Dear Fellow Resident,
I am writing to you about the current consultation on a proposed borough-wide 20 mph zone.
I and others have been asked to add our names to a letter from the Council administration outlining the positive reasons in favour of the 20 mph zone, stating that nothing has been decided yet, and that it is up to you, our residents, to decide through the consultation.
Supporting a borough-wide 20 mph zone was a Conservative manifesto commitment, which I of course supported before the election. So I felt it was only right that I add my name to the letter.
I know, and fully understand, that there are differing views, including views that favour the limit in residential roads but not in, say, A and B roads. There are also views that the issue is more about responsible and courteous driving, and that irresponsible drivers are going to behave in that way whatever the limit. I respect those views.
I am glad that the letter states that nothing has been decided, and that it is up to you, because I am concerned that Liberal Democrat Cabinet members have stated on social media that "councillors will decide" whether the limit goes ahead, and it was one of their manifesto commitments to deliver. The fact that the LibDems have so far specified no threshold, no criteria for deciding whether or not it should go ahead, and have not said how they will reliably filter out duplicates and out of borough residents from the consultation is also concerning. All of this must be resolved before, and not after, the consultation closes.
As for the reasons for 20 mph, let me expand on a few of the strongest arguments in favour, having to do with consistency and simplicity for drivers, cost, calmer feel on our roads, and top speeds on our residential roads:
- consistency and simplicity for drivers - our borough is now surrounded by 20 mph zones in Wandsworth, Hammersmith, Hounslow, and parts of Kingston. Our previous policy has created islands of 20mph within our borough. 20 mph is spreading, and it has become confusing for drivers to know whether they are in a 20 mph or 30 mph zone. It is better, and safer, to be consistent.
- cost - these islands of 20 mph create repeated consultation and significant signage costs. It is cheaper to have one large zone, be it 20mph or 30 mph, with some roads, such as the A316, exempt.
- calmer feel on our roads - we are trying to create a better environment for walking and cycling, safety around our schools, and to support our high streets. That is helped by lower top speeds, when speeds are not already significantly limited by congestion (and hence the additional benefits of more walking and cycling)
- top speeds on our residential roads - average speeds are often quoted when talking about 20 mph zones. In our residential roads, the danger and the perception of danger is created by the top speeds, not the average speeds. 30 mph is incredibly fast on many of our narrow residential roads. Even where the accident record is officially low, high speeds create anxiety for those residents (and when people ask about enforcement, my answer is always that 30 mph does not have widespread enforcement, either; I trust the vast majority of people to obey the law). When an accident does happen, the impact is far greater at speeds approaching 30 mph than at 20mph.
But that is my view. Whatever your view, whether in favour of 20 mph or not, or in favour for residential roads but not A and B roads, I encourage you to complete the consultation. Make sure your voice is heard.
Leader of the Conservative Group - Richmond Council
The open letter, which has been signed by Richmond Park MP Zac Goldsmith and Cllr Paul Hodgins can be viewed here