two fatalities on zebra crossings and a hit-and-run incident involving a school child, a group of residents supported by various members of the Green Party launched a 20’s Plenty campaign.
Support from the town council followed and we then approached Kent County Council (KCC) and asked how we could achieve a 20mph speed limit on our residential streets and create a better balance between motor vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.
KCC replied to say we wouldn’t qualify for funding because the combined rates of road crashes and COPD, asthma and childhood obesity were not high enough.
However the evidence was pretty damning; 119 casualties in 5 years and at least two fatalities on zebra crossings. Childhood obesity levels in one ward (St Ann’s) amongst the highest in the country for Yr 6 pupils. An Air Quality Monitoring Area in Ospringe Street, where residents were and still are being exposed to levels of pollution that represent a significant health hazard.
So we decided to approach Swale Joint Transportation board and presented the evidence to them and made them aware of the benefits of introducing a 20mph limit. To our relief they tasked us with setting up a working group to examine the best way to implement a 20mph speed limit in all residential streets in Faversham. This working group was uniquely comprised of elected councillors and community campaigners working together.
We then engaged residents in more depth and in 2016 consulted just over 100 people and asked them to place red dots on a town map, to indicate places where traffic made them feel unsafe to walk or cycle. The map was also posted on our offical Facebook Page where many more residents continued to comment. We called this our Red Dots Map but we’ve come to view it as a sort of protest map.
The map survey provided valuable social engagement. We found that residents were keen to talk about their experiences as well as learn about the benefits of a 20mph speed limit. When we compared the Protest Map with CrashMap, we could also see that accidents were occurring in the places where residents were most fearful, so their perception of the danger was accurate.
We then enlisted the expert advice of independent transport advisor, Phil Jones Associates to carry out a feasibility study for a 20mph zone to encompass all residential streets in Faversham. This appraisal gave us key principles in developing a strategy for 20mph and informed 6 recommendations which we put to Swale’s Joint Transportation Board later that year. At that meeting the board voted to accept all six recommendations for what was now a town-wide limit and they also added an amendment to pursue a 20mph limit on residential streets across the whole of Swale.
This was hugely encouraging for us and both the original motion and the amendment were agreed unanimously by the board members.
Since then, we have carried out various types of community engagement, to gather feedback, achieve compliance and influence long term behavioural change by making people aware of the connection between vehicle speed, air quality and inactive lifestyles.
We have also identified three key objectives for our scheme:
– casualty reduction
– improved air quality
reduced health inequalities, including adult/child obesity.
We have also gained the support of a new town council, our MP Helen Whately and our County Councillor.
And we have continued to work with KCC to ensure they understand why a town-wide limit is key in achieving these objectives. We have also retained the services of Phil Jones Associates, which has been vital for developing a scheme to satisfy KCC and meet those three key objectives and in January an agreement in principle was reached with KCC for a town wide 20mph limit.
On May 10th 2019, KCC approved all of the scheme’s technical recommendations put forward by Phil Jones Associates and on May 24th 2019 Kent County Council published their revised 20mph policy which directly recognises two key elements of Faversham’s scheme,
1) the use of ‘more innovative and less intrusive traffic calming measures on higher speed streets
2) the importance of community demand over casualty rates and deprivation statistics.
These changes will make 20mph limits where people live much more achievable and affordable, leading to safer, cleaner and healthier streets not just in our town but for many more communities across Kent.
And the pressure is very much on. In 2019 the Faversham Society and the University of Kent carried out a traffic pollution survey to measure current pollution levels in the town. As a result of that study we now have two more areas that require Air Quality Management. In the wider context, housing development on three sides of the town is significantly increasing Faversham’s population and there is an urgent need for interconnectivity and travel that is not dominated by car use. It is absolutely vital that more is done to encourage and enable safe walking and cycling.
Slower speed streets are the first essential step in that journey.