How Public Health Professionals Can Help Win 20mph Limits

Most Public health (PH) professionals see that 20mph limits offer huge population-wide benefits such as reducing the health burden of crashes, chronic diseases, inactivity, stress, pollution, loneliness and inequalities. Public Health can be key players.

The Association of Directors of Public Health, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and World Health Organisation (WHO) all call for 20mph limits as the maximum speed where pedestrians and motorised traffic mix. Reasons include survivability, to lessen the burden of chronic health conditions like heart disease and obesity and for better health equality.

Elected Councillors in Highways Authorities (e.g. County Councils, Unitaries or London Boroughs), specifically the Cabinet member for Transport or directly elected Mayors, hold powers to set local road speeds.  Public Health departments sit within each Local Authority, with ring fenced funding and can get actively involved by:

  • Checking for a local 20’s Plenty Campaign at and being proactive in contacting to meet face to face with volunteer citizen activists and supporting grass roots 20mph calls.
  • Writing internal briefings for elected members on 20mph’s cost savings eg PH Wales Twenty miles per hour speed limits: a sustainable solution to public health problems in Wales, Sarah J Jones, Huw Brunt, Mar 2017 reports savings of £56-£94M pa.
  • Meeting the Member for Transport and Cabinet over how 20mph limits contributes to local health priorities.
  • Strongly advocate for 20mph’s known public health benefits to elected members and those with power at Public meetings and in council meetings and documents e.g. road speed strategy revisions and scrutiny evidence.
  • Requesting internally that elected Councillors ask Council officers to revise and update speed limit and road safety policies according to latest research and Government guidance on 20mph.
  • Help facilitate a round table, transparent discussion between local activists, cross party political groups of Councillors, PH, police and emergency services on how best to co-create and share ownership of a well designed, cost-effective 20mph scheme.
  • Suggest and support researching a public document such as a councillor briefing or scrutiny report on 20mph limits where this is necessary to reach a political consensus.
  • Bringing to the table a package of practical support to rolling out 20mph limits including PH officer time. Costing and funding the engagement and marketing of 20mph limits for behaviour change through reaching the hearts and minds of drivers. Offering health promotion expertise around awareness of 20mph’s benefits to raise voluntary compliance. The DPH in Calderdale paid half the £1m scheme cost. Liverpool and Birmingham’s Public Health also part funded 20mph. An innovative 20mph branded Love your Streets app was commissioned.
  • The DPH and other prominent PH staff can offer quotable soundbites, images and social media endorsements.

Rod King MBE, Founder of 20’s Plenty for Us commented:

“Public Health are increasingly key in winning local 20mph limit decisions. Their influence and funds can help end the postcode lottery over who benefits from civilised road speeds.  Those with chronic diseases, children, the disabled and elderly all gain the most from road danger reduction. Public Health have a duty of care to look after the wellbeing of all, but especially the vulnerable. 20mph is a win/win for Public Health at all levels.”

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  • Rod King
    commented 2018-01-21 17:36:31 +0000
    Dear Cllr Davies

    I am somewhat troubled by your suggestion that motorists who exceed speed limits are behaving “responsibly”. The whole point of local traffic authorities setting speed limits is that they warn drivers of risks and hazards which they may otherwise be unaware .

    By all means you may have a different opinion on what speed limit to set, and as a councillor you have every opportunity to have your opinion heard, but once set then it becomes mandatory regardless of your opinion. Any driver deeming himself or herself above the law deserves any sentence that breaking such a law involves.

    May I remind you of the long held principle in the UK that elected representatives of the people set laws, a professional police force enforces laws and an independent judiciary sentences those who are found breaking those laws.
  • Cllr Davies
    commented 2018-01-19 15:29:55 +0000
    I do not agree, Your proposals are playing into the hands of the governments revenue collection strategy. ever more opportunities to put up SPEED Cameras and hurt responsible motorists, who will be filling the coffers of the “ministry of speed-camera enforcement” via millions of unwarranted PCNs.