A Grant Shapps presidency of the International Transport Forum of the OECD is an opportunity to save millions of lives

The presidency of the ITF[0] rotates amongst its 64 member countries and is being transferred to UK near the start of the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety 2021-2030. This is a unique opportunity for UK Secretary of State, Grant Shapps to provide leadership and #CommitToAct by reducing the national urban speed limit to 20mph, a proven road safety initiative that could save millions of lives if adopted worldwide. This is a key call of the ITF and others to set 30km/h and 20mph limits wherever motors mix with people.

In 2018 ITF produced a report[1] on “Speed and Crash Risk” which concluded:

“Research has indicated that the death risk is about 4-5 times higher in collisions between a car and a pedestrian/road worker on foot at 50 km/h compared to the same type of collisions at 30 km/h. Considering this, there is a strong recommendation to reduce speed in urban areas.”

The ITF is not alone. The objective of the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety 2021-30 is to reduce the 1.3m annual global road deaths by 50% by 2030. A key action in this plan was the adoption of 30km/h and 20mph limits wherever motors mix with people. As the sole focus of the 2021 UN Global Road Safety Week[2], it was followed up this week in a global #StreetsforLife[3] campaign from the Global Alliance of Road Safety NGOs demanding that politicians Commit to Act and start with default 30km/h limits. The European Transport Safety Council has recently called[4] for urban 30km/h limits as a norm to reduce fuel consumption and reliance on Russian oil, with benefits for road safety, active travel, air quality and mobility equality.

Already thousands of communities have adopted 30km/h or 20mph as a norm. In May 2021 Spain adopted a national 30km/h urban/village default and Wales will do so in September 2023. Scotland plans for 20mph to be the norm by 2024. Although England already has 20 million people living in 20mph places, it currently has a national 30mph limit with local authorities required to justify and set 20mph street by street in an administratively heavy process. It is far smarter and cost-effective to set 20mph nationally and allow local authorities to set exceptions where justifiably safe for vulnerable road users. And it is popular, good for business and economy, enhances community life and lowers the pressure on health services.

This is the UK government’s opportunity to show a global lead in following best practice by making 20mph the national urban/village norm. With typical casualty savings of 20% when setting such limits, this is an opportunity to have a significant influence on meeting the UN objectives and reducing road casualties, fatalities and trauma across the world. It would be good for England, good for the UK and also good for the rest of the world.

Rod King MBE, Founder and Campaign Director for 20's Plenty for Us commented :

“The world is changing on many fronts. What stands out from research in all countries is that our urban traffic speeds and volumes are too high to protect vulnerable road users from death and injury and that 30km/h should be the norm where motors mix with people. This is a huge opportunity for Grant Shapps to show leadership by committing to lower urban and village speed limits at national level as the most cost-effective way to reduce road death and trauma and to bring climate change benefits. We urge him to do so.”

[0] https://www.itf-oecd.org/about-itf

[1] https://www.itf-oecd.org/sites/default/files/docs/speed-crash-risk.pdf

[2] https://www.unroadsafetyweek.org/en/home

[3] https://www.roadsafetyngos.org/act-now/committoact/our-call-to-action/

[4] https://etsc.eu/etsc-statement-on-eu-save-energy-speed-recommendations/

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