Traffic in Wellington could soon face a 20mph speed limit throughout the town. It would be joining major cities such as Oxford, Portsmouth and Bristol in cutting speeds in residential areas by a third.
After hearing a presentation from Ben Fox, local representative for the Twenty is Plenty campaign, town councillors voted to ask Somerset County Council to investigate the feasibility of making Wellington a pilot scheme for the county.
Mr Fox told the meeting that around 8m UK residents now live in areas with a 20mph limit. Statistics show marked reductions in pedestrian deaths at the lower limit, and health gains through more people walking and cycling on calmer streets.
He added that cities such as Portsmouth had introduced a lower limit through “education, social pressure, consultation and light touch enforcement” rather than physical calming such as speed bumps – a concern of numerous councillors.
One of his major points was that a 20mph urban limit has a “historical inevitability” about it. Most of the EU has a 30km(18.5mph) limit and opinion polls show around 80% of UK citizens in favour of a 20mph limit in residential areas. Why shouldn’t Wellington be first in the region, asked Mr Fox?
“The concept of people driving more slowly in the town has to be a good thing,” commented Cllr Andrew Govier.”We should ask somerset highways dept for their opinion and draw on other council’s experience.”
Not every councillor agreed. “As a car driver the idea of a 20mph limit fills me with horror,” commented Cllr James Hunt. “What will be the reaction of drivers frustrated with our current traffic problems?”