More than 60 residents gathered at a meeting last week to discuss growing concerns about traffic and road safety in Ramsgate.
The public meeting, organised by Ramsgate county councillor Karen Constantine, was told 20 mph areas are beneficial and traffic can damage health and add to pollution.
Cllr Constantine said: “I called the meeting because in all my years of being a councillor, traffic and speed are the top concern residents raise with me. In many ways it’s a really difficult issue to tackle but across the county more councils are recognising the multiple benefits of lower traffic speeds.
“I was extremely pleased, not only that so many people came to the meeting, but at the high quality of contribution and the plans for this group to come together more formally, with an ambition to fight for improvements across Ramsgate. This will benefit all of those that live, work and visit our lovely town.”
The national campaign group ‘20s Plenty,’ is reporting success in supporting hundreds of areas to reduce traffic speeds. It is accepted as normal by local authorities covering 28 million people in the UK, including all of Wales and soon Scotland.
The organisation says reducing traffic speeds to 20 mph helps to create places where human activity including walking, cycling, and social interaction, takes precedence over traffic and that it’s better for the environment. They say 20mph reduces CO2 emissions, it is also enforceable, just like any speed limit, and putting 20 mph in place has little impact on overall journey times. Bus journeys and timetable times are generally unaffected by 20 mph when the lower speed restriction is bought in.
Thanet councillor Rob Yates said: ““Our roads should be safe for our children. Unfortunately, Kent County Council statistics show the opposite. For Thanet’s under 15s, we have the highest number of road traffic serious casualties in Kent. And this is not a one-off, since 2015, we have consistently had one of the highest rates of serious road traffic casualties in Kent amongst our children.
“On top of this, we have sadly witnessed three cyclist deaths on our roads since October last year, and along with Canterbury, we consistently have the highest number of cyclist casualties a year. The need for change isn’t about perception, it’s about fact.”
Town and district councillor Tricia Austin said she will be urging the council to bid for the latest ‘Active Travel’ funding.
Fellow councillor Becky Wing added: ““For those with wheelchairs or pushchairs getting across Ramsgate is difficult. There’s just two crossing points in Ramsgate. Safety is residents’ primary concern.”
Chair of Ramsgate Town Council Cllr Steve Albon outlined the actions the authority is taking, saying: “We have had meetings with KCC highways department and they have explained that the 20 mph scheme proposed by Ramsgate Town Council is a significant undertaking and that it could take 3 to 4 years to implement. It would need to go through consultation with residents. Additionally, KCC or others will need to organise speed checks and consider what solutions and other measures may need to be adopted.”
‘Behind the curve’
Patrick Jarman of ‘Active Travel’ a Ramsgate based company which promotes walking and cycling, told those at the meeting: “We support the roll-out across the county of simple measures to reduce stress, road danger, traffic pollution and noise, to re-invigorate local shopping and town centres, to liberate everybody including children and the elderly, to make life healthier and happier for everyone.
“Kent is way behind the curve with comparable parts of Europe. The question isn’t can we afford it – it’s can we afford not to do it. It’s really vital to get people active, as well as to decarbonise the environment. With calmer streets and roads we create a nicer environment and a more connected community.”
A further meeting will be organised in the early new year. Cllr Constantine said she would again invite the South Thanet MP, KCC Highways and police despite them declining to attend the first meeting.
She added: “I believe we can ‘win hearts and minds’ on this topic – it won’t be easy but with so many determined residents it’s only a matter of time. We can reduce the number of casualties and fatalities and create a better, cleaner, and safer environment.”
Following public consultation earlier this year Kent County Council has plans to change 10 Ramsgate roads to 20mph zones:
ALBERT COURT, CHARLOTTE COURT, HARBOUR STREET and YORK STREET– For their entire length.
HARBOUR PARADE – From its junction with Military Road to its junction with Marine Esplanade.
HIGH STREET – From its junction with Harbour Street to its junction with Hardres Street.
KING STREET – From its junction with High Street to its junction with Broad Street.
MADERIA WALK – From its junction with Harbour Parade to its junction with Albion Place.
QUEEN STREET – From its junction with High Street to its junction with Leopold Street.
ROYAL PARADE – From its junction with Harbour Parade for a distance of 33 metres in a westerly direction.
KCC says the aim is to “avoid the danger to persons or other traffic using the road or any other road or for preventing the likelihood of any such danger arising
“ (and) for preserving or improving the amenities of the area through which the road runs.”