20 is Plenty v Equality Streets

Today I received a 20’s Plenty for Us press release. It began, “Villagers need protection from speeding traffic.” Sometimes the obvious needs stating. I don’t disagree with 20’s Plenty’s aims – safer roads – but I disagree with their approach. I met their press officer at a conference six months ago where we both spoke. This is the gist of our exchange.

Me: No, we need culture change and roadway redesign, not legislation by numbers. I’ve just finished the Poynton film where there is no 20mph zone, yet average traffic speeds are below 20. People drive according to context and design. 20 – a limit and a target – is a sticking-plaster on the open wound caused by traffic mismanagement.

Anna: The trouble with roadway redesign is it’s so expensive and time consuming.  20mph limits are cheap as chips – they save lives cost-effectively and quickly. Agree we need a culture change.

Me: Roadway redesign need not be expensive. It can be as simple as bagging over traffic lights and painting out give-way signs. Or, as necessary, give-way markings can be added to main roads where they enter a junction, thus equalising (or eliminating) priority, and levelling the playing-field. Cheaper than manufacturing and installing signs all over the place, as if our roads weren’t already over-infested with instructional signage!

Anna: Sorry, but still can’t believe that what you are suggesting is cheaper than a few 20mph signs and traffic regulation orders. Do you have costings for a locality or per km? Limits are £1400 per km.

If required I could get specific costings, but bagging over lights and painting out or painting in give-way markings is not a costly exercise. More important than financial cost, though, is the social cost. 20 represents an expansion of the negative role of coercion and enforcement. Equality Streets represents a culture of empathy, equality and responsibility.

Chichester and Birmingham are the latest places to agree 20mph limits. Who has recently done wide-scale Equality Streets?

Poynton is the only place I know that has adopted shared space/Equality Streets at a major junction without restricting traffic. While I recognise your ingenuity and success in spreading your gospel, 20 is a lower mountain to climb, with a simple message that slots into the coercive mindset of traffic authorities. I see Equality Streets as a more worthwhile peak to scale. Given widespread buy-in, most of our congestion and road safety problems would vanish in a puff of exhaust smoke.

Advantage 20 is Plenty. Why? They have organisation, funding, and a paid press officer.

About Martin Cassini

Campaign founder and video producer, pursuing traffic system reform to make roads safe, civilised and efficient
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