Call for 20mph speed limit on EVERY road in urban Lancashire as part of post-Covid transport plan
and live on Freeview channel 276
That is the call from the Green Party in the county, which has written to highways bosses at Lancashire County Council suggesting that the radical change is implemented “swiftly” on all urban routes – including A-roads, which were exempt from a 20mph limit introduced on the county’s residential roads back in 2011.
It follows the announcement by transport secretary Grant Shapps last weekend that he wants to see local authorities “reallocate roadspace” for cyclists and pedestrians to encourage the socially-distanced modes of transport in order to take the pressure off buses and trains as and when more of the country returns to work.
Public transport will have only 90 percent of its previous capacity as a result of having to enforce the two-metre rule – potentially causing gridlock if displaced passengers all take to cars as an alternative.
Green Party county councillor Gina Dowding says that a blanket speed reduction in urban areas could be implemented almost immediately on county council-controlled routes, which exclude those in the Blackpool and Blackburn council areas.
“It gives an ambience of calmness if you’ve got cars going at 20mph – it’s not as safe and effective as having segregated cycle lanes, but it will be a good start in the right direction.
“We need some change and need it fast – and now we know that the government is supporting changes at a local level, we really should be doing something here in Lancashire.
“There are lots of areas wanting detailed schemes and they will be necessary – but let’s look at the speed limit first,” said County Cllr Dowding, whose party claims that a 20mph limit would increase the typical 15-minute journey by only one minute.
Unless signs indicate otherwise, the default speed limit for all vehicles in built-up areas is 30mph.
County council leader Geoff Driver said that the authority would look at the idea, but warned that there were blind bends on the route to reduced speeds.
“There’s no doubt that if [commuters] haven’t got a bike or live too far away to walk to work, the safest method of getting there is going to be using their own car rather than public transport.
“You can’t introduce measures for cyclists that will impinge on the ability of motorists to use the roads, because we’ve got to get the economy going and we need to keep traffic moving – and we’ll do that as safely as we can.
“My track record on road safety and cycling speaks for itself – I’m the guy who ensured that we have a 20mph limit on every residential road in Lancashire. I got a lot of stick for doing it at the time, but I take these things seriously,” added County Cllr Driver.
The government has suggested a suite of measures which could be deployed to make cycling and walking a more attractive prospect for those driven off public transport. They include “pop-up cycle lanes”, separated from traffic by physical barriers rather than just road markings, which the Department for Transport said would be “unlikely to be sufficient to deliver the level of [increase in cycling] needed”.
The department also stressed that any enhanced cycling facilities need to provide adequate social-distancing opportunities, while footpaths should be widened into the existing areas of road in some areas, via the use of cones, to keep pedestrians further apart from each other and safe from traffic.
The idea of 20mph limits on “through-streets in built-up areas” also features in the government guidance.
Mr. Shapps said he was creating a £250 million emergency active travel fund to kick start the changes – the first stage of a £2 billion investment, taken from a £5bn bus and cycle package previously announced in February.
But County Cllr Driver warned that his authority had already set its budget on the basis of its allocation from that fund, with pre-Covid highway improvement schemes identified for the year ahead. County Hall had planned to invest £500,000 in cycling safety projects in the current financial year.
“People mustn’t think that we’re going to be given a load of money for cycling routes,” County Cllr Driver said, adding that even the process of changing speed limits was “complicated” by the legislation governing the process.
However, County Cllr Dowding said it was straightforward to implement the change for a fixed period and that the government had given the green light to a rapid introduction of such schemes as long as their effects were monitored.
“It is probably the easiest thing that could be done and could actually have been mandated by the government.
“It’s important to see this as making our high streets and many main roads more comfortable for people who live, work and shop on them – as well as for those who travel by foot or bike,” said County Cllr Dowding, who represents the Lancaster Central division.
She has set out detailed proposals for how the changes would operate in her home city – and insists that they are suitable to be rolled out in every corner of the county.
ON YOUR BIKE
A row has broken out after cycling enthusiasts sent dozens of emails to Lancashire County Council’s leader calling for improved facilities on the region’s roads – but received blank messages from him in return.
Matt Hodges, who campaigns on cycling issues, says that it was an “insulting” response – and has called on County Cllr Geoff Driver to heed the advice of his own Conservative Party’s government to focus on measures to encourage cycling during the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“With many key workers and shoppers switching to walking and cycling to avoid busses, where social distancing is impossible, many cities are widening footways and cycle lanes to allow safe social distancing. But when people in Lancashire asked for improved walking and cycling facilities to cater for social distancing, the council leader called them childish.
“County Cllr Driver is keeping our town centres dominated by cars and people jammed into narrow, congested footways. London, Manchester and many other cities are pressing ahead with their plans, leaving Lancashire stuck in the dark ages,” said Mr. Hodges.
County Cllr Driver says that he actually described the standard emails he received as “childish antics” in response to a query from Green Party county councillor Gina Dowding asking what his own blank responses were supposed to mean.
“I said that it means I’m far too busy trying to mitigate the effect of Covid-19 on the people of Lancashire than to spend time dealing with the childish antics of these campaigners – and I still regard it [that way].
“I got something in the order of 50 identical emails and maybe they all expected me to reply to them individually. I replied to the very first one, because I didn’t know it was part of a campaign then – but after that I just bounced a blank one back, just to show that I’d got it, but I clearly wasn’t going to reply to them all.
“I replied to one chap who sent a really nice [individual] email and I said that I’ve got no problems at all with people objecting, it’s just the way [others] have gone about it.
“We will always look at interesting points – but resources are going to be a key factor, because Covid-19 is costing us a lot more money than the government is giving us at the present time ,” County Cllr Driver said.
County Cllr Dowding said that she was “stunned at the lack of courtesy” shown by the blank emails, but that she wanted to focus on the issue itself.
“The most important thing is how to get one of the largest shire counties in the country to take seriously ideas for cycling and walking safety which could provide enormous benefits to a huge number of our residents,” she said.