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Area-wide 20mph neighbourhoods: a win, win, win for local authorities

Policy product type: LGiU essential policy briefing

Published date: December 10, 2013

Author: Andrew Ross, LGiU Associate

Issues covered:

  • 20 miles per hour
  • neighbourhoods
  • Public Health

• In January 2013 the government published a revised circular on Setting Local Speed Limits
• The number of local authorities adopting area-wide 20mph limits is increasing – around 11.5 million people already live in a 20mph committed area
• The Time for 20 and GO 20 campaigns are calling on the Department for Transport to recognise 20mph as the default speed in residential areas to make it cheaper for local authorities to implement the reduced speed limit
• A national conference called Time for 20mph will be held on 18 February 2014 in London
• This briefing will be of interest to transport planners, urban designers, elected members, road safety teams, fire and rescue authority members, police, public health teams and members of health and wellbeing boards.

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3 Responses to Area-wide 20mph neighbourhoods: a win, win, win for local authorities

  1. Anna Semlyen says:

    Public Health England say 20mph limits are the top policy to get people to exercise more in “Obesity and the environment: increasing physical activity and active travel”-https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/obesity-and-the-environment-briefing-increasing-physical-activity-and-active-travel This is crucial since deaths related to inactivity outnumber road casualties by a factor of 12. Lancashire are reporting 48% reduction in casualties in the 20mph pilots. Oxford 18% – see http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/10634130.20mph_limit_makes_roads_safer/
    In any case as the LGiU makes clear 20mph limits are not just about casualties, they are about how we share public space, about equalities, fairness and exercise effects.
    The World Health Organisation endorse 20mph limits as being safer for pedestrians than 30mph, as does Public Health England, NICE and many more.
    see http://www.20splentyforus.org.uk/briefings.htm for more referenced evidence.
    Tim Philpot says that the public don’t drive at 20mph. The riposte is that most roads are still limited to 30mph not 20mph so drivers need the endorsement of 20mph as the right speed limit before they will obey it or at least reduce their average speeds.

    The public has been repeatedly asked if they want 20mph limits and 73% of them do in British Social Attitudes surveys. Also popularity of 20mph rises post implementation.

    • Tim Philpot says:

      I am indebted to Ms Semlyen for the provision of the cutting from the Oxford Mail: it is more eloquent than I could possibly be about the shortcomings of simply changing speed limits to 20 mph. Casualties killed and seriously injured at the same number after as before implementation of the 20 limit. Any reduction in casualties coming from the “slight” casualties, suggesting the careful drivers are a bit more careful but those at the top end of the speed profile are not. Check out the year on year casualty stats on Crashmap and you see that after a dip post implementation, the numbers appear to be climbing back to previous levels. For every road identified with a reduction in casualties, one identified with an increase. Corroboration that while people want 20 limits they want them to be engineered to 20 mph, as also identified in the British Social Attitudes survey and propounded by the Dutch road safety agency SWOV in its work on credible speed limits. 82 motorists in 2 hours stopped for exceeding the 20 mph speed limit, what happened to needing the endorsement of the change of limit?

      I would have to agree that it is not just about casualties. But persuading people to transfer from driving to walking and cycling surely depends on people either seeing or believing that the roads are safer. If they do not see the fastest traffic going slower and do not hear that the frquency and severity of casualties is much reduced in a sustained way, this is unlikey.

      Please understand, I want the stated benefits (safer, more inclusive roads where active travel can be a real means of resolving health issues) at least as much as Public Health England, the World Health Organisation and the other proponents of the 20 mph vision do. What I question is whether the indiscriminate application of 20 mph limits will actually achieve the speed reduction necessary. And as long as there are people being killed or seriously injured in 20 mph speed limit areas I think this must be in doubt.

  2. Tim Philpot says:

    As seductive as this idea is, a recent straw poll of about 150 road safety professionals following a debate on the topic found the clear majority sceptical of its value. While moderated vehicle speed in residential areas is to be desired by any sane person, the notion that changing the speed limit alone will achieve this is far from proven. So all the benefits which can be rightly claimed to arise from actual speed reduction are in doubt. But this has been persistently glossed over by the proponents of the idea, who have in turn convinced the public on what may be a false premise. No surprise that their elected representatives seek to offer them what they wish for. Meanwhile, casualty figures from some of the early “blanket 20mph” schemes are not looking good. If Local Authorities spend their dwindling resources on this, they will have less to spend on arterial roads which are unsuitable for 20 limits and where the greatest number and severity of casualties still occur. A pity then that alternative views on Total 20 are summarily dismissed. If you really want to know how much the public want 20 mph speed limits, ask them how fast they drive in residential areas. It’s not 20.

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