Pilot plans for 20mph limits announced

Proposals for a pilot 20mph speed limit scheme, covering significant parts of central, east and south Birmingham are due before the City Council’s Cabinet on March 17th.

The 20 is Plenty pilot is designed to demonstrate the road safety and wider benefits of lower speed limits after recent public consultation showed strong support for such measures near schools but mixed backing for a more widespread approach.

Under the proposals, the pilot scheme’s footprint has been based on support shown during public consultation and the road safety records of the areas in question.

The whole of the city centre inside the ring road plus all or part of Aston, Nechells, Ladywood, Edgbaston, Harborne, Selly Oak, Bournville, Moseley and Kings Heath, Springfield, Sparkbrook, South Yardley, Bordesley Green, Washwood Heath and Hodge Hill wards would be covered by phase one.

Cllr James McKay, Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart City, said: “Research from other places in the UK and overseas show that 20mph limits make roads safer, and help to make walking and cycling more attractive options, leading to less traffic congestion, better health, less noise, more social interaction and stronger communities. Better safety for all road users is the inspiration behind our plans, and the other positive spin-offs are a bonus – but we accept that there are still significant numbers of people who remain to be convinced.”

The report to Cabinet on March 17 contains a section addressing common concerns expressed during the consultation, some of which include:

20mph limits would apply on main roads as well as residential roads – It is proposed 20 mph be the speed limit on residential roads in the city; the main A and B roads would keep their current speed limit.  Many people initially opposed to the proposals appeared to change their view once it was explained that this was not the case.

Scepticism on the impact on road safety and accident reduction – Evidence from several towns and cities shows the implementation of 20mph limits reduces the number and severity of road traffic collisions.

20mph limits would increase journey times – The vast majority of the city’s traffic travels on the 10 per cent of the road network that will stay at 30 or 40 mph. The parts of any journey affected would only be the relatively short sections on 20 mph roads in order to reach the main road network.

20mph limits would increase congestion – On a clear stretch or road, travelling at 20mph will obviously take longer than travelling at a higher speed. However, research indicates at slower speeds, vehicles flow more smoothly through junctions. As such, within an urban environment, 20mph may help to improve traffic flow. In addition, as a result of reduced acceleration and braking, 20mph may help to reduce fuel consumption and associated emissions.

Negative impact on journey times for buses – Most bus services travel along roads that will stay at their current speed limit. It is only at the ends of some routes, where the buses go onto residential roads, where the speed limit might be 20mph. Most buses spend very little time travelling at more than 20mph, particularly in residential areas due to the frequency of stops and the need to carefully negotiate obstacles such as parked cars. Even on main bus routes a recent study found that less than 25 per cent of the time was spent above 30km/h (18.5 mph). At peak times this proportion is even less.

Negative impact on businesses/deliveries – German evidence is of 12 per cent less fuel use by vehicles where slower limits were implemented as driving became. Rising transport fuel costs affect all energy prices and profit margins. A 12 per cent saving is significant and would help firms to compete, survive and thrive, boosting jobs.

If the concept of a pilot is backed by Cabinet members, a full business case will then be developed for approval in the summer of this year, with implementation then taking place until 2016 before a report on its impact and further proposals for the remainder of the city in 2016/17.

Cllr Tahir Ali, Cabinet Member for Development, Jobs and Skills, added: “We can keep listing these positive points about improved road safety, but I feel the best way to demonstrate the advantages for traffic mobility is to pilot a wider roll-out across the city. Over the coming months we will be drawing up the detailed plan and I look forward to us delivering the improvements from the pilot scheme, as soon as possible.”

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