Give communities the power to make their roads safer, say Kent Liberal Democrats

Funding should be provided for every Kent community to pursue 20mph limits on appropriate roads to make the county's streets safer, say Kent Liberal Democrats.

Cllr Antony Hook, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Business and Economic Development, has written to Peter Oakford, Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Finance, to ask that funding for extra 20mph schemes is made available in next year's budget. 

He has also called on Kent's Environment and Transport Committee to discuss the subject as soon as possible. 

In the last year, 10 small schemes funded by KCC have been announced, with the locations selected on grounds of deprivation and public health indicators. 

But Kent Liberal Democrats argue that a county-wide approach which made funding available to community groups who wanted 20mph schemes would give people the power to make their roads safer.

Cllr Hook said: "We want to give communities the power to make their roads safer by providing more funding and support for 20mph zones. Evidence shows that 20 mph limits on appropriate roads lead to fewer accidents, saving both the emotional and financial costs associated with road crashes. 

"We also know they improve air quality, and people feel safer using other, more sustainable forms of transport such as cycling or walking. Other county councils have a far more proactive approach than KCC, and it's time the Conservative administration took road safety seriously." 

Research by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents found that the risk of being killed is more than five times worse on a 30mph road than on a 20mph road. 

The society also found there are fewer accidents on 20mph roads, and when they do happen injuries are less severe due to the lower speed. These findings have encouraged several towns and villages around Kent to campaign for 20mph limits. 

But campaigners argue that current KCC policy does not do enough to encourage 20mph zones, prioritising the needs of motorists while ignoring the needs of other road users. 

This is despite clear national guidance for wider use of 20mph zones, published by the Department of Transport (DfT), in an effort to improve road safety, particularly in areas around schools. 

KCC guidance even omits the DfT's phrase "achieving local speed limits that better reflect the needs of all road users, not just motorised vehicles" from its own guidance. 

The DfT says 20mph zones should be used around shops, markets, playgrounds and other areas with high pedestrian or cyclist traffic. KCC simply says zones should not include roads where motor vehicle movement is the primary function.