Urban Street Activity in 20mph Zones - Emerging Findings



Urban Street Activity in 20mph Zones - Emerging Findings

Authors

HODGKINSON M and WHITEHOUSE J, Allott and Lomax, UK

Description

This paper reports on the emerging findings of a five year study into the effect on urban street activity in 20mph(32.6knYh) zones following their introduction in six residential areas of North West England.

Abstract

This paper reports on the emerging findings of a five year study into the effect on urban street activity in 20mph(32.6knYh) zones following their introduction in six residential areas of North West England.

The accident rate on British roads has fallen steadily for a variety of reasons over the last 50 years and accident statistics show that Great Britain has one of the lowest rates of road deaths in Europe. However the number of pedestrian accidents on urban roads, particularly those involving children, remains a major problem. In 1997 Great Britain had the third highest child pedestrian fatality rate per 100,000 population in the European Union; only Greece and Portugal had higher rates'.

A major factor, which influences the severity of such accidents, is vehicle speed. Most streets in British residential areas have a blanket speed limit of 30mph (48.2kin/h). These limits are not widely respected and difficult to enforce. Furthermore, it is considered that 30mph is often too fast in many residential areas, particularly where there are a significant number of pedestrians, especially children, the elderly, the disabled and cyclists. One method of reducing speed and other adverse effects of traffic in urban streets is 'traffic calming', which covers a range of traditional and new techniques.

Powers to construct traffic calming measures were detailed in the Traffic Calming Act 1992, which defines 'traffic calming' as:

'...works affecting the movement of vehicular and other traf~c for the purpose of promoting safety or preserving or improving the environment.."

The Department of Transport, now part of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), first published guidelines for obtaining consent for 20mph zones in 1990. The monitoring of many of the zones which have been implemented since this time indicates that they have had a positive effect on road safety. The recent Government White Paper on Transport 2 quotes the following:

"Although it is too soon to obtain accident statistics following the implementation of these zones, in earlier UK 20mph zones 'the frequency of accidents has been reduced by about 60% and accidents involving children have fallen by 67%."

However, the increasing number of vehicle trips on our urban roads continues to affect the daily lives of pedestrians and cyclists, particularly children, both in terms of physical and perceived safety. The effect on children is acknowledged in the Government's White Paper 2:

'Increased traffic, and speed, have made our streets more threatening for pedestrians and cycl_ists. Children "s ability to play, or to walk or cycle to school unaccompanied has been severely curtailed. Twenty years ago, nearly one in three 5-10 year-olds made their own way to school. Now only one child in nine does.'

Given such significant changes in travel activity there has been an increasing need to investigate any physical and policy measures which could mitigate the impacts of escalating car use. One such measure is the implementation of 20 mph zones.

Publisher

Association for European Transport