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Retired neurologist says increased weight and acceleration of electric vehicles will lead to rise in cycling-related fatalities unless 20mph speed limits are introduced

“By going at 20mph we would save around 30 people from being killed or seriously injured every year in Gloucestershire,” says Dr Paul Morrish

A retired neurologist has urged Gloucestershire County Council to introduce 20mph speed limits in residential areas, which he says could save around 30 cyclists and pedestrians from being killed or seriously injured every year.

Speaking at a council meeting earlier this week, Gloucestershire resident Dr Paul Morrish said that between May 2019 and May 2021, five pedestrians and cyclists were killed, and 124 others seriously injured, on the county’s 30mph roads, Gloucestershire Live reports.

Morrish also claimed that the increased weight, size, and acceleration of electric vehicles could result in a rise in these figures on 30mph roads, unless improved safety measures are swiftly put in place.

The retired doctor called on the county council to follow the example of other local authorities in England and Wales by ensuring that communities in Gloucestershire who want 20mph limits to be implemented on residential roads can gain them quickly and easily.

> Wales set to reduce default speed limit to 20mph in residential areas

In England, a third of the population already lives in areas with 20mph speed limits, while from September blanket 20mph zones will be introduced in Wales on residential areas and streets busy with pedestrians, and where street lights are fewer than 200 yards apart.

Scotland is also set to make 20mph the “norm” in built-up areas, with councils permitted to make exceptions if they deem the area safe.

“Edinburgh has seen a 30 percent reduction in its casualties, in London on the 30mph arterial routes they’ve seen a 63 per cent reduction in collisions with pedestrians,” Morrish, who worked as a neurologist at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, told a meeting at Gloucester’s Shire Hall on Wednesday.

“By going at 20mph we would save around 30 people from being killed or seriously injured every year in Gloucestershire.

“Why isn’t the council being more proactive in responding to all those communities to make the roads safer for them? That would encourage more people to choose walking or cycling. And we would have a fitter population and less money spent in the NHS.”

> People most likely to commute by bike where traffic speed below 20mph – but presence of lorries on roads makes no difference, says study

Responding to Dr Morrish’s concerns, the county council’s fire, community safety, and libraries cabinet member Dave Norman said that possible changes could concern “not just 20mph speed limits but the reduction of speed on roads where the current speed may be inappropriate”.

He continued: “What we need to do though is accept we have to go through due process.

“And due process involves consultation, and we are in a situation where I could not put my hand on my heart and say the right way forward is to make everywhere, where people want it, to immediately be a 20mph zone.”

Nevertheless, Norman said he would be happy to meet with Dr Morrish, along with the council’s road safety officers, to discuss where improvements could be made on a case-by-case basis.

> James May says 20mph is “plenty fast enough”, and hopes “change in attitude” can help end road sectarianism

In January, we reported that the government is considering draft road planning regulations which would introduce a default 20mph speed limit on new or redesigned urban and residential streets.

A draft version of Manual for Streets, the Department for Transport’s planning document for residential areas, seen by the Sunday Times and set to be published this year, says “the default should be to work to a design speed limit of 20mph in urban environments” and that “for residential streets, a maximum design speed of 20mph should normally be an objective, with significantly lower speeds usually desirable”.

Following the report, Neil Greig, director of policy and research at road safety charity the Institute of Advanced Motorists, argued that a default approach to 20mph on its own will not enhance road safety or benefit active travel.

“We’ve had longstanding concerns about a blanket approach to 20mph,” Grieg told the BBC’s Today programme.

“If you have to change the speed limit on a road, you have to change the environmental cues to tell drivers what speed they should be safely driving at. And the problem with simply changing to 20mph without changing the road, is that drivers will continue to drive on at the previous speeds.

“And that means you don’t have the safety benefits, and you don’t have the active travel benefits of changing the environment to make it easier to walk and cycle.”

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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