DUNCAN BARKES 20’s Plenty objectives too much to ask?

Have you ever driven any distance at a steady 20mph? It is tediously slow. Those behind Chichester’s 20’s Plenty campaign believe this is a price worth paying for greater road safety.

Residents only have a few weeks left to take part in a consultation process that will help determine if the speed limit is permanently lowered on all residential roads in the area.

I applaud the campaigners behind this initiative for running such a highly-visible campaign. You do not have to search far in Chichester to find a shop or house displaying a poster supporting the cause.

And in this era of apathy and disengagement it is refreshing to see a group of people who care so passionately about an issue.

The argument is highly emotive. Of course we want our children to be safer on the roads, but I have to question if this is the only objective behind the campaign.

A visit to the 20’s Plenty website highlights a recent stunt at Northgate car park where a parking space was covered with turf as part of ‘Town without My Car Day’. This message eclipses the safety of pedestrians and starts taking on a slightly zealous anti-car theme. If that is the real agenda then it would be more transparent to push this objective rather than purely focusing on the safety aspect.

The campaign website contains some pretty persuasive arguments, yet critics of the nationwide 20’s Plenty campaign also offer up their own evidence.

They cite Bristol as an example, where following the introduction of some 20mph zones the number of Killed and Serious Injury (KSI) road accidents rose within the first year. Critics point to Oxford where a quarter of a million quid was spent on such zones in 2009. The previous year there had been 61 KSI cases. This rose to 71 in 2009 and to 72 in 2010. In Warrington, during a trial for a year and a half, they say KSI cases increased by two-thirds.

Is it possible the benefits of a Twenty’s Plenty scheme are not as clear cut as it might seem?

There are also other arguments that suggest the idea will increase pollution and fuel consumption. Surely any car with an internal combustion engine will need to be driven at a lower gear for the lower speed? This means the revolutions will be similar but the revolutions per mile travelled will be half as much again leading to greater emissions and greater fuel consumption.

The consultation by West Sussex County Council runs until September 24 and full details can be found online at westsussex.gov.uk/20mph. Whatever your view, I urge you take part.

For me, the blanket 20mph proposal is akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. I believe there is room for compromise.