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Default 20mph limits an ‘essential building block’

Monday, August 5, 2019 - 09:31
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A coalition of transport and active travel charities is calling on the Government to introduce a default 20mph speed limit in England.

The 11 charities* – including Brake, 20’s Plenty for Us, Sustrans and British Cycling – say 20mph limits have been ‘largely overlooked’ in the DfT’s Road Safety Action Plan.

Published on 19 July, the plan sets out 74 actions the Government is considering to reduce the number of people killed and injured on the roads.

In a letter to the DfT, the coalition – headed up by 20’s Plenty for Us – describes 20mph limits as the foundation for lower road casualties, getting more people walking and cycling and improving social justice.

The partners point to research which suggests casualties in built-up areas are reduced by up to 40% when vehicle speeds are kept to 20mph or below.

The coalition is calling for the Government to adopt a 20mph default speed limit in urban areas – but stresses that this would not be a ‘blanket speed limit’ and that local authorities would still be free to retain higher limits on appropriate roads.

Rod King MBE, founder of 20’s Plenty for Us, said: “The imminent arrival of new technology such as speed limiters on vehicles and Government policies encouraging more people to walk and cycle makes the speed limit we set all the more important.

“Moving to a default speed limit of 20mph is an essential building block in making our cities, towns and villages safer and more attractive places to walk, cycle and spend time outside.”

20mph – the current position
20mph limits are never far from the media spotlight – with ongoing debate about whether 20mph should become the default limit in urban and residential areas.

In June, MSPs voted down a bill which sought to make 20mph the default limit on residential streets in Scotland.

Opponents of the bill questioned whether the move would save lives and argued that local authorities are best placed to make decisions on where 20mph limits are appropriate.

In contrast, plans to make 20mph the default limit for residential areas in Wales appear likely to be implemented, with the country’s first minister, Mark Drakeford, issuing a statement of support in May.

Mr Drakeford cited the city-wide roll-out of 20mph limits by Cardiff Council, labelling it ‘a good example of what can be done’.

In London, TfL is adopting a similar stance and recently announced plans to introduce 20mph limits on all central London roads by May 2020.

The proposals, which were put out for consultation in June, are described as a key part of the mayor’s Vision Zero ambition to eliminate death and serious injury on the Capital’s transport network.

20mph limits, and whether they have a role to play in reducing collisions and casualties, will also be the subject of a debate at the National Road Safety Conference in November 2019.


The 11 charities behind the letter are: 20’s Plenty for Us, the Bicycle Association of Great Britain, Brake, British Cycling, Campaign for Better Transport London Group, Sustrans, Cycling UK, Living Streets, London Cycling Campaign, The Ramblers and RoadPeace.

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