Dr Sam Page’s letter on the feasibility of 20mph speed limits correctly raises the profile of a subject that has turned into a main agenda item for Marlborough. In principle, such zones can contribute to a more pleasing community environment, but this is a discussion all about pedestrian safety not pollution.
We have enough real information on future vehicle development to be able to say significant public expenditure today in Marlborough based solely on an air pollution justification would not be valid. Marlborough does have its current hotspots where some pollutant levels are higher than we would like, but we can certainly expect that over the coming 5 years, these will reduce significantly.
Electric and hybrid vehicles will reduce the CO2 emissions that are currently experiencing a national spike (that is solely down to the misinformation spread by those promoting the ‘dirty diesel’ agenda). Developments in brake disc and pad material science, plus advances in regenerative braking – easily applied to all future vehicles – will reduce or eliminate vehicle PM2.5 emissions. It has been suggested we have more to fear with particulate emissions from aerosol propellants in deodorants and other domestic sprays than cars.
Let’s focus on the main justification for applying 20mph zones – pedestrian safety. Despite significantly increased traffic volumes over the past 10 years, we should consider carefully the type of 20mph zone that would suit Marlborough best.
It is well known that in Bristol the blanket 20mph zones cause significant frustration and impatience in areas where they are inappropriate. To suggest accident rates have reduced there is at odds with other experiences nationally and illustrates why political agendas shouldn’t drive issues of public safety.
Nearby Somerset Council spent nearly a million pounds introducing thirteen 20mph zones in their main towns (including Bath), only to find that the accident rates increased. A Department of Transport study into Portsmouth’s blanket 20mph zoning produced the same result. The conclusion must be that blanket zoning without careful consideration of the whole road user environment doesn’t work.
In Marlborough, we shouldn’t be considering a blanket 20mph zone, but small targeted areas that promote road safety without causing driver impatience. It is the prospect of less attentive pedestrians walking into the road and being hit that is the main concern. If we have a 20mph zone, we must ensure that pedestrians as well as drivers realise they are in a danger area.
In the town centre, such targeted speed restrictions might work in the High Street, New Road and at Kingsbury Hill’s southern end – but only when combined with a package of other traffic calming measures (road markings, chicanes, trees and shrubs, etc.) with all road users being alerted to road safety (as suggested by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents own studies). A ban on HGVs in these zones also would improve the safety environment.
It’s not rocket science, but the biggest problem we have right now is that Wiltshire have no interest in Marlborough and worse, nobody here owns the traffic issue or a sufficient budget either.
Peter Morgan C(Mech)Eng, Member of the Guild of Motoring Writers