Momentum builds for 20mph speed limit via @theguardian

In 2006, Jeremy Hunt published a leaflet with his next ten ideas for South West Surrey. Idea number 7 was a 20mph speed limit.


Recently the government has announced plans to allow communities to reduce speed limits to 20 mph in residential areas. This follows evidence that it significantly reduces the number of deaths and injuries where it has been introduced. Jeremy wants Surrey County Council to allow local villages to trial this, particularly in “hotspots” where traffic continues to go too fast, such as the A287 through Elstead and the A283 through Witley and Chiddingfold .

Jeremy says:“All of us – myself included – have got to learn to drive more slowly through our villages. 20 mph limits would help that so I want to support any villages that think it might work for them.”

In yesterday’s Guardian: Momentum builds for 20mph speed limit

Could a universal 20 mph speed limit on residential streets soon be as widely accepted as the smoking ban in pubs?

It’s too soon to talk about a tipping point, but more and more UK local authorities are taking a close look at a policy which is winning wider public support.

Portsmouth, Oxford and other cities have pioneered the switch within the past five years, and campaigners from the 20’s Plenty For Us movement say 8 million people now live in areas which are committed to adopting the limit for residential roads. They include Newcastle, Bristol, Sheffield and a handful of London boroughs.

“I compare it to the ban on smoking in pubs,” said one supporter at a conference in London this month. “That seemed controversial at the time and now it’s accepted – and it’s self-enforcing.”

But the most significant recruit to the cause may turn out to be Liverpool, where the local NHS trust will stump up £665,000 over four years to implement and study an extension of the city’s 20mph limits to a majority of streets. Nobody yet knows if injecting money from the public health budget will pay back in reduced hospital costs for treating victims of road accidents or not, but it could be the start of a trend.

From 2013, local authorities, already responsible for road safety, will take on larger responsibilities for public health in England. The idea is that lowering road speeds may cut the NHS bill for treating crash victims, and also combat obesity by encouraging more walking and cycling.

Until last year most of the enquiries handled by the 20’s Plenty movement came from individuals and campaigners; in 2012, says its founder, Rod King, more than half the inquiries have come from local government.

But while the momentum is growing and all three major parties are supportive, the government is against legislation.

“It is not the government policy to have a default limit. This is a matter of localism,” the junior transport minister Norman Baker told a conference in London this month on 20mph limits. “It would be wrong for us to impose our view from Westminster and Whitehall – those days are ending, I am happy to say.”

Localism appears to be a happy compromise to which both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats can sign up as a way of papering over differences over how hard to push a policy which may still create a backlash from motorists.

Since the replacement of Philip Hammond by Justine Greening, the Department for Transport seems to have dropped the post-election rhetoric about “ending the war on the motorist” and become more confident in advocating lower traffic speeds. Baker, a Liberal Democrat, says he wants local authorities to think hard about 20mph limits, and is trying to make implementation easier and cheaper by simplifying guidance on signage and scrapping the previous requirement for extensive physical traffic calming.

Campaigners and local authorities say they still face a lack of cooperation from many police forces, who don’t like the idea of 20mph limits on the grounds that they would have to enforce them.

Chief superintendant Jerry Moore of ACPO irritated some participants by telling them police would not support 20 mph limits unless they were self-enforcing, in practice ruling out their introduction on roads where speeds were higher than 24 mph at present. “Simply altering the signs and lowering the limit and dumping it on the police is inappropriate,” he said.

Campaigners say evidence from Portsmouth and elsewhere shows strong public support for 20 mph limits, with up to 80% of residents backing the change. They say complaints from motorists that their fuel consumption and their journey times will rise steeply are based on myth.

But independent researchers say the public view on lower limits is characterised by what they call chronic Jimbyism (“just in my backyard”). Lower speed limits are popular, but compliance is low.

Road safety policy in the UK is traditionally driven by the goal of reducing the figures for KSI (killed and seriously injured). So what happens if cutting the speed limit actually increases casualty figures rather than reducing them? Campaigners say this hasn’t happened, but it is hard to rule out the possibility that a surge in walking and cycling on roads previously dominated by cars might send the casualty count upwards, at least in absolute terms.

“The number of cycling injuries has to be measured against the number of miles cycled,” Norman Baker told the conference. “The relationship between the two gives you the true picture.” Advocates for cyclists and pedestrians point out that road casualty rates would immediately fall to zero for both groups if nobody ever rode a bike or walked. Not even Jeremy Clarkson is advocating that. So if the government wants more people to engage in “active travel”, it must therefore be prepared for a higher level of risk.

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5 Responses to Momentum builds for 20mph speed limit via @theguardian

  1. Victorialeake says:

    Mrs VC Leake
    15 Lower Street
    Surrey GU27 2NY

    27th July 2009

    The RT. Hon. Baroness Bottomley
    House of Commons
    London SW1A 0AA

    Dear Lady Bottomley,

    It was with much interest that I read the article on the 29th May 2009, in the Haslemere Herald, for a pedestrian crossing outside the Haslemere Museum and noted your support for this as well as requests by locals for a 20mph speed zone in Haslemere.
    On the 10th December 2004, a petition of over a 1000 signatures was presented to Surrey County Council for a 20 mph speed limit in Haslemere, as well as a request for a much needed pedestrian crossing in Lower Street, Haslemere, which after four years of wrangling was gratefully received.
    In total with various petitions including those by Mr Kirkwood of the Petworth road, Mrs O’Neils and that of various individuals writing to Surrey County Council, I suspect that SCC have in total received over 2000 requests for a 20mph zone in Haslemere. I would be most grateful if you could please raise this matter with the House of Commons and ask them how 2000 constituents could be overlooked?

    Yours sincerely

    Mrs VC Leake
    Encl. 1 Petition
    Cc Mr Jeremy Hunt, MP
    Mrs Melanie Odell, Mayor of Haslemere

  2. Paul M says:

    I don’t recall seeing the petition in 2004, but if I had, I would certainly have signed it.

    Until recently, it was far more difficult for local authorities to implement 20mph schemes. Although the decision has long been delegated by Westminster to local government, and the national government Department for Transport has long encouraged local authorities to introduce 20mph schemes “where appropriate”, the conditions precedent proved to be too difficult to overcome in many cases.

    In the last few monhs however the DfT has made the decision easier to take by simplifying the engineering requirements for a 20mph zone. No longer is it necessary to have either speed calming measures such as humps or chicanes every 75 metres, or frequent repeater signs on poles, a 20mph zone can now be implemented with roundels at the entry points and reminders painted on the road surface itself.

    A 20mph zone is not expensive to implement. The City of Portsmouth made all residential streets 20mph at a cost of about £400,000, which apparently represents about £330 per street. Scaled down, presumably Haslemere could do it for considerably less.

    One criticism of the Portmouth scheme is that drivers don’t observe it – surely that is a criticisim of the motorist but heigh-ho – but the fact is that average speeds on affected road have declined to the low 20s, by 5 or 6 mph. Each 1 mph reduction from 30 produces a 6% reduction in collisions, and there is an exponential relationship between speed and severity of collision, such that over 90% of pedestrians survive being hit by a car at 20, while about 5% survive at 40, and 30-40% of pedestrians die when hit at 30.

    The police have been particularly bloody-minded about speed limit reductions, saying that if implemented they will not enforce them. Frankly I think that is outrageous – they are paid to do a job, and it is not their privilege to determine what that job is, that falls to their employers, ie you and me. Fortunately, while police enforcement would certainly help, speed limits ar partly self-enforcing, in that it only takes a good spread of observant drivers to keep the law-breakers under control – our roads are generally not viable for overtaking so they just have to follow behind.

    Do we really need a 20 imit across Haslemere? Personally I have never felt that Bunch Lane is that bad with a 30 limit, and the street geometry in many places makes even 20 a stretch to achieve, but I am sure there are others who are a deal less confortable with speed limits as they are now. The residents of Farnham Lane for example, who have to contend with the school traffic, which I know from experience can be disinctly intimidating.

    If you want to extend your remit to lower speed limits, count me in.

    • Victorialeake says:

      Article taken from “The Haslemere Herald”, 27th January 2006 written by Joe Mortimer and Sue Carter

      “New demand for Lower Street traffic calming – county’s inaction putting lives at risk says angry mother of two.

      The Mayor of Haslemere has demanded immediate traffic-calming measures for one of the busiest roads in the town. “I am appalled by what I have just heard,” said Michael Dover after a Haslemere mother of two young children told the town council of the continuing “nightmare” of crossing Lower Street.
      “It strikes me as a game of pass-the-parcel where bureaucracy has become an industry in itself,” declared Mr Dover, criticizing Surrey County Council (SCC) for its lack of action.

      Addressing Haslemere town councilors at the planning and highways meeting last week, Victoria Leake, who has lived in Lower Street for the past four years, has taken up the cudgels in the long-running battle for a pedestrian crossing in the road. She told the Herald that it has become “totally impossible to cross” because of speeding traffic. “It is everyone’s worst nightmare. I have to cross it up to four times a day. There are constant near misses and drivers have to slam on their brakes,” said Mrs Leake. She crosses the road near the bus stop with her two daughters, aged two and four. “There should be a pedestrian crossing and a 20 mph speed limit,” declared Mrs Leake, who presented a petition bearing more than 1,000 signatures to Surrey County Council last December 2005 , calling for safer pedestrian access to the town. Reading from a prepared statement at the meeting last Thursday, Mrs Leake claimed that Surrey County Council had responded “by putting ‘slow’ markings in place”. She added: “unfortunately these were already in place before the petition. “They made no difference then and they make no difference now” She claimed that despite repeated assurances from SCC, still nothing had been done to resolve the problem. “SCC could have quite easily assisted the residents, shopkeepers and visitors to Lower Street, the B2131, by putting an interactive sign on the most dangerous crossing point, outside the Surrey Clock Shop, to ensure that motorists adhere to the speed limit, so the constituents of Haslemere can cross Lower Street safely and without fear. “I am appalled that SCC saw fit to give Pine View Cose and Weydown Road interactive signs while ignoring the request of more than 1,000 for traffic calming. Pine View Close does not experience the same volume of traffic as Lower Street, does not have narrow pavements, nor a bus stop or shops which local school children, the elderly and commuters need to access,” Mrs Leake told town councilors. She claimed that the county council has “continued to do nothing” after being repeatedly asked to help, that it holds local residents in “contempt”, and is also putting lives at risk. Mrs Leake also took issue with a speed check carried out in the street in November, 2004 by SCC. (Surrey Police then took a separate speed check in April 2006 with the 85%ile being 39 mph). SCC use the 85th%ile to ascertain whether cars are speeding). Pedestrians were on average having to do battle with 3672 cars a day in order to cross Lower Street. ” A pedestrian hit by a car traveling at speeds above 30mph is more than likely to be killed or seriously maimed. “This is a stretch of road that school children, the elderly and the vulnerable need to cross to gain access to the bus stop, the shops and their homes,” said Mrs Leake, who is appealing for a 20mph limit. “The residents of Lower Street would very much like SCC to address this matter with the same urgency it did for the residents of Weydown Road and Pine View Close,” concluded Mrs Leake. “The main thing is to get a solution, interactive signs and a 20mph speed limit.” The town council agreed that traffic calming measures must be put in place immediately and Mr Dover promised to look into the matter personally. Mrs Leake has also written to local MP Jeremy Hunt, taking issue with the speeding motorists in an effort to bring about the urgent improvements.

  3. haslemerehetty says:

    Come on Jeremy Hunt, this is your chance to redeem yourself!

    Agree with all the above.

    I personally know someone who hit a child while doing about 15mph in 20mph limit.

    This was not the drivers fault, the child stepped out from a pavement. Thankfully the child has made a full recovery after a short period in hospital. If the car had been doing 30mph, then there most definitely would have been a different ending.

    The junction of Lower Street and Shephard’s Hill is a nightmare to cross. Cars often swing around the town hall and accelerate hard up Shepherd’s Hill. Making areas like this more pedestrian friendly will also have a positive effect on shops. Giving pedestrians and cyclists priority over cars and lorries is the only real solution for areas like these.

    One good thing to come out of the roadworks, is the closed road actually has kids playing on bikes etc and is for the moment quite pleasant to walk along.

    Haslemere is unique in that many roads don’t have any pavements, and most are very narrow. Sometimes the side roads are just as dangerous. I am still reluctant to let our 12 year old walk into town because of this.

    I personally will not cycle along some of Haslemere roads, it’s just too dangerous.

    The very least that needs to be done is to introduce a 20mph limit. I say give back our streets to the people of Haslemere!

    Useful Links:

  4. Paul M says:

    I don’t think this is really an issue for Jeremy Hunt, although his intervention as our local MP would certanly be welcome and helpful.

    In fact, national government, in the guise of the Dept for Transport, already encourages local authorities (in our case, Surrey CC) to implement 20mph limits in residential, retail and commercial districts. I believe the links to which Haslemerehetty has drawn attention will probably also link to the DfT advisory note on this. A recent change in the traffic signage regulations has made it easier and cheaper to implement 20mph limits.

    To digress a moment, you can do 20 zones, or individual 20 limits. With a zone, you only have to sign the boundaries, but you then have to have approved traffic calming measures at regular intervals, of I think 75m on straight stretches of road, and other intervals near junctions. the calming measures can be speed bumps, speed tables, chicanes/pinchpoints, or varous other devices. They do however involve quite alot of expensive engineering, which could make a scheme difficult to “sell” to a cash-strapped local authority.

    20 limits are imposed street by street and this means that in addition to boundary signs, they must also have repeater signs at specified intervals, and this factor has led to them being rejected on aesthetic grounds in many cases. (There is no need for repeater signs in a 30 zone where there are street lamps – if you read your Highway Code you will see that this make a presumption of 30 unless otherwise signed)

    They are also, arguably, less effective than zone as they don’t require calming measures. The experience in Portsmouth has been that average speeds have fallen by about 6mph, from about 31 or 32 to about 24 or 25. Clearly not total compliance but apparently every 1mph fall in average speeds gives a 6% fall in collision rates, and there is an exponential relationship between vehicle speed and fatality rates for pedestrians.

    They are however considerably cheaper to implement as they don’t have the surface engineering requirements. The city-wide scheme in Portsmouth apparently cost about £400,000 wich works out at around £330 per street affected. No doubt it would be a bit more in Haslemere because I guess you woudn’t get the same volume discounts on little round signs!

    But that brings in the recent changes – repeater signs no longer need to be metal roundels on poles, they can be painted onto the road surface. This is cheaper and in some peoples’ eyes less displeasing aesthetically.

    Many major cities have implemented 20mph limits. Coventry is the latest to do so. Godalming has a 20splenty campaign already. We might like to consider doing the same.

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