20’s Plenty: Road Safety Set For Debate At Conference

We are ecstatic that our motion “Twenty’s Plenty: Saving Lives On The Road” will be debated at the Party Conference next month.  We believe that the Liberal Democrats can best lead the country on road safety.

Too many of us, including one author of this article, have experienced the dreaded phone call or police visit to say a friend or relative has been killed on a residential street. We do all we can to prevent this avoidable pain.

Road deaths are a public health crisis. We suffer one of the highest proportions of pedestrian fatalities in Europe and it is worsening. 2011 saw a 12% increase in pedestrian casualties, and half of road deaths and serious injuries in Britain occur on 30 mph limit roads.

There is cause for hope. We can change this. Our motion calls for 20mph to become the standard speed limit on residential roads.

A Transport Research Laboratory study found 20 mph limits cut child pedestrian accidents by 70%. In 2008, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety found Britain’s annual 3,100-road death toll would be cut by two-thirds if all residential areas had 20mph limits.

Drivers benefit too. In Portsmouth, 2 years after introducing 20mph limits on residential roads there were 23% fewer driver and 31% fewer passenger casualties. Elderly drivers had 50% fewer injuries.

Financial gain will be enormous.  The Department for Transport estimates:

  • average cost per seriously injured casualty on the roads is £178,160, and
  • average cost per fatality is £1,585,510.

There will be up-front costs to change speed limit signs so we propose staggered conversion: new residential developments to have 20mph limits and 10% of existing residential streets to be converted to 20mph each year. The national government should assist local authorities to meet initial costs, which will be recovered many times over.

We accept that local authorities should be able to make the case for exceptions that will stay at 30mph such as arterial or trunk roads.

This policy is a vote winner. Widespread 20mph limits in Portsmouth, Oxford, Lancashire, Brighton & Hove and Bath & North East Somerset have been popular and made roads safer.  Nationally, 71% of drivers supported 20 mph limit for residential streets in the 2011 British Social Attitudes Survey.  Insurance premiums are lower in 20mph areas.

Environmental arguments are strong. When the speed limit in Germany was reduced average drivers used 12% less fuel. In Bristol, reductions to 20mph saw cycling and walking increase 12%.

This is policy will protect lives, help the environment and save money.

We are delighted that Transport Minister Norman Baker MP told us he supports our motion. We would like it passed unanimously to send the strongest signal that Liberal Democrats will save lives on the road.

We cannot continue with Europe’s bloodiest roads.


* Antony Hook is Vice-Chair or the South East Region. Sarah Osborne is a District Councillor in Lewes where she chairs the Scrutiny Committee.

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  • A centrally-dictated speed limit policy is madness, surely? Why not allow councils to set the limits themselves, a far more localist and liberal way of doing things. The criticism from the AA has also been sharp.

  • sarah osborne 17th Aug '12 - 12:09pm

    There is no dispute ,you are less likely to be able to avoid an accident travelling at 30 mph than 20 mph and if you do hit someone at 30mph you are more likely to kill them,than if you were travelling at 20mph.The speed of a vehicle prior to spotting a hazard and attempting to brake, and the consequential stopping distance, is the critical factor in avoiding a crash and the potential for death and injury at any speed of collision.

    The following example demonstrates how an increase in speed prevents a vehicle from stopping in time or even reducing its speed to any significant degree. A vehicle travelling at a speed limit of 20mph at the onset of an incident would stop in time to avoid a child running out three car-lengths in front. The same vehicle initially breaking this limit at 25mph would still be travelling at 18 mph at the three car lenghts marker. A pedestrian hit at 18 mph by a 1 ton car would be likely to suffer death or serious injury. To imagine the effect this is roughly the same as a child falling out backwards and head first from an upstairs window. We say backwards and head first to demonstrate the lack of control a child has in a road crash, and the potential not only for that child to be hit severely on their head and upper body but also be run over and consequently crushed by a vehicle.

  • sarah osborne 17th Aug '12 - 12:12pm

    Also at lower speeds crashes are far less likely to be fatal. At 20mph, only 10% of crashes are fatal compare to 50% at 30mph.

  • Liberal Neil 17th Aug '12 - 12:26pm

    This isn’t about imposing a national standard – we already have one of those – 30mph in built up areas.

    The debate is whether it should remain at 30mph or be reduced to 20mph.

    I certainly agree that if the national standard is changed to 20mph there should be local discretion to keep it at 30mph where appropriate.

  • Richard Dean 17th Aug '12 - 12:38pm

    Everyone is already enslaved by conformity. The national speed limit is 70 mph. For years and years and years, the residential speed limit was 30 mph. We all drive on the left, or get a court visit.

    Everyone is also liberated by conformity. 70 mph liberates me from excessive worry about idiots driving at 110 mph, and reduces my insurance premium compared to an unlimited speed. We all catch the 8.10 to Woking, don’t we? I didn’t see anyone getting onto the air at 8.05 this morning! Everyone conformed in paying for the car park. We all conformed by using pounds instead of dollars or euros.

    Everyone is inspired and supported by conformity. I am more likely to be able to persuade my neighbors to lobby for 20 mph if most of the country has already switched to 20 mph.

    So conformity is not an enemy. We all gladly accept being enslaved by it, quite a lot. And we like others to be too. Personally I would prefer muggers to start conforming to a different, civilized standard.

    As I drive up my three-lane street with cars parked in the lane on the left and the lane on the right, I know and worry that I’ll kill any small child that runs out from behind one. How is it that we have been pushed into such conformity by car makers selling speed as a benefit? How have we allowed our residential neighborhoods to become such dangerous places?

    So I’m gonna drive at 20 mph or less in my neighborhood. I’m definitely not conforming to your ridiculous 30 mph national standard.

  • sarah osborne 17th Aug '12 - 1:08pm

    Liberal Neil is right about what the debate is about.I shall refrain from quoting more statistics because there are an awful lot of them and they do vary.However,they do all show that less people will be killed or seriously injured if we drive at 20 mph.So whats the down side if we slowdown a bit, our journey might take a few minutes more.Is it not worth a few extra minutes in the car to try and prevent tragedy?
    Oh and by the way Tommy road safety education for children on its own may not be enough .Scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London measured children’s ability to detect approaching cars in a road crossing scenario. At vehicle speeds faster than 20 mph, primary school age children may not be able to tell that a car is approaching. In it Professor Wann said
    “These findings provide strong evidence that children may make risky crossing judgements when vehicles are travelling at 30 or 40 mph. In addition, the vehicles that they are more likely to step in front of are the faster vehicles that are more likely to result in a fatality. Travelling 1 mile though a residential area at 20 mph vs. 30 mph will only add 60 seconds to journey time. We encourage drivers to take a minute and save a child’s life”.

  • I’ve just returned from Italy where there were many 30 Kph zones in residential areas which actually equates to less than 20 Mph. Of course the flip side is that no Italian seems to follow any rules on the road……

    The AA were on 5 live calling for targeted 20 zones which may be a better option. Perhaps offering Councils guidance as to what conditions would indicate a 20 zone and allowing the decision to be taken locally would be an option?

  • Yellow Bill 17th Aug '12 - 7:25pm

    I am ambivalent about the speed limit change. What I AM concerned about is the lack of police officers to enforce any speed limit.

    What was our election promise on this again?

  • There is a standard definition of residential roads – it relates to who controls them and pays for them (local authorities vs DfT) so the motion is operational. Since we know speed kills, I hope this motion is successful.

    I drive at 20 in residential 30 zones if there is nothing behind me, but the Highway Code requires you to make good progress, and therefore I drive at 30 when there are other cars about.

    People stick to 20 give or take in Richmond Park – and it makes the park more pleasant. Mind you, it would be more pleasant still without any cars!

  • Elaine Woodard 17th Aug '12 - 9:17pm

    I’ve seen Portsmouth quoted often with regard to their 20mph zones and I agree it makes sense there as there is little off-street parking. However other residential areas are the opposite with mainly off-road parking and consquently very good sight lines for motorists. I would not be in favour of 20mph limits everywhere.

  • John Richardson 18th Aug '12 - 8:02am

    What does the evidence say about the difference between 20 mph and 10 mph? Why stop at 20?

  • I am not against 20mph zones and I think there is an advantage in having a single default speed limit rather than discrete “targeted” zones. I would however be very wary of statistics, especiallyTRRL statistics. The TRRL has in at least two instances published surprising but inaccurate results and in both cases in such a way as to confirm a new or proposed policy they are investigating. This suggests they do not have a sufficiently robust attitude to their material. Also, since a motorcycle is about half the weight of a car, should they be allowed to go (say) 10% faster?
    I think the term “residential” is difficult. Most people would think of shopping streets as not being residential even though they have residents and a larger pedestrian footfall than non-commercial streets. In London the shopping streets are also the primary transport routes and the last Conservative government’s “Red Route” programme was an attempt to enhance traffic movement and speed at the expense of shops. If there is to be a 20 mph base limit then these streets need to be included.
    And, if we are to cut speed by two thirds do we expect traffic volume to grow by 50% (since journeys will take 50% longer)? Of course this wont be the exact result but do we have figures for traffic reaction to 20 mph zones? My feeling is that current zones have resulted not in traffic reduction but to displacement onto other streets. Any speech in favour of this motion will need to deal with this point.
    Finally, there is another name for “residential street”. It is “car park”. We all want less cars, less speed and less pollution. But most of us want a car too.
    Posted from Italy (where the trains run on time)

  • sarah osborne 18th Aug '12 - 9:15am

    Dear Tony
    It is correct that if you travel at a steady 20 mph then your journey will take 50% longer than at 30 mph.
    However, on our roads today it is very rare that you can travel at a constant speed of 30 mph. Bends, blind spots, parked cars, junctions, pedestrian crossings, cars turning right, traffic lights and many more things mean that you have to slow down or stop very often. Indeed, the maximum speed at which you can drive at between obstructions merely increases the time you have to wait at the next obstruction.

    Also most places will be within a third of a mile of a 30 mph arterial road. Hence the maximum increase in actual car journey time from introducing 20 mph on the residential roads would be 20 seconds at each end of the journey. In reality this would be far less. So 40 seconds is the maximum expected increase in journey times.

    Far from slowing a town to a crawl, 20 mph in residential areas makes hardly any difference at all to journey times.

  • Chris Stanbra 18th Aug '12 - 9:16am

    Lots of good points here, but for me as a local councillor the question is “How will you enforce the speed limit?”. By that I do not mean how will you catch those who go faster than 20mph, I mean how will you seek to encourage drivers to go at speeds of 20mph or less? If this means humps, lumps, bumps, cushions, mounds etc etc then count me out.

  • sarah osborne 18th Aug '12 - 9:31am

    We do hope for less cars on the road and reducing speeds in residential areas is likely to help encourage people to walk and cycle more.Bristol City (in their 20 mph pilot areas) reported an increase of 12% in walking and cycling and a decrease of 40% in cycling casualties.Their post implementation survey showed 88% of the community supported the 20 mph scheme.
    It is no surprise that health professionals see lower traffic speeds as a foundation for increasing “active travel” leading to healthier communities. The Association of Directors of Public Health with the National Heart Forum have a “position statement” on the benefits of a default 20mph limit for residential and urban areas
    In Liverpool the PCT are part funding the implementation of 20 mph scheme.Paula Grey the Director of Public Health for Liverpool, said:-

    “We know that cutting speed can save lives, as well as making our neighbourhoods much more pleasant places to live. And by making roads safer we create more opportunities for people to use greener forms of transport – such as cycling and walking – which are also better for their health.”

  • Dear Sarah

    I write from a London perspective. Your term “arterial” increases my confusion here.

    And wrt Chris Stanbra’s point, are traffic cameras now sufficiently accurate to deal with 20 mph limits ? They never used to be which was why in London at least they could never be put in without other calming measures.

  • sarah osborne 18th Aug '12 - 9:52am

    I repeat what I said in the article about Local Authority flexibility,it will be important that they will be able to not only justify exception roads but say what they consider to be a residential road,as for example some rural roads may be considered by the local community as residential but a whitehall civil servant may not.Please remember this is a motion and not finished legislation.I do believe very strongly that for safety’s sake the presumption should be that in a residential area, 20 mph is the maximum safe speed but allow the case to be made for a 30 mph limit rather than communities having to argue for speed reduction.As you know with things the way they are many local authorities will only reduced speed limits once there have been a number of KSI’s and that has got to be an ‘arse about face’ way of dealing with things.

  • sarah osborne 18th Aug '12 - 1:42pm

    We are calling for a change in the default speed LIMIT not Speed Zones .Speed Limits can be introduced without any form of traffic calming. Whilst 20 mph speed zones do require some sort of traffic calming, this need not be physical. There is no mandatory requirement for speed bumps. Build-outs, road marking, signs and rumble strips can all be used to calm traffic speeds in 20 mph speed zones.
    20 mph speed limits are indicated by terminal speed limit signs and repeater signs at regular intervals along the roads. These are cheap and easy to install on lamp posts.It may be that the LA may deem it appropriate to add some traffic calming measures to the change in signage,but it is not compulsory.
    I will address enforcement in a later post.

  • Richard Dean 18th Aug '12 - 2:18pm

    What evidence is there that “The TRRL has in at least two instances published surprising but inaccurate results and in both cases in such a way as to confirm a new or proposed policy they are investigating”?

  • Peter Gardiner 18th Aug '12 - 2:51pm

    Don’t let silly arguments about the definition of a residential road get in the way of a really good idea. Definitions can be dealt with in the legislation. It is of course possible to make exceptions to any rule, and in the same way that some urban streets are 40 mph and not 30 mph, so local authorities can decide which roads are 30 or 40 mph. But these will be traffic distributors etc where a higher speed would be both sensible and safe, and not the run-of-the-mill residential roads. What matters is that most accidents ( more than half) occur within 5 miles of your house, and 20 mph would mean less child fatalities and less accidents. A 20 mph limit would mean that the persistent law breakers would be driving at 30 and not 40.
    And think of the fuel saved!

  • Stuart Mitchell 19th Aug '12 - 10:32am

    I welcome this motion. I have long felt that the complacency and tacit acceptance we have regarding the huge numbers of people killed on our roads is a really appalling facet of modern societies. If one person is killed on a train, we demand public inquiries and expensive safety improvements. If several thousand people are killed on our roads, we shrug our shoulders and ridicule anybody who tries to do something about it as a “nanny”. If 2,000 people (many of them children) were killed each year in any other circumstance we would regard it a national emergency, and that’s exactly how we should treat what happens on our roads.

    That said, seting more 20mph speed limits would be at best useless, and at worst counter-productive, if those limits were not enforced. In my personal experience, compliance with existing 20mph limits is extremely poor, and this is because people know that there is virtually zero enforcement. Every morning my commute takes me through a 20mph zone. There is a primary school on the road, with a raised zebra crossing outside close to a sharp bend. Before recent cuts, there was a lollipop man at the crossing. There are speed bumps along the road, and huge 20s painted every few yards. It could not be more obvious to any driver that (a) the speed limit on this road is 20mph, and (b) the 20mph limit is appropriate and justified. Yet compliance is virtually non-existant. Every morning as I drive along at 20, I see the cars in front of me race off into the distance, while the people behind me tailgate aggressively, sometimes flashing lights or making angry gestures. On four or five occasions, I have even been overtaken on the zebra crossing itself, which as mentioned is about 20 yards from a sharp bend. Anybody who is deluding themselves that most drivers are basically sensible really ought to go and take a look at this road any weekday morning at 8:30 am.

    In the absence of enforcement, this 20mph limit might actually be doing more harm than good. So while I welcome what you are trying to do with this motion, I think that unless the existing 20mph limits are actually enforced, creating more 20mph zones will achieve nothing. Sadly, this government is presiding over a shameful reduction in traffic law enforcement, and while this goes on, creating more 20mph limits just looks like a poor attempt at conscience assuagement.

    There have been several cases recently of children being killed by out-of-control speeding drivers while being carried in pushchairs on the pavement, or riding bicycles on cycle lanes set back from the road. How exactly should we educate children to avoid being the victims of such accidents?

    @Richard – not for the first time you hit the nail on the head. The “localism” argument is a diversion since the question here is about our national speed limits.

  • Daniel Jones 19th Aug '12 - 12:08pm

    If the solution proposed is that we just put up signs, then all we do is create a great deal more speeding. If we put up bumps, then that is a huge increase in costs – both in terms of construction, maintainance etc. of traffic calming but also in terms of damage to cars (Something that has been a big issue in local towns). I also worry that, combined with these proposals about dropping rural speed limits, this would combine to create some kind of urban imposed madness on village communities – we already have wide clear roads being dropped to 40MPH because of fears over tight narrowness on other road, we do not need big wide avenues through villages dropped to 20 because people in towns have roads clogged with parked cars. I agree we have a nationalised system at the moment, but the solution of trying to create nuanced policy with it strikes me as clumsy and it would be far better to look at localisation options – though given that residents can currently campaign and get 20MPH zones, I don’t see that there is really a problem.

  • Richard Dean 19th Aug '12 - 1:58pm

    Conferences don’t make laws, they express intentions and desires – precision can be helpful but is it really necesary or even desirable? People shouldn’t be stopped from expressing desires just because they’re not yet legalistically exact.

  • Richard Dean 19th Aug '12 - 3:54pm

    I see no difference between policy and expressed intentions and desires. If there was a difference, there’d not be much point in having a party!

    There’s no reason for council candidates and activists to be frightened of having opponents question LibDem policy. It’s normal. Candidates and activists need to learn to respond happily and positively to such free publicity.

  • Richard Dean 19th Aug '12 - 5:48pm

    There’s certainly a skill involved in turning an apparently defensive position to advantage. Perhaps it’s something that could be taught at a conference training session?

  • diamondgeezer 20th Aug '12 - 12:35pm

    I’m a bit confused by this as we are already implementing sign only 20mph speed limits on residential roads and around schools in Lancashire! My own area of Larches in Preston was a pilot area and has now had 20mph for over 2 years.

    Latest figures have shown a change in behaviours and average speeds significantly reduced. (from 32-34mph to 22-24 mph). Local speed solutions though should remain a decision of the local authority and not Westminster.

  • Steve Saunders 20th Aug '12 - 1:17pm

    I fully support this motion, which after liaising with Sara, put to my Town Council in May of this year. The members passed the motion, where it was agreed as a ‘No Brainer’, given the mountain of evidence in support from the police and fire services.
    The cost of putting the scheme into place is minimal in comparison to that expended in attending accidents and treating those injured, to say nothing of the senseless loss of life.
    There is no pre-requisite to applying the scheme to all the roads within towns, as has been put forward by some that challenge the concept of reduced speed limits and it would and indeed should, be a decision that is made by individual authorities as to how wide ranging it should be in their communities .Trunk and arterial roads would generally be exempt from such reductions, unless the evidence was clear to the contrary.
    Surely a party that puts children’s and resident’s lives before speeding motorists and recognises the saving in valuable time and money for our emergency services, is what sets us apart from others. If such a scheme saves one life in your community, it should receive your support at conference. I know I’ll have no problem in trying to justifying it to my residents on the doorstep.

  • Richard Dean 20th Aug '12 - 3:35pm

    The locali/national standards debate has never been about whether Whitehall knows best, and it’s not helpful to call on such stereotyping. MPs and local councillors are not by civil servants. The debate is about whether it is better for local areas to agree on a common standard, or for local areas to agree with other local areas that each can decide its onw standard.

    Arguments in favour of a common 20mph standard seem to include the common sense view, supported (it seems) by experience in many parts of the country, that slower speeds in residential areas are beneficial. The argument so far proposed against seems to be that people, mainly LibDem local candidates and activists, will have difficulty deciding what is a residential road and what isn’t.

  • Stuart Mitchell 20th Aug '12 - 7:45pm

    @diamondgeezer @simon
    This has nothing to do with “Whitehall knows best”. The proposals, on the face of it, are simply a modification of the current system: instead of having (as we do now) a default national limit of 30mph for built-up areas, with local councils able to designate certain roads as 20mph zones, we would instead have a default national limit of 20mph, with councils able to set 30mph limits where appropriate.

    Such an idea is no more pro-Whitehall/anti-localism than the current arrangements, so perhaps you ought to be campaigning against the whole concept of national speed limits. But it’s hard to see what the advantages of entirely local limits would be. You’d end up having to erect speed limit signs on every road in the country, since drivers could not be reasonably expected to always know which local authority they happened to be driving through at any moment, and what the prevailing default limits in that authority would be.

  • Stuart Mitchell 21st Aug '12 - 6:25pm

    @Matthew Lambert
    You call for an evidence-based approach but offer virtually no evidence. What evidence you do offer is highly misleading, i.e. you mention the limit-free autobahnen but fail to mention that they have worse death rates than (a) those autobahnen that DO have limits, and (b) UK roads with the 70 limit.

  • Richard Swales 21st Aug '12 - 6:56pm

    I don’t know what the German evidence on emissions is, but I doubt it involved cutting the urban speed limt from 48 kph to 32 kph. If you have a newer car then you can see how much fuel you are using as you drive at different speeds. Certainly in my Škoda there is a higher fuel consumption (measured in litres per 100 km) at a constant 30 kph than there is at a constant 50 kph as the gears are lower (I didn’t think that would be such a decisive factor but it is). Not that the emissions are a central argument but it shouldn’t be used if it is not right.

    I think the compliance issue is a bit of a red herring, There isn’t 100 percent compliance with the 30 mph limit either, but if you reduce the limit then the typical speeds all drivers drive at will drift downwards, which is a good thing.

  • Stuart Mitchell 21st Aug '12 - 11:01pm

    “Certainly in my Škoda there is a higher fuel consumption (measured in litres per 100 km) at a constant 30 kph than there is at a constant 50 kph”

    Perhaps, but how often do you get to drive at a constant speed in urban areas? A lot of fuel is used accelerating, and idling when stationary. Lower speed limits might be more efficient if they help traffic to move more steadily (along the same lines as the variable speed limits used on some motorways).

    @Matthew Lambert
    Earlier this evening I experienced something very like your dream of a world without speed limits. It’s called the A49 in Cheshire. Far from choosing sensible speeds, many people were driving in such a way that for a moment I thought I’d strayed on to Oulton Park race track.

  • Michael Andrewes 21st Aug '12 - 11:27pm

    I think the point is that a 30mph speed limit currently applies if there are no signs and it is in an area with street lighting – see http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Roadsafetyadvice/DG_178867?CID=TAT&PLA=url_mon&CRE=speed_limits.
    It is expensive (legal orders, signage etc) to change this so often 20mph areas are not brought in because of the expense. Reducing the default to 20mph would still allow 30mph or 40mph (or more) speed limits on roads with street lighting – and 40mph is allowed and is sometimes the case at the moment but it would have to be signed as such.
    I voted for the 20mph speed limits for roads in Portsmouth as a city councillor. I did it because driving 1 mile at 20mph takes 1 minute longer than driving at 30mph. For even the best of drivers, a child can run out of the road suddenly. Surely it is worth one minute of your time if it means that child is not killed or is less seriously harmed. And if you are responsible and go at 20mph in a 30mph area you can often find drivers getting impatient behind you. As a driver, even if it was not my fault, I am sure that it something that would live with me for the rest of my life if I killed or seriously maimed a child – and it is possible even as the best driver. But surely better to reduce the odds of that happening. And of course if you look at your kids or ones you know, you would surely think that! All for the sake of 1 minute? Secondly I have been, quite often, overtaken by cars on residential roads – only to find that I am just behind them at the next set of traffic lights so often going faster in built up areas saves no time whatsoever.
    As part of this, I would support raising the limit on motorways to 80mph – the safest roads. Obviously going at 80mph over a longer distance saves more time than you use in going 20mph over a shorter distance.
    What happened in Portsmouth is not that every road in the city is 20mph – some main routes around the city are still 30mph or more but the most side roads are 20mph. My understanding is doing it “en bloc” was very much cheaper but still in the £100,000s from memory – and a default of 20mph would reduce the cost which must be good for cash strapped councils.
    I have never had anyone complain to me about 20mph limits and there were very few if any complaints before the decision was taken. To be honest traffic statistics are more of an “art” than a science and there are arguments on both sides but my feeling is that one minute is a small price to save a life – even one life.

  • Delighted to have this on the agenda – can we have lots of campaigning materials on this topic for my street please!

    Meanwhile statisticians will enjoy a laugh at this crude pseudo-rebuttal from the Torygraph:

    “Recent figures released by the Department for Transport show that while deaths and injuries in 20mph zones rose last year from 1,827 in 2010 to 2,262 in 2011, they fell by one per cent in 30mph areas.”

    By failing to compare actual death/injury RATES between zones on a like-for-like basis this piece demonstrates nothing at all … and the increase in total deaths/injuries in 20mph zones (and small reduction in 30mph zones) is hardly surprising given that there were many more 20mph zones (and fewer 30mph zones) in 2011 than in 2010.


  • Richard Swales 22nd Aug '12 - 11:24pm

    “Perhaps, but how often do you get to drive at a constant speed in urban areas?”

    To take my journey to work:
    On the 200 yards of streets from my block of flats to the more important road – never.
    On the more important road (which has the standard urban 50kph limit) – except for in the morning rush hour when they turn the traffic lights on – for about 3 km straight.
    On more roads which have higher posted limits anyway – irrelevant to debate.
    Back on to a 50 kph road leading to my office – for about another 3 km.
    Going round in circles looking for somewhere to park – never.

    So as others have said it depends on the definition of urban road. “Currently has a default 30 mph limit” is suggested by some but it is problematic. A better definition would be something like “road primarily or exclusively used by people within 400 metres of their departure or destination point”. So you can have a policy for national legislation, but also a policy on how that should be implemented at the local council level.

  • Stuart Mitchell 23rd Aug '12 - 8:01pm

    Do you actually live in the UK? I only ask because those metric speed limits you keep quoting are obviously not UK ones.

    Your trip to work – with two 3km stretches where you are able to drive at a constant 30mph – is clearly not on the kind or “urban” roads I am familiar with, since I can’t actually think of any such road within my city where that would be possible. So I would certainly not expect those roads to become 20 zones.

    My own daily commute is 4.2 miles, virtually all on 30mph-limit roads, Average actual speed: 13mph. Number of red lights: 10. Perversely, one of the few stretches where it’s actually possible to hold 30mph for a few hundred yards is the 20mph zone I described earlier – and most drivers do, venting fury on any law-abiding driver who happens to get in their way.

    “So you can have a policy for national legislation, but also a policy on how that should be implemented at the local council level.”

    Exactly – national limits, able to be modified at local discretion. That’s exactly the system we have now, and these proposals would not change that.

  • Richard Swales 24th Aug '12 - 12:03am

    No, I no longer live in the UK, I live in Slovakia (which has recently gone down from 60 kph to 50 kph in towns, and has for a long time been considering going up to 160 kph from 130 kph on motorways) but there are similar stretches in my home town in the UK, wherever you have a major road that is “boss” to all the minor roads leading off it, the traffic not being heavy enough to warrant traffic lights at every junction, including the stretch my house is on (the A1085).

    Saying “local councils should decide” isn’t a local policy, and is likely to raise the problems Simon Shaw describes. There needs to be more guidance on what roads are likely to be included. Something like “we call upon councils to use their discretion to maintain the 30 mph limit on main roads” is likely to remove a lot of opportunites for misrepresentation.

  • Peter Gardiner 26th Aug '12 - 6:25pm

    Local councils will only decide which of their roads meet the criteria for exemption from being classed as residential streets, and all other residential roads will become 20 mph. The criteria for exemption will need careful definition by legal brains, not impromtu definition by the rest of us in an online debate.

    Of course I could define what a residential street was and I am sure Sarah and Anthony have a definition in their minds. My point is that a definition going into an Act of Parliament will require rather more careful consideration in its exact definition than we need to evaluate a principle. Whether to say ‘80% of the roadside development is residential’ or some other percentage, or to define it by the position the road has in the road hierarchy or some complex combination of traffic factors seems to me to miss the point.

    Just as we have rules which define “Permitted Development’ in Planning Law so we will have rules for ‘Permitted Exemptions’ from the 20 mph limits. Local authorities already have such rules about what type of road junctions, etc. they can use where. This is no different. The evidence is that we can save lives by applying a 20 mph limit in roads which serve residences and we can and will be able to define how to make exceptions to account for moving traffic around our cities etc.
    We are not into defining tactics here, we are considering strategy.

    One of the people against this proposal thinks that the status of the person writing the opinion in this column is important. I don’t. Let’s consider the argument not the status of the opinion holder.

  • this is just as stupid as the dems 10mph proposal, if you really want to improve road safety then ban jaywalking, at the moment people on foot seem to think it is their right to wander into the road without looking, quite often near a crossing, and also if you actually want people to follow your speed limits then applying them to specific areas would make more sense, as it is i can drive from one end of the wirral to the other without finding any speed limit greater than 30, this is very slow and a waste of petrol.

    keep the speed limits for the actual residential areas rather than nearly every road and ban jay walking if there is a crossing available, to say this is all the drivers fault is missing the point.

    oh and could we increase the motorway limit to 90mph, these limits are just forcing most drivers into criminality

    and no this is not a vote winner, you guys will have virtually no seats after your despicable alliance with the tories and lackluster leader (which is saying something considering how weak cameran and miliband are)

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