1. ITV Report

'20's Plenty': Calls for lower speed limits in Kendal

A campaign group in Kendal is calling for the speed limit to be lowered to 20 miles per hour on all the town's roads.

"Some areas are the green circle 20 so it's recommended 20; there are some streets - that are generally rat-runs - which are mandatory 20 with a red sign. It's confusing: you're in 20, you're in 30, you're back to 20 again. If we make it 20 consistently across Kendal, everybody knows that Kendal is a 20 town."

– Alastair Dunn, 20's Plenty for Kendal

They claim it would reduce accidents, make it easier for children and the elderly to cross roads and ultimately save money, but not everyone agrees.

This could cost £150,000 at a when the council needs to save money. But the campaigners say it's money well spent if it saves a life.

The county council will consider it, if they persuade others to back them in the ongoing consultation.

The Black family

The Black family has lived in Kendal for 9 years. Nancy, who's 9-years old, Ewan, who's 6-years old and their father Rory Black cross two roads on their way to school.

Both Aynam Road (A65) and Kirkland/Highgate (A6), are A-roads with a speed limit of 30mph, which is part of why Mr. Black wants the speed limit to be lowered to 20mph.

Sometimes on zebra crossings the cars don't stop that much."

– Ewan Black

I don't feel very safe because the cars go really fast."

– Nancy Black

I'm a keen cyclist, so I cycle quite often and I wanted to get Nancy out on her bike and onto the roads and the big problem is she's afraid of the cars.

And I do think having cars go past you at 30mph, there's a big difference if cars go past you at 20mph: they're going a lot slower obviously, hopefully they've got more reaction time to give you a bit more space as well."

– Rory Black

In Nancy's class at Ghyllside Primary School, they've been learning about her father's campaign as part of their work looking at road safety.

The school, like many in Kendal, has decided to support the campaign to reduce urban speed limits to 20mph.

There is a concern amongst parents that traffic is too fast and I think it's something if the speed limit was reduced then more parents would feel you know safer and more secure in making the choice to walk to school."

– Emily Garbutt, Deputy Head Teacher, Ghyllside Primary School

So what are the arguments for and against a blanket 20mph limit across Kendal?

Campaigners say:

  • It would be safer: reaction times, stopping times and the likelihood of serious injury or death in the event of a crash would be reduced. At 20mph stopping distance is 40ft as opposed to 75ft at 30mph.
  • It would make it easier for slower pedestrians to cross roads for instance children, those with disabilities and older people.
  • It would be better for the environment as we'd use less fuel.
  • There is very little difference in journey times between driving at 20mph and driving at 30mph
  • Although it would cost £100,000-£150,000, other areas such as Birmingham have shown it actually saves money as accidents are reduced.
  • Kendal's one-way system is often congested, giving rise to rat-runs through housing estates.
  • Having different zones is confusing. A consistent 20mph limit would be easier to stick to.
  • There could be a more even traffic flow and speed bumps could be removed.

But the idea of reducing the speed limit hasn't gone down well with some motorists, particularly those who need to make their living by it.

The arguments against from taxi drivers and others that ITV Border spoke to argue:

  • It would increase journey times. This could impact businesses as well care workers who already are already trying to juggle increasing caseloads.
  • It could slow traffic flow and could cost more in traffic enforcement.
  • Bus timetables may have to change.
  • It's unnecessary: it's almost impossible to drive at 30mph through Kendal during the day as all the roundabouts, traffic lights, narrow bridges and pedestrian crossings are effectively traffic-calming devices. This would therefore be a waste of money.
  • Safety concerns posed by the volume of traffic could be alleviated by the campaign to build a bypass, called a 'northern link road'.
  • There are already 20mph zones near schools and through many of the housing estates used as rat runs.
  • There is nothing stopping people driving at 20mph now if they want to. If all the campaigners drove at 20mph it would slow the traffic around them so you wouldn't need to spend the money.
  • Drivers would be less safe if they are constantly watching their speedometer instead of keeping their eyes on the road.

ITV Border put these arguments to the test by asking two drivers to drive a 2.75-mile route through the centre of Kendal from the Westmorland General Hospital to an industrial estate at Mint Bridge.

The first driver, Ray, aimed to stick to the 30mph speed limit, while the other driver, David, kept to a maximum of 20mph.

There are 20 obstacles along the way: 3 roundabouts and 17 traffic lights or pedestrian crossings.

Here are the results for Ray's Taxi (30mph):

  • Top Speed: 29.3mph
  • Average Speed: 13mph
  • Total Time: 13 minutes and 9 seconds

And for David's Taxi (20mph):

  • Top Speed: 24.4mph
  • Average speed: 12mph
  • Total Time: 14'15"

This shows that driving at 20mph was just one minute slower than driving at 30mph, busting the perception that it would dramatically increase journey times.

However, it also showed that for much of the journey it was difficult for either car to reach even 20mph, reinforcing the opposite argument that it may be unnecessary to enforce a 20mph limit.

I was to drive at 20mph. I found it quite hard work trying to keep the speed limit to 20mph and I do find that while I was doing that, I seemed to be looking at the dash, where I should be actually concentrating on what's going on in front of me.

The measured route we've just done is approximately 3 miles. Within that 3 miles, which is the Westmorland General Hospital down to Mint Bridge, there is 20 obstacles to negotiate: 3 roundabouts, 17 traffic lights and pedestrian crossings.

Now, each one of those is a traffic calming area anyway. And I would defy anyone to try to get through town quickly with that many obstacles in front of them anyway so I think the town itself and the way it's laid out and the volume of traffic dictates very much the speed at which we all travel at anyway, regardless of speed limits."

– David Kirk, Taxi Driver in Kendal

You can do over 30mph in the evenings but certainly 7.30am to 7.30pm you've just got to go with the flow.

It's pretty much self-regulating with the volume of traffic that goes through town and the number of accidents that have been caused through speeding traffic are negligible and it's quite a few years since anybody was injured or killed in town because of excess speed.

I think that the speed campaigners ought to put their campaign hats back on to campaign for the northern link route, which would alleviate the volume of traffic through town."

– Ray Hully, G'Grab-a-Cab Taxi Driver in Kendal

Kendal Town council has set up a working group to look into the arguments and has opened a public consultation to find out what local people think.

Cumbria County Council says it will consider the result of this consultation and Cumbria Police says it's duty is to enforce whatever is decided.

A county council spokesperson said:

The county council do not have a policy position on the introduction of 20 mile an hour zones and assess each scheme on an individual basis.

Kendal Town Council are gauging public opinion on the potential for a 20 mile an hour zone in urban areas.

Should there be overall support for a scheme we will formally look into the benefits or challenges around introducing a blanket 20mph zone in Kendal.“

– Cumbria County Council

Cumbria Constabulary are part of the Casualty Reduction and Safer Highways Group (CRASH) which throughout the year works together in order to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on the county’s roads.

The Constabulary’s Operational Support Unit consists of highly trained and experienced officers who work to prevent serious and fatal road traffic collisions every day.

As part of this work, officers conduct road safety operations and campaigns along with partner agencies. The Constabulary will also proactively seek to find and support any new initiative which makes the county’s roads safer for motorists.”

– Cumbria Police Spokesperson