There was once a time when our streets were unrestricted spaces which belonged to no one group or form of transport. They were places where people would stop and have a chat with their neighbours; where kids would be riding their bikes or playing ball games; where families looked out for one another. But most of all they were a place where communities were brought together and people would walk where they liked.
This changed as we witnessed a growth in the demand for motor vehicles, which led to a shift in the way people moved around. As the demand for cars grew, they became more affordable and people wanted bigger and faster vehicles. Pedestrians were forced to the sides and given places where they should cross, cyclists were barely tolerated and expected to keep out of the way.
Times are changing again, and people are beginning to realise the value of having a safe environment, not only for children to play in but for all residents to feel part of. Residents want to make their communities enjoyable and safe places where they can cycle or walk instead of using their cars.
Leeds, like many residential areas within the UK, is introducing 20mph limits within more of its residential areas as part of a city-wide program. This is to help reduce road casualties, and to make our communities nicer places to live. As a city, we need to change behaviour and attitudes towards speed, so that 20mph is seen as the ‘norm’ within residential areas. 20mph limits are not implemented to inconvenience people, but to reduce speed in built up areas where children and other vulnerable road users are.
Aside from the proven safety benefits of 20mph speed limits, this is as much about encouraging people out of their cars, to lead more active lifestyles by walking and cycling. And reducing noise pollution can also have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of people living in these communities. Who wants to live in a place where there are high levels of traffic noise which can cause stress and discourage active travel? Are we likely to want to walk on or encourage our children to cycle or scoot to school along a noisy urban street?
So this is your chance to be a two-zero hero. Let’s work together as a city and make Leeds a nicer, healthier place to live, where children and families engage in active travel and communities can share the streets once again.