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Councillor Ed Lamb – speech on 20mph

“Thank you Mr Mayor. And thanks to my fellow Green councillors for allowing me to represent them in our response to the petition. I speak as a pedestrian, a cyclist and a driver.

The election was some time ago but I hope I’m not too late to thank the residents of Bebington for electing me. They did so knowing what I stood for – amongst other things, safer roads for people of all ages.

I’d like to thank Mr Jones for taking the time to set up and run the petition. I might not agree with it but I acknowledge the time and effort it takes to run a campaign like this. I know from his work that he has Wirral’s best interests at heart, but I’m very clear when I say that this petition is misguided and all 6 of its key points are, in my opinion, wrong.

The evidence is clear on the reduction in road danger that 20mph can bring. The World Health Organisation endorses a 20 mph speed limit as best practice where motorised traffic mixes with pedestrians and cyclists. Officers and councillors have done an excellent job making the case for our ambitious plans.

Lowering speed limits where appropriate is an excellent use of our admittedly meagre resources. I can see why some residents wonder why we are spending money on our plans, but in a purely financial sense we can be confident it will pay for itself in a remarkably short amount of time.

Congestion has and will not increase with speed limit changes. Congestion, as we all know, is caused by too many cars in a finite space. 20mph will improve this by creating the conditions for more walking and cycling.

There is a reason that Merseyside Police support the work done so far on Wirral. Fewer collisions and injuries (or worse) will allow our amazing blue light services to focus their attention where it is really needed. It staggers me that we have created a system of transportation that is so reliant on an almost daily emergency response. I want to see an end to this, and lower speeds will get us part of the way there. Speeding is anti-social, and creates enormous risk.

The petition suggests the impact on ‘road safety’ will be limited. Mr Mayor, I have attended meetings and met with people who have lost loved ones to road traffic collisions. If we could have spared just one of them, it would have been worth it. The stories are too harrowing to tell, yet for some reason we report them like the weather and nothing changes.

Well, change is coming.

Now, I do understand the negative response. Old habits die hard and driving our cars at 30mph is second nature for many. That doesn’t make the policy wrong though. We have a culture that is in large parts built around access to services, friends, family and work by car – and quick access is expected. The downsides are too big to ignore now. Continued death and injury, school run chaos and clogged urban roads. 

Mr Mayor barely a week goes by without a story in the Liverpool Echo about yet another death on the roads of the Liverpool City Region. 

How many of us read them in absolute horror? We have a plan for ‘Vision Zero’, Mr Mayor. Signed and sealed! Press photos done! Who in this room backs it? Who here is ready to put words into action?

Some of us believe in Vision Zero… while some have Zero Vision.

Think of the lives we could save and the suffering we could avoid. Think of the massive wider benefits that it could bring – healthier citizens, more vibrant local high streets, increased independence of our children and grandchildren – and a clear pathway to reduced transport emissions.

I’m probably getting ahead of myself, but 20mph is a key part of our ambitions to increase levels of sustainable travel.

Is every single road on the list appropriate for 20mph? Perhaps not. I’m more than willing to admit that. The sensible thing to do is to continue the roll out and tweak as necessary from there. To pause everything would not be a conservative approach, it would be reckless.

Tomorrow night the next phase of 20mph roads will be discussed by members of the Environment committee. My ward features heavily so myself, my fellow ward councillors and the residents I represent will be watching.

Mr Mayor, no less than ELEVEN schools stand to gain from safer roads JUST IN BEBINGTON via tomorrow nights decision. Who would deny those children and parents the safe streets they so often ask us for? 

Children cannot vote so it’s up to us to represent them as best we can.

Mr Mayor I campaigned hard on matters of road safety and massive investment in active travel. Thousands of leaflets, emails and countless conversations on door steps. 20mph formed a key part of our campaign. For something apparently so unpopular, imagine my surprise when I gained the trust of well over 3000 Bebington residents.

I want to finish with something to energise councillors of all political colours. Reducing speed limits in this measured way is 100% the right thing to do. On top of road danger reduction 20mph helps address a whole range of our strategic council priorities around health, the environment and the strength of our communities across Wirral.

Most importantly of course, it will save lives.

Mr Mayor, there are no accidents on our roads.

Collisions are the result of design and policy.

We need to make changes to our streets now. Too many families have discovered the cost of inaction. They have paid the ultimate price.

No more delays. No more pauses. No more excuses.

Full steam ahead for 20mph on Wirral.

Thank you, members.”

Councillor Ed Lamb. Statement to Wirral Council on Monday 4th December 2023.