Merseyside’s police commissioner said police teams support the rollout of 20mph speed limits across Wirral.
Wirral Council is in the second stage of rolling lower speed limits on hundreds of roads across Wirral in an effort to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured (KSI) on the road down to zero. A month-long consultation ended on August 23.
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.
Statistics for Wirral show that 102 people were casualties on the road in 2022 and 78% of these were pedal cyclists, pedestrians, or motorcyclists with five fatal accidents in 2022.
In public questions and a petition signed by thousands, concerns had been raised in opposition to the plans about the impact on police services with claims this would put them under pressure to tackle other issues.
However, Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell 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.
“Making our roads safer is not solely a job for the police though, and I’m keen to work with schemes like Safer Roads Watch to encourage residents to take a proactive role in improving road safety in their own communities.
“Crucially we need everyone to play their part by respecting the speed limit. Nobody wants to be involved in a serious collision and reducing speed is key to preventing crashes and ensure fewer families on Merseyside suffer the heartache and suffering they cause.”
In other areas, statistics have shown new 20mph zones are linked with a fall in road accidents though data varies on how much. In Chester, the number of people killed or seriously injured fell by nearly a quarter after 202 new 20mph zones were rolled out there as part of a four year program.
According to Cheshire West and Chester Council, there was a 43 per cent reduction in road traffic collisions, a 24 per cent reduction in people killed or seriously injured, and a 46 per cent reduction in slight injuries.
A Cheshire council committee in June 22 2022 was told that across all schemes, 134 areas saw average speeds decrease, while 63 areas saw it increase with an annual cost saving to the community in road traffic collisions of £3.7m per year.
The rollout which supporters say will save lives has faced fierce opposition in recent weeks at council meetings and an online petition getting signed by more than 3,000 people calling for the rollout to be stopped.
£550,000 of funding has been set aside by the Liverpool City Region for the second rollout of 20mph zones in Wirral but criticisms have been made of the cost to do this.
According to the Department for Transport, each fatal collision costs over £2m with serious collisions costing over £250,000. These figures take into account the cost of damage, medical costs, lost economic output, and costs related to pain, grief, and suffering.
Labour environment committee chair Cllr Liz Grey has supported the rollout of 20mph. She said, “I drive a car and I know it can feel slow to drive at 20mph but as someone who is also a cyclist and pedestrian as well as a mum and a teacher, I know that 20mph creates a much safer place for everyone, especially vulnerable road users.
“I worry about road safety every time I get on a bike, every time my kids walk to school. Every day could be our last and every day it is for some people. I am not alone in worrying. Many residents have asked us to improve road safety and reduce speeding. I think the majority of people understand the need for this.
“Too many families have to live with grief and trauma from road collisions and I really think it is time we did something to end this unnecessary suffering affecting more new families every year.”
The first phase of the rollout was approved unanimously by all parties in January. Moving forward with the second phase of rollout was then approved by all councillors on 14 March at an environment committee meeting as part of the Liverpool City Region transport plan.
The March decision was then not queried by any councillor at the next full council meeting on 10 July but concerns of the rollout have been made by Conservative councillors in recent week with Hoylake councillors urging people to sign the petition against the rollout.
Hoylake Conservative councillor Andrew Gardner said the council had previously struggled to explain policy when consulting with the public.
He said, “There’s no question about 20mph being effective around schools and nursing homes. That is a no-brainer but let’s just bring the people with us and then we can see.
“I still support saving people’s lives but let’s just review it properly and take stock of what we have done and then we can bring people with us instead of being seen as this authoritarian government that is imposing things on people.
“Our take is primarily it should be about road safety and there is evidence out there that it works so we need to see if it works for Wirral. The roads aren’t necessarily the same as those around Chester. There are places where it is difficult to do 20 mph.
“We have got to have our own evidence to show our own people and if they can do that, I have no problem with 20mph speed limits but we do have to bring people with us and make sure that not only are we doing the right thing but be perceived we are doing the right thing.”
Main image: An existing 20mph zone on Turney Road in Wallasey. Credit: GOOGLE