Last September, Doncaster Council passed a motion supporting 20mph near all primary schools and for lower speed limits at all secondary schools. It also asked the Council to consult communities over roads they wished to see with different speed limits.
It’s not a new idea. Mayor Winter introduced the first 20mph zones in Doncaster. And in 2009, when I met Doncaster’s newly elected Mayor for the first time, speed limits near schools was near the top of my list and the example I cited was Hayfield Secondary School, which has a 40mph speed limit. The Mayor’s first response was to ask officers “Can I change speed limits?” but then said he was happy to look at it.
I’ve written on several occasions since, but somewhere inside the Council’s bureaucracy, it was always “Computer says No”. It didn’t matter which school, which road, which parish council – the answer was always the same. “No”.
So last year, I wrote to schools in my constituency – over 30 have asked for 20mph speed limits; then to parish councils - most supported the proposal. Several parish councils suggested roads where they would like the speed limit reduced. Indeed, Braithwell & Micklebring and Loversall parishes have requested a 20mph speed limit covering the whole village.
So why do parents and schools want lower speed limits? Every parent knows that around a school there are lots of journeys on foot, lots of young children on the pavements, crossing roads. Every head teacher I met could recount a story of an accident or a near miss, and wished for a lower speed limit before a really serious accident occurred. The latest research shows that young children cannot judge speed and distance in a way that comes naturally for older children. So isn’t it time to change our approach?
One in three local councils has already introduced 20mph zones and limits. Some in town centres, near schools or on housing estates. Large areas of London are becoming 20mph. Areas that have already introduced 20mph have shown a dramatic fall in serious accidents. And it’s not just the big cities like Liverpool, York, Newcastle making these changes, it is places like the Isle of Wight, Stirling, Redcar. In fact, over 2,000 20mph zones are in force – and more to come. There is no god-given law that says that roads should be 30, 40 or 50mph.
Up and down the country, councils are responding to community concerns. They are changing the way we see driving in built up areas. Up until recently, local councils were also encouraged to have 20mph on new housing estates – we have some in Doncaster. So why not near schools?
And the cost? As little as £1,350 for a single school. Hardly a fortune. And no one is saying this has to be completed over night.
And by the way, not one councillor or the Mayor voted against that motion in September. So I wasn’t the only person shocked to hear Mayor Davies say he won’t support 20mph near schools.
Come on Mr Mayor! It’s time to listen to parents and children.
This article was published in the Doncaster Free Press on 21 March 2013