English town adopts new 20mph speed limit after Wales introduce law – ‘Just the start’
UK motorways: Highways England warns drivers of speed limits
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Witney is the first town to take advantage of Oxfordshire County Council’s new £8million programme to create safer, healthier, and quieter streets. It becomes the first town wide location in the county to make the speed limit change as a direct result of Oxfordshire County Council’s 20mph policy change and associated programme which was announced earlier this year.
Councillor Liz Leffman, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, approved the measures today (July 21), with the changes expected to be implemented and new signage installed later this year.
The county council has been inundated with requests from towns and villages to bring in 20mph zones since it launched the policy in February.
The first two phases of the project are now fully booked, although communities can still apply to be part of the third delivery phase which takes place in 2024 and 2025.
The changes will also involve the reduction of some speed limits from 50mph to 40mph and from 40mph to 30mph around the town.
There is a clear link between the speed of traffic and the likelihood of accidents happening in which people are killed or injured.
People are seven times more likely to survive if they are hit by a car driving at 20mph than if they are hit at 30mph.
Councillor Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways Management, praised the “landmark moment” for the council.
He added: “Witney is the first and the biggest project we are undertaking in this phase of the programme and we believe these changes will make the town a safer, quieter, and less polluted place and will encourage more people to cycle and walk – reducing the county’s carbon footprint.
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“Witney is just the start, and more than 70 other towns and villages will be benefiting from reduced speeds in the next financial year – followed by hundreds more in the next two years.
“The recent decision in Wales shows that 20mph is becoming the accepted speed limit for residential areas, and Oxfordshire County Council is at the forefront of bringing about that change.
“It is well-known that the survival rate for people involved in accidents increases as speeds are reduced.”
While the council has been working alongside Thames Valley Police – who did not object to the 20mph proposals for Witney – the emphasis is on drivers adhering to the new limits through a change of mindset, rather than enforcement.
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It is hoped that as 20mph areas become more common, breaking the limit will become socially unacceptable for drivers.
The council is also committed to working with key stakeholders including bus, taxi, and haulage companies, as well as major businesses, throughout the process.
Officers will work with the bus companies to ensure that the impact on services is minimal.
Councillor Liz Duncan, Mayor of Witney and Chair of a Town Council Working Party set up to develop the scheme, said: “It is exciting to see this comprehensive 20mph scheme coming to our town, bringing improved road safety for residential streets, reducing the risks of death and injury.
“We have received many requests from residents for the reduced speed limit and this whole town approach will bring huge benefits.
“As well as safer streets, other similar schemes have seen reductions in traffic noise, better air quality and increased physical activity because with roads feeling safer, people are happier to leave the car at home and walk or cycle instead.”
The scheme is free to town and parish councils, with the county council funding sign-only changes for areas wishing to be part of the changes as long as locations meet the agreed criteria for 20mph restrictions.
Town and parish councils will be expected to fund any traffic calming measures or speed-activated signs that may be required to support the new limit in their areas.
Oxfordshire County Council has already implemented five 20mph pilot sites to test the impact of the policy in Cuxham, Long Wittenham, Wallingford Central, Wallingford North, and Kirtlington.
Early data has shown these measures have had a positive impact on reducing speeds.
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