Prof John Ashton, of Dent, President of the Faculty of Public Heath, reveals why he believes 20mph speed limits are important in our towns

Is ‘twenty plenty’ for Kendal?

Some people may not yet be convinced of the benefits of slowing down traffic in built-up areas. Yet a look at the evidence for a 20mph limit shows us that there are many benefits for any town or city that applies it in built-up areas.

‘Twenty’s plenty’ is not just about making roads near schools safer: our whole community would benefit.

As I have said in a previous Podium article, we need an age-friendly Kendal. At the moment, the one-way system is hostile to pedestrians because it is designed to speed up traffic.

We know older people prefer to meet their friends in small park areas that are within easy reach of their homes. We need to do everything we can to encourage older people to socialise, not sit at home feeling lonely and depressed.

However, the focus of ‘twenty’s plenty’ tends to be on how it would make our roads and streets safer to use, reduce deaths and serious injuries in all road users, including drivers.

Accidents on roads are the biggest cause of preventable death in children. A 20mph limit can make the difference between a child surviving a road accident or being killed by it.

There were almost 5,400 pedestrians, and just under 3,300 cyclists, killed or seriously injured on roads in the UK in 2013.

The total number of children (0-15 years) killed or seriously injured was 1,980. While this figure represents a drop from 2012, it is still a hugely significant number of lives damaged or lost.

A ‘twenty’s plenty’ approach offers many benefits for everyone’s health. People would be encouraged to walk and cycle, because roads would be a safer option for all, particularly for children who would be more likely to get to school by bike rather than relying on a lift.

Safer roads like this help reduce the number of bookings for the 'Taxi Service of Mum and Dad' – surely good news for many busy families - and support children to become more independent.

Less driving means fewer crashes and repairs, as well as reduced insurance premiums for people living in 20mph limit areas. Exercise is also good for our mental health and wellbeing, because it helps release the endorphins that can improve our mood.

One of the less known benefits of a 20mph limit is that it would help make Kendal a fairer place to live, because people are more likely to become a casualty on our roads if they live in a poorer area.

When asked what which single measure he thought would help reduce health inequalities, Professor Danny Dorling of Sheffield University, a leading public health expert, chose 20 mph limits.

There’s also the benefit of improving our air quality, because air pollution would be reduced through lower carbon emissions. That’s good news for those living in Kendall with asthma or other pulmonary conditions.

More generally, we need to get everyone more active in the Kendal area if we are to tackle some of the big diseases - like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease – that are killing us.

Sitting in traffic, rather than walking or cycling, for short journeys does not our waistlines or the environment any good.

In the longer-term, unless Kendal and nearby villages have a fit and healthy population, we won’t have the people we need for a strong, local economy.

Recent reports on South Lakeland and the Kendal area indicated its growing popularity as a lifestyle choice for people for people to move to from northern cities. Embracing a 20-mph limit would reinforce its appeal and the forward thinking nature of its administration.