At the CycleHerts meeting on Thursday we discussed (amongst other things) ideas relating to the forthcoming county council elections due to be held on May 2nd. One proposal was to send a questionnaire to all Hertfordshire candidates, designed to get an idea of their stance on important issues of relevance to cyclists in the county. We would collate any responses and put up a summary on our website to help voters make an informed choice (and to help remind winning candidates of their answers). Another suggestion was to use the Hertfordshire County Council petitions system to call for a default 20mph speed limit in residential areas but it was understood that this would have to be taken on by an individual, so I decided to at least do a bit of research.
I think the best place to start is the website of 20’s Plenty for Us. Apparently over 11 million people in the UK live in areas where the local authority has adopted or made a commitment to adopt a default 20mph limit for residential areas. Unfortunately Hertfordshire is not amongst those authorities.
Looking at the bigger picture there is a European Citizens’ Initiative called 30kmh – making streets livable!. I signed it in November shortly after it had been accepted and it has so far attracted 15,243 signatures. 20’s Plenty for Us will be coordinating the campaign for this in the UK (note that 30 kilometres per hour is about 7% slower than 20 miles per hour). Then there is The Times Cities Fit for Cycling campaign which has been hugely influential. Politicians from the Prime Minister down have pledged support for the campaign’s eight-point manifesto for change, point six of which reads “20mph should become the default speed limit in residential areas where there are no cycle lanes”. I wondered whether anyone had used the HM Government e-petitions system to call for this to be adopted nationally? I searched for “speed limit” and got 41 open petitions, one of which calls to “Reduce the Default Urban Speed Limit from 30mph to 20mph”. It only has 14 signatures (including mine from just now) but does not close until 2014 so there is plenty of time to add yours. But then there is this one with 51 signatures which calls to “Remove 20 MPH limits from all A and B roads and return those already in operation to previous speed limits”. There are also petitions both for and against reducing the default speed limit on rural roads from 60mph to 40mph and for increasing motorway speed limits as well as for decreasing them.
Getting back to the county level I did a search on the Hertfordshire County Council system and found 10 petitions that mention speed but they were all related to specific roads or locations.
Since HCC is responsible for highways and transportation it probably makes no sense to petition borough councils about speed limits but I thought I would have a look anyway. Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has an ePetitions system but it seems there is only one petition currently open (Stop overcrowding and over populating greenery areas with houses!) and only one closed petition (Keep Welwyn Village a Free Parking Zone, closed 10 November 2011). Is it really used so little? For comparison I looked at St Albans City and District Council which lists a total of 16 petitions (none of which mention speed) received since the introduction of their current scheme in May 2010.
In conclusion it may be worth petitioning Hertfordshire County Council to reduce the default speed limit in residential areas to 20mph. I will discuss it with others before deciding whether I should be the one to go ahead and do it.