Blanket 20 mph limit coming to Horsham?

The Liberal Democrat leader on Horsham Council, David Holmes, is keen to introduce a 20 mph limit across Horsham.

The local paper reports

Horsham town’s roads should get a blanket 20mph speed limit, a district councillor said this week. David Holmes (Lib Dem, Horsham Park) told the County Times yesterday: “It would appear that the Government are planning to introduce measures that will make it easier to introduce 20mph zones. This has been raised with the county council in the past, but the response has been: ‘Oh no, we couldn’t possibly contemplate doing that, because of the red tape.’ I definitely think it’s something that should be looked at,” he said. “It could make the town much more attractive; it could make it much safer for cyclists; it could make it much easier for young people – 12 year olds for example – to get on their bike and go to see their friends.” The Lib Dem leader said he realises that a 20mph limit is likely to be controversial, but should at least be considered.

The particular advantage of the new government plans of which Cllr Holmes speaks are to that it will be far easier, and cheaper, to introduce 20 mph limits. The limits can simply be painted on the roads, rather than requiring more expensive signage, and it seems there is no longer a requirement for complex ‘hard’ measures to accompany the 20 mph limit, which seems to have been the case up until now.

Horsham is, surprisingly, something of a ground-breaker when it comes to the introduction of 20 mph limits. The central one-way street of the town, which runs through the Carfax, has had a 20 mph limit since the early 1990s, a time when 20 mph limits were something of a novelty.

The Carfax now has a 20 mph limit, one of the first towns to adopt such a measure under new legislation.

There is, in fact, some Department for Transport literature which suggests that Horsham was actually the first town to adopt a 20 mph limit. You can see the signs marking the entry to this zone in the image below, taken from Streetview.

20 mph limits are, in principle, a good idea. However, my experience of Horsham suggests that either very few people are aware that a 20 mph limit even exists through the town centre, or they are quite happy to disregard it. I am consistently overtaken while cycling at 20 mph through these streets, and there appears to be no enforcement. (Speeds are reasonably low through the town centre, but I suspect this is not because of a general willingness to observe of the limit, rather because of the twisty nature of the streets, and there being plenty of speed humps – the ‘hard’ measures previously required to accompany 20 mph limits.)

I suspect that a blanket 20 mph limit across the town would probably serve to lower the threshold of blatant speeding from well over 30 mph, to something around 30 mph, so in this sense there would be safety gains, and some merit. I doubt that 20 mph limits would be strictly observed by drivers without enforcement, however (as my experience of the current 20 mph limit in the town suggests), and so this will be about as far as it goes. So an improvement, of sorts, but a cheap one, and certainly well worth pursuing.

Whether a blanket 20 mph limit will pass muster with the residents of Horsham when such a scheme is open to consultation, time will tell. A commenter on the West Sussex County Times article, ‘Neoburner’, is certainly dead set against -

20mph won’t ‘make the town much more attractive’ as the same amount of cars travel day in and day out.. slowing them down will just keep them there for longer and cause more of a eye sore! As to children going on their bikes, they should not be on the road without headset and pads

There is fine logic in operation here. Clearly what is needed is a raising of the speed limit to 70 mph, so making the town ‘much more attractive’ by restricting the amount of time cars are in the town centre to mere seconds. Children will no doubt continue to be protected by their ‘headsets and pads.’

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3 Responses to Blanket 20 mph limit coming to Horsham?

  1. Neoburner says “20mph won’t ‘make the town much more attractive’ as the same amount of cars travel day in and day out” which assumes that no-one who currently drives would switch to cycling if speeds were slower. The main reason people don’t cycle, and many of them would like to as it’s quicker and massively cheaper than motoring in towns, is the danger from motor vehicles. Slower speeds could see many fewer cars being driven into Horsham :)

  2. Joe Dunckley says:

    “it could make it much easier for young people – 12 year olds for example – to get on their bike and go to see their friends.”

    I’m so glad he gave that example. I was struggling to imagine what “young people” might be.
    ;)

  3. Greg Collins says:

    The issue is about to raise its head again. Worthing and Chichester have started the process, and some of us simply want to ask the good folk of Horsham to express a view on the issue and to let democracy decide for or against.

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