Active Travel

The aim of the Active Travel group is to work towards increasing sustainable transport options.  This means maximising walking and cycling, utilising better public transport and minimising motorised forms of transport.  We support the introduction of 20mph limit on the roads throughout Corsham which is detailed in the following proposal.

Proposal to Introduce 20 MPH Speed Limit in Corsham

The recent public Realm Study1 for Corsham highlighted the need for ‘Creating safe and attractive walking and cycling routes to the town centre’ as part of attracting more visitors and providing a safe environment. Corsham is a historic town containing many grade 1 and 2 listed buildings however, some of these sites of interest are next to roads containing busy traffic. While the High Street enjoys a combination of pedestrianisation and a one way system, it is bounded by traffic filled roads that inhibit access via active travel. The links to other sites, notably The Almshouses, The Pound Arts centre and the Springfield Campus, are also accessed via traffic filled streets. The pedestrian experience of Corsham is dominated by busy, noisy roads that detract from the quality of the public space. The potential cyclist is intimidated by the perceived feeling of danger resulting in a reluctance to venture out. The number of children taken to school by car is too high while those that do walk or cycle are hindered by traffic and assailed by pollution.

This document advocates that a 20mph speed limit is implemented in Corsham along all residential streets and includes Pickwick Road, Newlands Road and Pound Pill leading to Prospect. This measure is designed to be a cost effective way of enhancing the public realm, of increasing walking and cycling (active travel) and reducing car dependency and dominance. It is a measure that can lead to health and wellbeing benefits, a reduction in traffic accidents, increase in social inclusion and a reduction in pollution. This proposal is in alignment with the recent Corsham Public Realm study, the Neighbourhood plan and is part of Corsham Strategic Plan 2018-20222.

Many of the arguments set out below can be found in a brief report by Public Health England titled Working Together to Promote Active Travel3 which suggests a range of practical actions for local authorities that includes introducing 20mph zones.

Walking and Cycling (Active Travel)

The introduction of 20mph speed limit would reduce the perception of dominance that motorised traffic can have. Roads such as Pound Pill have narrow footpaths allowing traffic to come uncomfortably close to walkers leading to a feeling of danger. A consequence of this is that cars are used for short journeys in preference to active travel thus adding to the problem in an ever unvirtuous cycle.

A vehicle travelling at 30mph has more than double the energy than a vehicle travelling at 20mph and this difference can translate into a reduced perception of danger and dominance since both the noise and impact of the vehicle are reduced. Walking then becomes a more pleasant experience and is encouraged as a more viable option.

A 20mph limit also provides a lower speed differential when compared to bicycles. This makes the experience of cycling inherently safer both as a perception and as a reality. This measure would therefore encourage the latent potential of cycling in the town and allow cycling to become a more attractive option.

Enhancing the Public Realm

It has been demonstrated across the world that people prefer to live in places that have low traffic levels and speeds. With lower traffic/speed levels comes lower noise and pollution, the urban environment is enhanced making it more attractive.

Active travel offers a more sustainable transport alternative to the car and could make a positive contribution to the overall character of towns such as Corsham. Heavy traffic will always be undesirable as it degrades and impoverishes the public realm.

The area around the Methuen Arms is particularly in need of improvement where traffic jostles for space to park despite the presence of double yellow lines and the noise from the road penetrates the High Street. At this point people experience difficulty in crossing the road but will not use the zebra crossing situated 100yrs up the road especially if coming or going in the direction of the Pound Arts centre.

A lower speed limit would reduce the noise level and allow pedestrians to cross more easily. The reduction in the perceived danger level would encourage cycling in preference to the car enabling short trips to the High Street to be made. The introduction of 20mph speed limit throughout Corsham would provide quieter streets that are more ‘people friendly’. The change would give motorists the perception of shared space enabling people to be prioritised over traffic.

It is understood that the implementation of 20mph limit in Biddestone has had an appreciable effect in reducing maximum speeds and is strongly supported by villagers. A rebalancing of transport in favour of active travel would provide an opportunity for Corsham’s historic centre to be more appreciated and help create an enhanced townscape where people want to be.

Health and Wellbeing

The increase in vehicle dependency has led to a reduction in physical activity which has been linked to increases in levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes. A recent NHS report showed that in 2016/17, 1 in 5 children in Year 6 and 1 in 10 children in Reception were classified as obese4.

The increase in traffic as also led to an increase in air pollution levels that have been linked to lung cancer, heart disease and asthma and is attributed to 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK.

In addition a study5 published in Preventative Medicine journal showed that active travel produced positive psychological wellbeing effects [by the possibility of social interaction] in contrast to driving a vehicle that can give rise to boredom, social isolation and stress.

A briefing report (ref 2) by Public Health England noted that it has been shown that people living in streets that contain high levels of motorised traffic are more socially isolated and have fewer friends that those living on quiet streets.

All these health and wellbeing issues are linked to the increase in car dependency over the last 40 years that has led to diminished levels of active travel. It is stated in reference 2 that: even small increases in physical activity among those who are the least active can bring great health benefits. As the former chief medical officer noted: “The potential benefits of physical activity to health are huge. If a medication existed which had a similar effect, it would be regarded as a ‘wonder drug’ or ‘miracle cure’.”

Road Safety

It is noted that 20mph limits already exist on areas leading to St Patrick’s School which are in force 6at the start and end of the school day. It is assumed that this has been implemented for good safety reasons.

There is a well understood relationship between vehicle speed and road safety. It has been shown that a person hit by a car at 30mph has a 10% chance of survival whereas at 20mph that chance increases to 90%.

At 20mph the driver of a vehicle is in more control, events happen at a slower rate giving more time to react and reducing the possibility of accidents. A Bristol City study showed that the introduction of 20mph saved an estimated 4 fatalities, 11 serious and 159 slight injuries resulting in a cost saving of £15M.7