Report from PACTS meeting calling for 20mph policy

Professor John Whitelegg gave a presentation at the PACTS (Parliamentary Advisory Committee on Transport Safety) on the need  for PACTS to update its policy to universally adopt the policy of the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) on urban and village streets with regard to adopting 30km/h or 20mph limits.

His report follows :-

PACTS Members’ Meeting

7th March 2019

Portcullis House, Westminster

John Whitelegg gave an invited 5 minute presentation on 20mph to the meeting as part of the agenda item “Consultation on future PACTS Priorities”.

The presentation covered 6 points

  • PACTS gave evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee in 2007-08 and said “PACTS recommends 20mph as the default speed limit in all built-up areas”. The investigation and  the evidence it received was published by the House of Commons with the title “Ending the scandal of complacency:  road safety beyond 2010”
  • The use of the word “complacency” is even more relevant in 2019 than it was in 2008. A great deal has been done in the UK (e.g. seat belts) to protect those in cars but very little has been done to protect pedestrians and cyclists.  The failure to protect these vulnerable road users is illustrated by Dutch-UK comparisons.  The Netherlands has extensive 30kph/20mph limits embedded in a total safe system culture.  The UK does not.  Pedestrian deaths in the road traffic environment are 25% of all deaths in the UK and 8% in the Netherlands.  Child pedestrian deaths per million children are 2.8 in the UK and 0.7 in the Netherlands.  The Netherlands  is x4 times safer than the UK for children
  • The evidence in support of 20mph is overwhelming e.g. the 80 references in the report of the Director of Public Health for Wales and it is unconvincing for any organisation  to rely on “there is no evidence” as a reason for not supporting 20mph
  • There is a serious problem in any public policy area and this applies a fortiori in road safety if the overwhelming balance of opinion, evidence and recommendation is in favour of a clear intervention, as in the case of 20mph,  and an organisation rejects that overwhelming    If the WHO, BMA, FPH, a Royal College, NICE, PHE, ETSC  and many others support 20mph it is just not credible for an organisation to say “you are all wrong”
  • There is a very serious policy failure in the UK on the 20mph issue and this is clear if we compare seat belt wearing with 20mph speed limits. If we applied the current approach to 20mph in the UK to seat belts then every council would have to make up its own mind whether or not to adopt mandatory seat belt wearing.  Seat belt wearing could be compulsory in the West Midlands but optional in Shropshire leading to the unsurprising outcome that seat belt wearing rates were low.   It would be even worse in Shropshire where the Council has clearly stated that its policy is “we reject one size fits all”.   This means that if the councillors for Shrewsbury approve of seat belt wearing then it would be implemented but if they took a different view in Ludlow the measure would be rejected.  This is nonsense  but this is the policy approach applied to 20mph
  • The time has come for PACTS to “step up to the plate”. I request that PACTS unequivocally adopts the policy of the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC).   PACTS is a founder member of the ETSC.


Encouraging EU Member States to adopt maximum 30km/h speed limits in residential areas and areas where there are large numbers of cyclists and pedestrians, or where there could be potential to increase cycling and walking by investing in infrastructure.

End Note

After John’s presentation there was no time for discussion and John offered further discussion by e-mail or by face-to-face meetings and David Davies said he would circulate John’s e-mail

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  • Tony Claxton
    commented 2019-03-27 10:32:18 +0000
    Great idea 20 is plenty especially near schools . Brought this up on our Protecting our Town Facebook page and became the subject of hate mail and ageism . This is the mind set you are up against