GO 20 parliamentary reception, April 2014

Speech by Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake

Good afternoon. It's wonderful to see so many of you here today in support of the GO 20 campaign - for safe, active, happy communities.

We are proud at Brake, the UK's national road safety charity, to be spear-heading this campaign alongside our GO 20 partners. Road safety is at the heart of GO 20, but it is about much more than that. It's also about health, the environment, the economy, social justice, and people living active, fulfilling lives.

Through the GO 20 campaign we are calling for 20 to replace 30 as the default speed limit in built-up areas across the UK.

We are fully behind forward-thinking local authorities like Camden that are making the change locally and we encourage more authorities to take this vital step.

But ultimately we don't believe that safe streets and communities, and a safe environment for walking and cycling, should be a postcode lottery. It's great that places like Camden are reaping the benefits of 20 limits. But we think it's time for all of our communities to GO 20. And, alongside the GO 20 coalition, we're calling on central government to make that happen.

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To help convey the importance of this, I want to tell you about a community campaign we came across last week. We were contacted by BBC Radio Devon, running a story about a school on a 30mph main road, Ivybridge Community College, who are campaigning for a central reservation to help pupils cross the road safely. The station wanted to know what we thought.

I give this example because it's typical of the many community campaigns we hear about at Brake, usually led by desperately worried schools, parents and community leaders, frightened that a child or elderly person or other local resident is about to be knocked down and killed or maimed. In some cases, they've already experienced a tragedy and are angry and afraid it could happen again.

These communities are crying out for measures to help local kids and families and everyone else negotiate busy, fast roads, to get to school or college, or shops or work or leisure facilities, without being mown down. And often, despite in many cases setting their sights low, calling for just a crossing, or a wider pavement, these communities are denied, sometimes for years, because they're told it's not a priority or funding isn't available.

Our response on BBC Radio Devon was sympathetic and encouraging. We called on the local authority to listen to the campaigners' concerns and act before someone is hurt. But we also pointed out that a central reservation on one road, outside one school, is not enough. We called on that authority, and on central government, to be more ambitious than that, and GO 20.

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GOing 20 is about prioritising people. It's about recognising that everyone has a basic right to walk and cycle safely within their community, to get to work or school or the shops, or just to get out and about, without their lives being endangered. It's about addressing the fears that stop many people from choosing to cycle, and that prevent many parents from letting their kids walk. And it's about creating a greater equality of mobility and health, and ensuring that safe travel and active lifestyles aren't the preserve of the wealthy.

It's about making whole villages, towns and cities safe havens, for children, young people, elderly people and all of us – by being holistic and proactive and progressive, and not only treating, on a reactive basis, certain roads where problems are identified.

It's about not waiting for parents to worry, and schools to campaign, and someone to get hurt, and authorities to respond. It's about aspiring and working towards safer streets everywhere, for everyone.

The GO 20 campaign chimes with many political priorities and social needs, and can help us deliver major benefits to communities.

It can help us address childhood obesity, by making it safer and easier for kids to walk and cycle to school or the park, without their parents worrying.

It can boost cycling as a carbon-free and healthy mode of transport, and as a leisure activity that increasing numbers of people are enthusiastic about.

It can stimulate spending in struggling town centres, by making these places more pleasant and boosting footfall.

It can help everyone get about cheaply, whether it's by walking or cycling whole journeys, or accessing public transport, without being endangered.

It can encourage people to leave the car at home and choose sustainable travel instead, reducing carbon emissions, noise pollution and fossil fuel dependency.

And it can help prevent the terrible tragedies that continue to destroy lives every day on our roads, which inflict needless suffering, and cost families, communities and public services so dearly.

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The evidence basis for GOing 20, as set out in our campaign briefing, is convincing.

The GO 20 coalition, of charities supporting this campaign, is expanding. And more and more MPs and academics are lending their voice.

The number of people living in areas that have GOne 20 or are planning to – represented by the green parts on this map – are rapidly on the increase.

And today Brake and Allianz release a survey showing the widespread public support for safer streets for walking and cycling, with eight in 10 agreeing that 20mph should be the norm in places where people live, work, shop and go to school.

GOing 20 nationally is a no-brainer and we are reaching a tipping point - being driven by action within communities - that demands a national response.

We appeal to the government to listen to the experience of local authorities making the switch, and the views of the public as set out in our survey, and the voices of local campaigners around the UK like those at Ivybridge Community College, and act now, to GO 20 for safe, active, happy communities.

We appeal to all of you to work with us towards this exciting, positive, beneficial change.

Tags: road safety speed Go 20 speeding