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Could Cornwall Introduce 20mph Speed Limits on All Residential Streets?

Every residential street in Cornwall could soon have a 20mph speed limit under plans being considered by the Council this week.

Cornwall Conservatives who lead the Council pledged to introduce lower speed limits ahead of the 2021 council elections.

In May, the Council amended signs and markings on more than 700 roads across the county.

At the time, Cornwall Council Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Transport, Philip Desmonde said: “This first roll out of a 20mph speed limit on residential roads in two community network areas – Falmouth and Penryn, and Camelford – has the support of local communities with 76% of those who responded to the local consultation in Falmouth and Penryn in favour, and 85% in Camelford.

“We are starting work straight away to erect new signs and work with our residents to promote safe, supportive communities where we can all play a part in helping each other to live well.”

A report on the project is due to go to the Council’s Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee when it meets next week. The report explains: “With a sign-only delivery, we will be reliant on behaviour change to reduce vehicle speeds towards compliance. We acknowledge this will take time and we’re addressing this through our comms/engagement strategy. We will target our strategy throughout the delivery of each Community Network Area (CNA), but we’re also proposing to continue this engagement with a four-year rolling monitoring programme, post-delivery for each phase. With delivery anticipated to be completed in 2026, this monitoring would continue until 2030.”

Will casualty numbers fall?

Following a pilot scheme, Cornwall Council has calculated that new signs and a campaign to publicise the changes will cost £3.8 million as it becomes the latest area across the UK to introduce lower speed limits.

Following a test period in Bath, casualty figures fell by 23 per cent when a 20mph limit was tested. The Times reported this weekend that introducing the limit in residential areas led to speeds on faster roads being cut by more than 4mph in Bristol and 7mph in Portsmouth.

The World Health Organization and the United Nations supported 20mph zones on the grounds of both air quality and public safety, citing TRL research published by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. It found that a 1mph reduction in speeds on urban roads leads to 6% fewer casualties.

Figures seen by Chamber from road safety campaigners show that 39 people died in crashes between 2017 and 2021 in Cornwall where speed was cited as a contributory factor. Four were pedestrians.

In total there were 980 collisions where speed was a contributing factor, resulting in 1,483 casualties. Of these, 275 resulted in serious injuries — including seven pedestrians and seven cyclists — all in 30mph zones.

Cornwall Council learnt from other 20mph zones including in Bath
Casualty figures in Bath fell by 23 per cent when a 20mph limit was tested (Image: Christophe.Finot)

Rollout plans

A report on the project is set to go to the council’s economic growth and development overview and scrutiny committee when it meets next week. Councillors will be asked to approve the proposals with a final decision on the scheme set to be made by the council’s Cabinet in March.

The 20mph limits would be introduced in five phases, ending by 2026. This year’s would include Truro, with St Ives and Newquay following in 2024.

In a statement, the Council said “urban areas with high pedestrian and cyclist movements will be of higher priority.

“There is a strong link between traffic speed and the number of collisions and severity of injuries. Chances of survival struck at 20mph are much greater than 30mph. Residential roads and built-up areas should be 20mph.

“Speed limits higher than 30mph will not qualify for 20mph.”

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