20mph limits in Wirral could save lives and reduce injuries

By Ed Barnes – Local Democracy Reporter with additional reporting by Birkenhead News.

New 20mph zones in Wirral could save lives as the latest figures show that five people were killed on Wirral’s roads last year.

At a Wirral Council environment, climate emergency and transport meeting on 20 September, it was revealed that over the last six years, 27 people were killed on Wirral’s roads and 590 people were seriously injured.

The World Health Organisation states that reducing speed limits is the most effective way to improve pedestrian safety because in the distance a 20mph car can stop, a 30mph car will still be travelling at 24mph.

Wirral Council is currently in the second stage of rolling out another set of 20mph limits on nearly 1,000 roads across Wirral. This is part of a wider strategy across the Liverpool City Region to get the number of people killed or seriously injured down to zero.

The estimated figure for the financial cost to society in a fatal accident is £2,029,237 according to Department of Transport data. These figures take into account the cost of damage, medical costs, lost economic output, and costs related to pain, grief, and suffering.

Conservative councillors who previously voted for the first rollout are now saying “it is time to address the democratic deficit” and raised concerns about the policy.

The policy has found support, including among people previously involved in road traffic collisions. Gillian Homeri was knocked down by a speeding car when she was 29.

At the 20 September meeting, she said it had left her with scars and difficulty with her mobility, adding, “I am particularly interested to know of anything that is going to reduce this kind of danger I was exposed to.”

Wirral Council has been working with police and emergency services on the rollout of the limits and Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell said there was police support for the move. She said, “Teams such as Roads Policing, Safer Roads, and Local Policing within Merseyside Police and the Merseyside Road Safety Partnership support the rollout of these speed limits and routinely carry out speed enforcement operations in our communities.”

Barbara Gleave was concerned about the impact of air quality, particularly on her daughter who has asthma. Wirral Council in response said 20mph limits will encourage smoother driving and pointed to studies that indicated no increase in air pollution as a result of lower speed limits.

Ken Ferguson representing Reform UK spoke against the new limits. He pointed to public feedback against the plans in the first consultation and a petition, adding, “At previous meetings of this committee and tonight considerable anger has been expressed. I’ve seen signage covered by stickers and some have even been blacked out.”

He blamed the council for this, who in response said criminal damage has been reported to the police. Vandalised signs will be repaired and replaced.

In a follow-up question, Mr Ferguson pointed to the council citing road safety as a reason for the rollout. He added, “The current Wirral road safety plan issued by the council indicates that Wirral in the last five years, 25 children have sadly been killed or seriously injured in road traffic accidents.

Apparently blaming the victims of road traffic collisions, he said, “In the same period, 107 cyclists have been killed or seriously injured. If road safety really is the overriding aim of this policy, would it not be more logical to ban bikes?”

According to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, a driver in a car travelling at 30mph is at least five times more likely to kill a pedestrian than at 20mph.

Wirral is not alone in reducing speed limits on urban roads, More than half of London’s roads are now 20mph and, on Sunday 17 September Wales introduced a nationwide 20mph limit in urban areas. Additionally, Scotland has committed to making 20mph the norm across all councils by 2025 according to 20’s Plenty for Us . Many European countries have set 30km/h (18.6mph) as the speed limit for urban areas.

The council later in the meeting approved a report on its road safety plan as well as a work programme that will see the consultation responses for the second phase of 20mph zones brought to the committee in December.

By Ed Barnes – Local Democracy Reporter with additional reporting by Birkenhead News.

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