20mph zones planned for residential, shopping and school areas

Speed limits in one Merseyside borough could be reduced to 20mph in "all areas that are predominantly residential, retail, or educational".

That was the plan agreed by Wirral Council’s environment and transport committee last night.

However, the group noted that the plan to introduce more 20mph zones may take time due to the cost and resources such a move would require.

Labour councillors, as well as one councillor each from the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, were in favour, while four Conservative councillors were against the idea.

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Tory councillor Tony Cox said the plan was “barmy” and “not enforceable”.

He worried that 20mph zones would be put in too many places, suggesting a group of houses on a main road could be considered as residential.

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Cllr Cox added that the plan would use up a huge amount of money and energy in making new signs and said that travelling at 20mph was “crawling” in modern cars.

He thought a better idea would be to look at the case for 20mph zones based on the level of risk in each area.

The Tory member put forward an alternative proposal stating that 20mph zones should only be considered in known accident hotspots based on data, in contrast to the broader plan which triumphed over his idea.

It is important to note that what the committee voted for last night was 20mph zones, rather than just 20mph speed limits.

A 20mph limit simply means that the official speed limit has been reduced to 20mph, but there are no physical measures to reduce vehicle speeds.

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Whereas, a 20mph zone uses traffic calming measures to reduce the impact of vehicles on built-up areas.

Despite what Cllr Cox said, it is understood that where a highway authority, such as Wirral Council, introduces the appropriate traffic orders, both speed limits and zones are legally enforceable by the police.

In support of the 20mph zones plan, Lib Dem Allan Brame said there was a public demand for safer roads and that most roads the council was looking at are roads in which people travel at low speeds anyway.

Cllr Brame said he did not want to see road humps all around the borough and that the plan did not require lots of extra signposts, they could go on existing lampposts or telegraph poles instead.

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Chairing the committee, Labour’s Liz Grey agreed with Cllr Brame, saying 20mph zones were about making people feel safe as well as responding to casualties.

Figures in this area may be skewed if people avoid using a particular road to cycle or walk for example, because they do not feel safe.

Cllr Grey added that we have got used to travelling very fast, but we will be a lot happier and safer if we get used to travelling not quite as fast, concluding that lives matter more than maintaining a comfortable speed.

Fellow Labour councillor Tony Norbury, who worked as a taxi driver in Wirral for over 10 years, pointed out that the risk of causing serious injury or death reduced massively if a car was travelling at 20mph compared to 30mph.

While Conservative councillor Bruce Berry said 20mph zones would not work without road signs and other pieces of infrastructure.

The Tory member warned that the committee must accept this will happen, with the associated use of money and resources, if the 20mph plan went ahead.