A Letter to the Editor....
"Reducing the speed limit to 20mph on residential roads is an idea whose time has come. These schemes cut the average speed of traffic: improving traffic flow, reducing injuries and damage from accidents, as well as lowering pollution.
So I was pleased to be in the public gallery on 22 November as Merton Council debated two possibilities for 20mph schemes in the borough.
The first was from the Conservatives, mainly harking back to when they ran the Council. They suggested that "areas" should get 20mph zones when residents indicated they wanted them. This plan was rejected, as it would have embedded an unclear every-road-for-itself approach, making things very confusing for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. The plans were also financially unsound. The charity Living Streets points out that schemes comprising numerous 20mph zones, requiring traffic calming devices - like the Tories wanted - cost nearly 7 times more than single area-wide default 20mph speed limits.
The second proposal was from Lib Dem councillors: a borough-wide default 20mph scheme - where the Council and residents would decide if particular roads should have higher speed limits - as much simpler system that would have made our streets safer for all. Over 8 million people in Britain already live in towns with schemes like the one Lib Dem councillors were proposing - and local authorities run by Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats have all implemented these schemes.
However, Merton's Conservatives deliberately misinterpreted the Lib Dem amendment, falsely claiming that we wanted to force 20mph on people. Labour councillors, whilst promising to listen to the evidence, questioned whether 20mph schemes were needed at all, even though there is an abundance of data from boroughs across the UK and Europe. And so in the end, Merton adopted a disappointing wait-and-see approach.
I know from taking petitions door-to-door on this subject just how popular it is. There's a new residents' group campaigning for it, schools and residents associations are backing the idea.
We'll keep working until Merton accepts it's what people want."
Dundonald Liberal Democrats
December 14, 2012