Words Amicia de Moubray Photographs Amanda Russell
‘Slow down in town’ is the mantra of the ‘20s Plenty’ campaign started by Amanda Russell in 2015.
‘We are a really tenacious group,’ says Amanda. This is obvious from the rapidly growing awareness of the campaign to create a town-wide speed limit in Faversham.
There is a seismic cultural shift. Pollution whether it be air quality or plastic is at the top of everyone’s agenda. The once golden age of the motor car is no longer. For example, Amanda cites a new block of flats in Herne Hill, South London, whose residents have to state categorically that they don’t own a car. The new thinking is that the car is the servant, not the master.
The three objectives of 20s Plenty are:
1 Reduce road casualties
2 Improve air quality
3 Reduce health inequalities, including child/adult obesity.
The campaign has the support of the Town, Borough and County Councils as well as the town’s MP, Helen Whately.
Amanda, a freelance picture editor and photographer, set up 20’s Plenty after two men were killed in individual accidents on zebra crossings in Faversham within a very short space of time. The stock response from the Highways Department was that before any changes could be implemented there had to be a certain number of deaths.
Obviously, traffic cannot be banned from Faversham and its environs but reducing the speed limit and making it easier therefore to cross the street could have a radical effect on the overall quality of life in the town. Over the next few years the expansion of the town to the south of the A2 (these days sometimes referred to by its historic name, Watling Street) will mean that it will run straight through the middle of the town. It is crucial to address the problem before it is too late. But as Faversham resident and internationally renowned town planner and architect, Tim Stonor, a member of 20’s Plenty, wisely opines, ‘It is a contested environment and we took the view that we risked losing the whole 20’s Plenty scheme if we pushed to get the A2 included. But that doesn’t mean we should do nothing with the A2. It needs its own pedestrian-friendly design strategy.’
Luckily for Faversham, Andy Cameron and Phil Jones – ‘two of the best transport planners in the country,’ says Tim – are advising the town. One is helping in the design of the Duchy of Cornwall’s proposed housing development to the south of the A2 near Brenley Corner and the other is working directly for the 20’s Plenty project. They advocate a speed limit of 20 mph along the A2.
‘You get what you plan for,’ says Xavier Brice, Chief Executive of the cycling advocacy body Sustrans. ‘We have spent trillions of pounds over the last 70 years making it easy to get around by car.’
Currently many people think that Faversham is facing its most dramatic change since the advent of the railway in the 1858, but ‘If you look at historic maps of the town every ten years since the end of the war, there has been a considerable amount of new building, not least the area between Stonebridge Common and Bysing Wood Road – all of which the town has absorbed and coped with,’ says Tim.
It is salutary to reflect that when the 30 mph limit was first introduced in 1935 the volume of cars on the road was miniscule compared to today. Indeed, it is surprising that the speed limit was not challenged long ago.
A few statistics show the stark hazards of 30 mph:
If a pedestrian is hit at 30 mph they are seven times more likely to die than at 20 mph.
If they are aged over 60, they have just a 50 per cent chance of survival.
By comparison at 20 mph you have a 99% chance of survival. Not only that but your stopping distance at 20 mph is almost half that of 30 mph, so you are far more likely to avoid a collision in the first place.
On urban roads 78 per cent of casualties are on 30 mph roads, 10 per cent on 20 mph. Recent research has shown that children are unable to judge the speed at which cars are travelling above 20 mph. This explains the fact that being involved in a road collision is the most common external cause of death for children.
Obviously, speedy traffic is a deterrent to cycling and walking, a pity in a town with shocking levels of obesity in both St Ann’s and Abbey wards. Slower, steadier driving without excessive braking and accelerating culminates in lower emissions.
It also produces less pollution from brake, tyre and road surface. An exercise by the Healthy Air Campaign, King’s College London and Camden council used members of the public to track exposure to air pollution in London. The monitoring found that travelling on foot or by bike exposed commuters to significantly fewer fumes than using a car or bus. This is because the fumes from the vehicles in front and behind you, get trapped inside your vehicle and can’t disperse easily, so you’re sitting in a sort of pollution soup for the entire length of your journey.
The City of London commissioned Imperial College to evaluate emissions effects. Diesel emissions dominate urban road pollution with about 10 times the toxicity of petrol fumes. The study found that imposing a 20 mph limit is the equivalent of removing half of all petrol cars off the road. What sort of physical changes are needed to support a lower speed limit? Speed humps are not the answer: not only are they expensive but they can hinder emergency services and also increase exhaust and road surface pollution.
Planters are an admirable idea, as they calm traffic, enhance the appearance of streets and improve the quality of the air. However, they do need volunteers to maintain them. But this should not be a problem in Faversham with its strong community base. Staggered parking bays, road narrowing, painted surface signs, removing the centre line, and cycle lanes are other solutions.
At a Faversham Society meeting last month at which Mike Whiting (Kent County Council Cabinet member for Transport and the Environment) and his deputy, Tim Read, spoke and took questions, Mike acknowledged that thanks to the combined efforts of the 20’s Plenty Faversham and Kent campaigners, it was considerably easier to push through policy changes at the Environment and Transport Committee in May.
‘The changes don’t go as far as we would like,’ say Amanda ‘but they are a good improvement.’
1 Community led schemes are now welcomed by KCC. If you demonstrate local support for a scheme, there is no longer a need to show a certain number of casualties or that you live in a deprived area.
2 The threshold for physical traffic calming has been increased from 24 mph to 28 mph. This means that schemes which were previously unaffordable can now be implemented more cheaply, without major physical,changes.
‘We, the community campaign group, would be concerned if the Town Council were to pursue a smaller scheme in order to make something happen faster and more affordably. We think this would be a mistake because it would be no less quick, no less cheap and, most importantly of all, it would be much less effective. A less effective pilot scheme could threaten the implementation of a 20mph limit across the rest of the town’ says Tim Stonor
What can you do to help? 20’s Plenty for Faversham Community Working Group is seeking the formal support of as many individuals and organisations across the town as possible, ahead of an independent public consultation exercise, which is expected to take place this autumn. If it is successful, the group hopes the project could go ahead in 2020.
Letters or emails to:
67 Ospringe Road
Kent ME13 7LG
Text: Amicia de Moubray. Photographs: Amanda Russell