Across my home town of Sowerby Bridge, small white discs with red borders and the numbers 2 and 0 are appearing at the sides of the road. It’s the latest area in Calderdale to receive blanket 20 miles per hour speed limits on all suburban side streets, plus some major roads where required.
In Sowerby Bridge, this includes the main road through the town, the A58 – variously called Wharf Street, Town Hall Street or West Street depending on which bit you’re referring to. This makes sense; the road is quite narrow in places with parked cars and lots of pedestrians – particularly in the evening due to the town’s high concentration of pubs and bars. Although at peak times, 20 miles per hour is something of an aspiration as the traffic is regularly nose to tail in both directions.
The signs started to appear last week, following a consultation process. However, as yet there isn’t complete signage coverage and so it’s probably arguable as to whether the new lower speed limit is actually in force yet. I’ve been driving at the lower speed just in case, and to get used to it, since it’ll be the norm soon.
Although I’m now a driver myself, I’m in favour of the lower speed limits. I actually credit them with helping me pass my driving test in August; being able to get away with driving more slowly meant that I had more time to do my observations at junctions. Where the main roads remain at 30 mph, but the side roads are 20 mph, it discourages rat-running through housing estates. And where people actually obey the speed limit, it’s safer; as anyone who has recently taken their theory test will know, cars can brake more quickly at slower speeds. On residential streets, that’s very welcome.