Two Wheels, by Rob Archer, October 31, 2014

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When I started writing this column in 2011 one of the first subjects I covered (by popular request) was the subject of speed. I’ve long been a supporter of any measures to reduce the speed of motor vehicles on streets where people live, work, shop or play.

In the last few years the message that it is no longer acceptable in a civilised society for motor vehicles to travel at 30mph or more in built-up areas has been heeded across the country. More and more towns and cities are seeing the benefits of reducing the standard urban speed limit to 20mph, making 30 the exception for a few arterial roads.

One such city I’m fairly familiar with is Newcastle. Last time I was there, a few months ago I was amazed and delighted to find that even some of the major A-road routes through the city had 20mph limits and they appeared to be largely adhered to. The city authorities apparently had an uphill struggle to get people to accept the need but few people have complained since. The atmosphere is much ‘calmer’, pollution has been reduced and journey times haven’t increased. What’s not to like?

The great disappointment for me is that we have very few more roads with a 20mph limit in King’s Lynn than we did in 2011.

So far it’s proved impossible to convince the ‘movers and shakers’ of the huge benefits of wide-area 20mph limits, such as improved safety (particularly for children), smoother traffic flow and reduced pollution. One thing I find particularly galling is that both the Borough and County Councils have a policy of enforced 20mph limits around schools. So far very few primary schools and none of the secondary schools have even a part-time 20mph limit outside the gates. Our children deserve better!

I’ve heard no end of lame excuses why Norfolk and King’s Lynn in particular, isn’t going to join the rest of the country and put children’s safety first. The most ridiculous is the old chestnut that some cars are more polluting at 20 than at 30. That may be true – but only if you drive at a constant 20 or 30 all the time. As soon as you brake and then accelerate any advantage is wipe out instantly. What is proven is that kinetic energy increases exponentially with speed, so the force of being hit by a car at 30 is FOUR TIMES that of being hit at 20. The harsh reality is that a child hit by a car driving at 20 will probably survive. A child hit at 30 almost certainly won’t.

It’s a sad state of affairs when a few self-obsessed car addicts can dictate our total transport policy and who’s right to drive too fast is put above the right of people to a healthy and safe street in which to live and play.

Stop making excuses. 20mph. All streets. NOW