20mph limit plea for Shropshire's residential roads
Calls for a blanket 20mph speed limit on the county's residential roads will be considered by a new group set up by Shropshire Council.
Local campaigners inspired by the national '20's Plenty' campaign have been lobbying the authority for a number of years to follow in the footsteps of other councils across England in adopting the policy.
A council committee agreed in October that a dedicated road safety task and finish group should be set up to look at how the number of people killed or injured in road accidents could be reduced.
The group has now been established and will meet for the first time in the coming weeks. Part of its remit will be to consider "how 20mph limits on some roads might result in safer roads".
Its scope will also cover things like the impact of road collisions, feelings of safety when walking and cycling, and how the council can work with the police to reduce crashes.
Professor John Whitelegg, joint co-ordinator of the Shropshire-wide 20's Plenty Campaign, urged members of the new group to look at the "hard evidence" that a blanket limit would be the most effective step towards making Shropshire's roads safer.
He said: "It is very good news that this group has been set up. I attended a scrutiny meeting in February when someone had asked for a specific group to look at the 20mph campaign to be set up, and the committee rejected it.
"In England there are now 50 councils covering 15 million people where the general default on residential streets is 20mph.
"The evidence is that it reduces collisions, reduces casualties and makes people feel a lot safer.
"People feel more able to let their children walk to school, and are more confident walking and cycling, so you then get a big reduction in congestion. It is recommended by almost every public health and professional body.
"When you have a bitty approach where some streets are 20mph and others are not you get a low level of compliance, but when it applies to all residential streets people get the idea.
"If they look at the evidence seriously, they will see that it works. I really hope this new group sees that."
The committee will consist of seven Shropshire councillors. It will consider evidence from Shropshire Council, West Mercia Police and other partners.
Gwilym Butler, chair of the council's place overview committee, said: “We welcome the opportunity to look at road safety across Shropshire, both in residential, and rural and country areas.
"In a time when funds are short we need to understand from knowledgeable data where funds, if any are available, should be spent, and share that knowledge with our town and parish councils who may also want to embark on safety initiatives using their own funds."
But Councillor Butler said the possibility of lowering speed limits needed to be considered alongside other aspects of improving road safety.
“I do not believe it is as simple as a reduction in speed, but also needs an educational and cultural change in communities to respect and promote pedestrians and cyclists," he said.
“I do believe new planning policy should be introduced to include design and access to developments which promotes reduced speed and promotes walking and cycling – but the task and finish group will draw up outcomes for recommendation.”
Councillor Andy Boddington, one of the members of the new group, said: "I am looking forward to working with this new committee. I hope we will be able to set out a very clear approach to ensuring that people on our roads are safe.
"We have seen huge cuts to local policing and council resources. We can no longer get clamp downs on speeding and idiotic driving unless someone is killed or seriously injured.
"This is a very crude and a very cruel approach to road safety. Why should a child be injured or killed before the council and police act?
"We need to slow traffic down and ensure that pedestrians and cyclists are safe and feel safe."