Tuesday, 1 January 2013

20 mph in residential roads: progress needed

Kent Greens have roundly criticised Kent County Council transport supremo, Cllr Sweetland, for his email[3] claiming that "the casualty figures for the Maidstone district are falling when the increased traffic flow is taken into account" to defend the 50% increase in people killed or seriously injured in the town in 2011.

Cllr Sweetland's email also goes on to refuse to introduce 20mph limits across all residential areas despite his acknowledgement that "speed is a factor in almost crashes".

Stuart Jeffery, Chair of Kent Green Party: "Cllr Sweetland's response is more than disappointing, especially after the latest figures show a 50% rise in serious accidents in Maidstone and that he accepts that speed is a factor in almost all crashes. I simply don't understand how he can justify not taking an urgent but simple step to reduce the high number of deaths and injuries, especially when there is such high public support.

"With public support for 20mph limits in residential areas at around 73%[1] and 8 million people living in authorities that have 20mph limits[2] there are simply no barriers to this. Coupled with the benefits to road safety, and the potential reduction in air pollution and congestion, I have to question his motives for not acting.

"Cllr Sweetland must act now to save lives. Further blocking of this simple and effective is unacceptable."

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1. British Social Attitudes Survey 2011 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/9029/bsa-2011-report.pdf
2. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/the-20mph-revolution-millions-of-drivers-face-lower-speed-limits-as-new-laws-sweep-the-country-8434292.html

3. Cllr Sweetland's (KCC Cabinet Member for Transport) email to Stuart Jeffery:

Dear Mr Jeffery

Thank you for copying me in on the recent email exchanges. I wanted to set out the facts for the avoidance of doubt.

Looking at the Maidstone district, there was indeed a rise in the number of crashes in 2011. However, it is important to put the figures into context.
   *  There were 412 car crashes on KCC roads in Maidstone in 2011, and this should be viewed against the reduction seen between 2009 and 2010 (395 to 375).  The number of car crashes in the district was 3% lower than the 2004-8 baseline average of 424.
   * The number of Killed and Seriously Injured crashes in the Maidstone district in 2001 was 24, and this again should be viewed against the reduction seen between 2009 and 2010 (29 to 16).
   * Traffic in the Maidstone district increased between 2010 and 2011 with 146,069 more vehicle miles recorded in cars.
Any road crash casualties are a cause for concern. In context, the casualty figures for the Maidstone district are falling when the increased traffic flow is taken into account.  Furthermore, simple comparison in statistical variation with the previous year does not necessarily present the true situation.  For this reason local Highway Authorities and the Department for Transport always consider at least three years data to more accurately pinpoint issues that we should focus on.

There are many benefits to the implementation of 20mph limits in specific locations and we already have nearly 800 roads in the County covered by such limits. However, whilst speed is a factor in almost all crashes, there are many other causation factors that should be taken into account when considering appropriate responses to crashes and casualties on our roads. A targeted approach, rather than an indiscriminate "blanket" reaction, has served Kent well over the years in the reduction of road crashes and I intend to maintain that approach. We have a close relationship with Kent Police, and their current position on 20mph zones is that they should have an element of self enforcement which would not require a Police presence unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Following further pilot schemes in the Maidstone area, we will be considering our 20mph policy in 2013 and we will consult widely to ensure that appropriate cost effective solutions to road safety issues are delivered. This will ensure that the limited amounts of public money we have for road safety education, enforcement and engineering are spent with the utmost efficiency.

I hope this provides some clarification for you.

Yours sincerely

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