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20mph limits: Life-saving tool or a thorn in the side of Barnet's drivers?
3:23pm Thursday 13th February 2014 in News
Speed limits of 20mph could soon be introduced in a number of Barnet’s roads, depending on the findings of a special panel currently investigating the success of lower speed restrictions.
The committee of five Barnet borough councillors has spent the past fortnight researching the use of 20mph zones and carrying out site visits to areas where they have already been introduced.
Their work concluded at the start of this week and they are now putting together their findings, which will be presented to the council’s cabinet committee in March.
But what do the borough’s leading politicians think about the possibility of enforcing the lower limits? Are they an important safety device that could save lives, or just another obstacle for drivers battling through the borough’s congested roads?
We asked each of them to find out:
Liberal Democrat Cllr Jack Cohen: “This is a major issue, which concerns many of my residents and those across the borough – I think Barnet needs a strategy.
“We are worried about speeding traffic, especially near schools, and it is important to slow down vehicles in roads that are heavily used by children. Speed kills, and the slower the traffic, the lower the risk is of serious injury.
“But there is a also the health aspect. We want to encourage parents and children to walk and cycle to school and safer roads encourages that.
“Barnet Council has been slow so far to address this issue so I hope they don’t take too long and come up with some positive solutions.”
Green Party Parliamentary candidate AM Poppy: “We have been collecting signatures on a petition – it is one of our borough campaigns for the past year.
“We would like to see it introduced on all residential roads, including the many thoroughfares we have in our borough. If it is brought in higgledy piggledy it will cause anomalies between roads and makes it worse for drivers.
“It would make our roads safer and evidence shows it encourages more people to walk to school because they feel safer.”
Labour group leader Cllr Alison Moore said: “Research shows that an impact at 20mph is far less likely to become a fatality if someone if hit by a car. I think it has significant benefits to pedestrian safety.
“We’re encouraging people to walk and cycle so they need to feel safe. It’s clearly not appropriate on every road but we need to start looking much more critically at reducing speeds on rat runs and residential roads.
“I want things to be proactive rather than reactive, but there needs to be a balance between the needs of cars and pedestrian safety.
“There are growing numbers of community members saying this is what they would like to see – we’ve seen it with the Walksafe campaigns and it has sparked a number of other parent groups to come forward.
“There is broader and broader public support and a recognition that this would make a difference to the quality of life for people in the borough.”
Hale ward Cllr Hugh Rayner, a Conservative member of the five person panel, said: “When planners are looking at making roads safer they have a bag of tools and in that bag should be a 20mph limit.
“In Barnet we have not really used that tool before and over the past few weeks the committee has seen it is a good possibility if used in the right place and for the right reasons.
“We’re looking at engineering its use, rather than just asking the police to enforce it, by using rumble strips and chicanes.
“The important thing is not just reducing speed but make drivers aware so they don’t hit anything in the first place. We’re looking at ways of funding this without affecting council budgets so it remains attractive.”