As you move through Eynsham these days, you may have spotted the ‘20’s plenty for us’ stickers adorning some of the wheelie bins. These have appeared courtesy of GreenTEA, one of the many organisations in the community supporting the push for a speed limit reduction within the village.
Reducing the speed on our village roads is an idea that Eynsham Parish Council has been investigating since 2015, without realising there were county-wide concerns about vehicle speeds. In December 2020, Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) unanimously agreed that all new residential streets will be restricted to 20mph. Other villages have already made the switch more broadly: Charlbury reduced their speeds in April 2020. Nationally, Wales is preparing to make 20mph the default speed limit across the country by 2023.
The Parish Council is moving towards an OCC consultation on this issue in the coming months, with a view to reducing the speed of all traffic on residential streets to 20mph. Reducing speeds of roads along the periphery to 40mph (the B4449, Cassington Rd and the B4049 road to the Toll Bridge) will also be included. We recognise that this won’t be a welcome prospect for everyone. There are concerns about how to enforce new limits and the ongoing risk of anti-social driving, plus the financial investment, asking, could that money be better spent elsewhere?
There are others who feel passionately that the speed limit reduction is the right step for our village. Eynsham is a community that makes the most of its public spaces, pavements and roads. Many residents like to walk or cycle into the village for provisions, take or send children to school on foot and enjoy the regular outdoor market or the occasional Morris dance outside local pubs. Unlike many other areas, we still have annual village-wide events such the Carnival and Shirt Race.
Such activity brings many benefits. It keeps people physically active, both young and old. For example, did you know that only 21.2% of young people in Oxfordshire are getting the daily recommended amount of exercise? We want everyone to feel safe and able to walk into the village, support the local shops and maintain the community spirit – and for some, simply being able to leave the house can reduce isolation and loneliness. Cyclists will feel more comfortable sharing the roads if the traffic is moving more slowly, with the choice of bike over car serving our environment by reducing emissions.
The safety statistics are compelling: casualties from road accidents fall by 20% if the speed limit is reduced to 20mph. Evidence also shows that less fuel is burnt when a car moves more slowly. It’s not the great inconvenience many drives fear, either: it takes just 60 seconds longer to drive through the village at the slower speed.
Beyond the village, reducing speeds on the B roads would allow us safer access to the part of Eynsham that some are or feel cut off from: the cricket club, the allotments and the river front. Many residents choose to drive the short distance to this part of the village because the fast road makes it too dangerous to walk. Eynsham Road Runners have voiced their anxiety about running their 10km event on the pavements of these roads, with cars travelling past so close and so fast.
We’re still discussing the steps that will lead up to a consultation on speed limit reductions – and we are dependent on the busy OCC Communities Department for technical support - – but we’re already noticing how this complements much of the other activity happening at the Parish Council at the moment. For example, the Greenbelt project to mitigate the impact of developments on biodiversity (read Cllr Relph's article here) and the forthcoming electric vehicle charge points, making it easier for residents to switch to sustainable solutions. All this is about safeguarding our community for the future, in the face of climate change and development, and preserving what attracted many of us to this charming village in the first place.
Change is disruptive, but it is also inevitable – and we are adaptable creatures, as the past 18 months has demonstrated. We welcome your thoughts on all these issues and would be particularly interested in hearing any concerns to ensure we meet any challenges that would arise from a speed reduction. Please email the Parish Council on firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us via post at 91 Brize Norton Road, Minster Lovell, Witney, Oxford OX29 0SG.