20mph in Kingston: An update – Surbiton to get safer roads whilst the rest of the Borough gets left behind

Kingston Council ran a Borough wide consultation in early January/February 2020 proposing to make the Borough’s roads safer by introducing a 20mph speed limit on all residential roads. Due to Covid, the outcome from the consultation was delayed and has only recently reached Kingston’s four neighbourhood committees.

Whilst many have been focussing on the Euros championship in the past couple of weeks, we’ve instead been closely following the result of the neighbourhood committees and how they have voted on the further roll-out (or otherwise) of 20mph limits in their area. We’ve set out below what has been decided and what might happen next but before we kick-off, a quick reminder of why the Council wanted to introduce 20mph speed limits:

There are three main reasons why the council feels 20mph would be great for our roads:

  1. Improved air quality: by lowering and evening out acceleration.
  2. Fewer casualties: lower speeds give drivers and others more time to react.
  3. Better health: more people walk and cycle, as they feel safer.

There is also evidence from other areas of the UK that shows a reduction in average speeds when area-wide 20mph is introduced, even if there is no enforcement or traffic calming measures in place.

What’s been decided?

Kingston Town Neighbourhood (Tudor, Canbury, Grove, Norbiton wards) – decided to introduce 20mph limits on a handful of additional roads near Sainsburys (Sury Basin). Prior to the final vote, an amendment was proposed by Cllr Wehring and seconded by Cllr Tolley. This amendment would have extended 20mph limits to a number of additional roads (Portsmouth Road, Queen Elizabeth Road, Cromwell Road, Wood Street, Horse Fair, Tudor Drive, Coombe Road (junction with Wolverton Ave to London Road)). However, the amendment fell after the vote was split evenly (plus one abstention) with the chair of the committee making the casting vote to block the amendment. The committee also agreed that residents may be consulted in the future (on an undetermined timeframe) if they would like 20mph limits on their roads (which roads these might be is not specified…). KCC Summary – Kingston Town started at the top of the table (currently 70% of roads have 20mph limits in the neighbourhood) but will be overtaken by Surbiton’s plans (see below). Losing the amendment after extra time means Kingston Town goes home with little to show for it despite some excellent shots on target by some of the Councillors present.

Maldens & Coombe Neighbourhood (Coombe Hill, Coombe Vale, St James, Beverley wards) – Disappointingly there will be no immediate extension of 20mph limits anywhere in the Maldens & Coombe neighbourhood. Though again, residents on specific roads (unnamed) will be consulted in the future (no specific timeframes) on whether they would like 20mph limits on their roads. KCC Summary – nothing can hide the disappointing result from this committee – there were few attempts on the target (of making roads in the neighbourhood safer) here with supporters leaving before the final result as it seemed to be clear that a win wasn’t going to be forthcoming this night.

South of the Borough Neighbourhood (Tolworth & Hook Rise, Chessington North & Hook, Chessington South wards) – As with Maldens & Coombe, there will be no immediate extension of 20mph limits on roads fully within the South of the Borough despite only 36% of the neighbourhood’s roads currently having 20mph limits. However, the committee voted to commit highways officers to investigate reducing the speed limit on roads which currently have speed limits in excess of 30mph in the neighbourhood. This means that part of Jubilee Way could reduce from 40mph to 30mph and parts of Rushett and Fairoak Lanes could reduce from 60mph (the only 60mph roads anywhere in the Borough!) to 40mph. In addition, the committee voted to allow Red Lion Road and Herne Road (and, by implication, Thornhill Road) which are shared with Surbiton neighbourhood, to change to 20mph if Surbiton neighbourhood voted for this (which they did). The neighbourhood has also committed to consult (without specified timeframes) with specific roads (which, spot the theme, are unnamed) in the future on whether they would like 20mph limits introduced. KCC Summary – again, a disappointing result but with a small silver lining of following Surbiton’s decision on moving to 20mph shared roads and looking into reducing the speed limit on roads with a limit of 40mph or above in the neighbourhood. Room for improvement in future outings.

Surbiton Neighbourhood (Alexandra, Berrylands, St Marks, Surbiton Hill wards) – After an amendment proposed by Cllr Sumner and seconded by Cllr Green, Surbiton neighbourhood committee voted unanimously to introduce a 20mph speed limit on ALL Borough controlled roads within the neighbourhood boundary. Highways officers have also been asked by the committee to ask Transport for London to consider lowering the speed limit on the A240 as well as the A3 slip roads which are in TfL’s control (the A3 itself wasn’t included in this request). KCC Summary – full roll out with unanimous support, clearly had eyes focussed on the goal (of safer streets) resulting in being the standout neighbourhood champions. All Surbiton neighbourhood Councillors should be proud of the part they played in the result. Other neighbourhoods look on at what might have been.

What’s next?

Surbiton neighbourhood is clearly leading the way in introducing comprehensive 20mph limits in the Borough by committing to rolling out this limit to all of the roads controlled by the Borough in its area. Traffic orders will now need to be prepared by highways officers and it is likely these will go to committee again in September for final approval. We’d hope the 20mph limits could then roll out by early 2022. This is also the likely process for the handful of roads in Kingston Town that are proposed to move to 20mph. The timings for a review of the roads in South of the Borough which currently have a speed limit of more than 30mph is uncertain.

What about roads which are not going to be 20mph? Well, this is where it gets very unclear. None of the (non-Surbiton) committees discussed this in detail though it was mentioned in one committee that residents could create petitions for their roads to move to 20mph. The problem with petitions for this are:

  • that it will require residents to be organised and know about the ability to petition for safer streets
  • it will require time to be scheduled at a neighbourhood committee to discuss the petition
  • it will require a traffic order for each set of proposals agreed
  • is more expensive than making a wider 20mph limit (as officer time will be required to assess each petition and the roads contained with the petition, more traffic orders are likely to be required and additional boundary signage will also be needed)

Unfortunately Transport for London is currently in the middle of cut-backs and has reduced grants to local Councils (including Kingston). Kingston Council also does not have a strong track record of investing additional sums in Healthy Streets initiatives beyond those given to it in grants from Transport for London or from funds from developers. This means that any future extension of 20mph limits beyond those agreed in recent Committees could be some time away.

Kingston Cycling Campaign is a strong believer in 20mph limits being an important step in creating safer roads and we will therefore continue to campaign for the rest of the Borough’s roads to move to 20mph. As per the consultation documents, 20mph roads are safer (lower speeds reduce the number of collisions and when collisions do happen their severity is reduced too), they encourage more people to walk and cycle and can also reduce air pollution as less acceleration/braking is required.

All local Councillors were given the opportunity to vote on the roll-out of 20mph limits in their neighbourhood. If you therefore share our disappointment in the outcome of the 20mph consultation in three of the neighbourhoods (or if you live in Surbiton neighbourhood and want to congratulate someone!), why not let your local Councillor know?

How to find out more about 20mph

Transport for London map showing all the speed limits in London. This shows the widespread 20mph roads (green) in neighbouring Richmond, Merton and Wandsworth. Kingston shows lots of blue (30mph) roads. Only the roads in Surbiton neighbourhood are likely to have significant changes on this map for the Borough of Kingston in the next 12 months.

20sPlenty website – want to find out more about the benefits of 20mph limits – here’s the site!

Kingston Council 20mph consultation – want to find out more about the original Borough consultation together with maps of all the collisions resulting in injuries on Kingston’s roads in a 5 year period – this is where you’ll find them.

Current Kingston 20mph speed limit map – want to see which roads are currently in 20mph and what the average speed of vehicles on roads near you are, helpfully, Kingston Council has the map for you.

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