DfT 20mph Evaluation – Liveable streets road block or foundation for a national 20mph limit

Back in 2014 the question for the government and DfT was whether 20mph limits were popular, are they the correct limit and should there be more of them. But the more we look at how the whole 20mph movement has developed we see that these questions have already been answered for us.

We have separately reviewed[1] the report, but let’s put the report on one side and look at where we are now.

Are 20mph limits popular?
20mph limits are hugely popular. We know this from all the post implementation surveys. The report merely confirms this.

Is 20mph the right limit?

20mph is the right limit. It is now endorsed by WHO, OECD, iRAP, Global Network of Road Safety Legislators, Global alliance of Road Safety NGOs, etc., as the safe speed limit where vehicles mix with motor vehicles.

Add to that the Public Health bodies in England, Wales and Scotland who are calling for a national 20mph default limit.

This is endorsed by the way that 20mph limits are being implemented. Look at Bristol, Edinburgh, Calderdale, Birmingham, London, etc with their focus on engagement and social marketing as key influencers in strengthening the public consensus that 20 is plenty where people are. This is also being driven by aspirations for public health, active travel, air quality alongside other interventions which use wide-area 20mph limits as a foundation.

Those more recent implementations are also showing significant casualty reduction benefits in Bristol, Calderdale, Birmingham and Edinburgh.

And look at the increasing endorsement from the police with Avon and Somerset, West Midlands, West Yorkshire and others pro-actively enforcing 20mph limits. And some local authorities are now considering working with the approval of their local police to conduct their own enforcement.

And we are on the cusp of technology having a significant effect. London’s buses are incorporating Intelligent Speed Adaptation to ensure compliance with other public sectors and works vehicles looking at similar initiatives from their own Health and Safety obligations. And latest EU plans are for future vehicles to incorporate ISA as well.

How to implement more 20mph limits?

The extent of 20mph limit adoption is also growing even whilst awaiting this report. Since 2014 new adoptions of authority-wide default 20mph limits mean that now 25% of the UK population live in such places, including over half of the largest 40 urban authorities and most of Inner London. And that endorsement by London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Birmingham goes beyond their own roads and calls for a national default 20mph limit for consistency and best practice.

And if we look abroad the same is happening. In Europe 30kmh is becoming the norm for so many towns and cities. And around the world we see the 20’s Plenty/Love 30 (kmh) movement and implementations spreading.

The debate for what should we do in 2020 and beyond is not about “whether 20” but about “how 20”. Politicians, public and NGOs are debating how to implement a change to set 20mph as the national limit for lit roads whilst allowing local authorities to decide which roads can justify a higher limit. Already a bill is being discussed in the Scottish parliament and debates are being held in the Welsh Assembly. Both with cross-party support.

So, this DfT Evaluation is important but needs to be put into the context of “20 for the 20’s” so that we can learn from the early implementations to make national adoption as successful as possible.

This report endorses what has been developed in parallel to the reports commissioning, gestation and publication. These include :-

  • 20mph limits reduce vehicle speeds in varying degrees based on pre-speed, level of enforcement and public consensus.
  • That in 20mph limits most people (70% residential, 85% city) travel at speed less than the enforcement threshold of 25mph.
  • Casualty reductions tend to be in the order of 10-30% when 20mph limits are introduced (Bristol, Calderdale, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Bath).
  • Enforcement is a significant factor in both driver compliance and public consensus that it is a serious limit.
  • A 20mph limit is symbolic of a change in societal standards and a foundation for other interventions on road safety and active travel.
  • A 20mph limit is considered best practice and the right speed limit for where vehicles mix with pedestrians and cyclists.

Rod King MBE, Founder and Campaign Director of 20’s Plenty for Us said:

“We come to the end of this decade and start to debate how our urban and village community streets should look and feel for the next decade. We need to be clear about whether we want those community streets to support active travel, to be friendly places for children, elderly and disabled, to have air that is fit to breathe and most importantly does not kill vulnerable road users who make mistakes.

The choice is ours. We can either have the vision of those streets being a better place to be with a 20mph limit alongside other interventions, or we can wring our hands keep on endorsing a 30mph limit that was plucked out of the air in 1934 and continues to kill or injure nearly 100,000 people annually on those 30mph roads.

If we choose that vision of those streets becoming better places then the report will lead us to the conclusion that :-

  • That a 20mph limit should be the default for urban and village streets with exceptions only where justified.
  • That 20mph limits should be subject to robust and routine enforcement.
  • That Intelligent Speed Adaptation should be mandatory on all works vehicles.

Lets do it!”

[1] DfT 20mph Evaluation – Reviewed by 20’s Plenty - http://www.20splenty.org/dft_20mph_evaluation

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