20mph As Scotland’s National Limit

People want 20mph streets.  Fortunately 20mph limits are affordable and do-able. What’s the best method? The Scottish Government can lead with a 20mph default for built up areas.  This is a cost effective win-win all round – eg for the legal process, consultation, signage, engagement, higher compliance and enforcement.

Numerous reports prove 20mph limits are popular and effective at reducing road danger and fear. Atkins’ (Department for Transport funded) interim results from extensive research on 15 case studies show half of residents supported 20mph prior to implementation rising to 75% afterward. Two thirds of drivers said new 20mph limits were a good idea.  60% of residents thought 20mph had provided a safer environment. Three quarters of people felt that 20mph limits were beneficial for their community.  Camden’s Cabinet member for transport Cllr Phil Jones said 20mph was his most popular transport policy ever.  20% fewer casualties is typical[1]. The City of Edinburgh found a trebling of cycling to school and doubling of permission for kids to play out[2]. 20mph is the foundation of active travel and traffic reduction. 20mph limits are a cost effective way to raise public health and exercise levels on the 90% of the urban public realm of streets and pavements. NICE and public health officials agree 20mph is best practice to reduce obesity.

Our call is for the Scottish Government to change to the National Speed limit from 30mph to 20mph whilst allowing traffic authorities to make exceptions where justified.

The majority of the largest 40 UK authorities have found the ‘national speed limit’ of 30mph not fit for purpose.  15.5m people now live where the default speed is 20mph.  We all need protection near our homes.

Changing the national limit to 20mph whilst letting local authorities sign the small number (perhaps up to 10%) of urban roads that might warrant a higher speed limit makes more sense economically than suggesting that cash-strapped local authorities pay to sign 90% of roads 20mph. 

Changing the National default limit is scientific and economic best practice – i.e, far cheaper per mile per hour reduced. Traffic Regulation Order legal costs would be minimal. Less public funding would be required for public consultations on exceptions to 20mph. A national limit change maximizes the potential for successful engagement with national marketing – eg TV ads.  20mph repeater signs would not be required and drivers are much more likely to comply as there would be a presumption of a 20mph limit unless otherwise signed.  Behaviour change programmes would be most likely to maximise benefits with few exceptions to a new 20mph standard.  Police can more easily enforce default 20mph as it presents fewer issues than having a patchwork of speeds and some drivers violating limits and claiming confusion.

Rod King MBE, Founder of 20’s Plenty for Us said:-  “Rather than a community by community adoption of 20mph as is happening in England, the Scottish Government can do better by making 20mph their National default Limit as soon as possible. 20mph is proven as best practice, popular and the cost effective way to do it is as a National Limit. Drivers are more likely to understand a universal adoption and voluntarily reduce their speeds. 20mph limits increase liveability and we urge the Scottish Government to use its new delegated powers to take this important step to make every Scottish community a better place to be.”

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