'Safer' 20mph zones led to rise in number of road deaths but too costly to reverse, council admits
A 20mph sign in a quiet street in Bath CREDIT: ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
Reducing the speed limit to 20mph has caused a rise in death and serious injuries, a council has admitted, but is refusing to reverse the scheme because it will cost too much.
Bath and North East Somerset Council spent £871,000 bringing in the 13 new speed zones just 12 months ago.
But one year on, a report has found that the rate of people killed or seriously injured has gone up in seven out of the 13 new 20mph zones.
The review of the traffic control measures warns that this is a problem nationally, adding: "There is no simple explanation for this adverse trend but it could be that local people perceive the area to be safer due to the presence of the 20mph restrictions and thus are less diligent when walking and crossing roads, cycling or otherwise travelling."
Despite the council's own report concluding that there is "little in the way of persuasive argument for continuing the programme in the future", deputy leader Patrick Anketell-Jones has admitted there simply isn't the money available to reverse the 20mph zones. The Conservative councillor said: "It has cost over £800,000 to roll out the 20mph zone and it would probably cost the same to reverse them.
"We just haven't got the money. I'm pretty sure the 20mph zones will stay in place for the foreseeable future."
It adds that the rise in casualty numbers and severity would "suggest against further expansion of area based schemes."
In the 12 months since each 20mph zone was installed the rate of people killed or seriously injured has gone up in seven out of the 13 areas.
The reductions had been seen in central Bath whilst the worsening was largely in outlying rural areas.
The report added: "Casualty severity has worsened marginally in Bath and more so in outlying towns. Again, this is reflective of the national situation."
Retired civil servant Simon Marshall, 58, from Lower Weston, called on Bath council to review the 20mph speed limits, calling them "unduly restrictive".
And he said he was astonished to see the report and learn that the council couldn't afford to reverse the zones, despite rising numbers of deaths and serious injuries.
He said: "The facts are that the numbers of people being killed and injured are going up since the zones were introduced.
"More people are being hurt because less people are taking care, and the council are saying that they can't afford it.
"To my mind that's saying that people are being seriously hurt but we are not prepared to stump up the cash to stop that happening."
The Government's current guidance remains that more traffic authorities should consider introducing the lower limits.
A nationwide review of 20mph limits published by the The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) last month concluded: "A large number of evaluation studies have demonstrated a link between the introduction of 20mph zones and a subsequent reduction in casualties. The size of the reductions and the consistency of results over a wide number of areas are further evidence for this link."
However, their review pointed out that 20mph zones in which other traffic calming measures were introduced alongside the reduction in limit were much more effective.
In Bath and North East Somerset they brought in the changes with a speed reduction and signs to indicate it only.
The RoSPA report noted: "20mph limits without traffic calming also reduces traffic speed, although this effect is smaller than when they are introduced with traffic calming or other measures. Their lower cost means that wider areas can be covered."