Total 20 - Getting it Right

Total 20 has exceptional investment returns.  It is a transport intervention like no other which really benefits from multi-agency collaboration.  Signed, mandatory 20mph limits without humps is much more about ‘social engagement’ than ‘traffic engineering’.  Coordinated and sustained marketing of 20mph benefits will best raise driver awareness, compliance and contribute to making better communities.

Wide 20mph limits are proven effective.  Fewer casualties is a clear gain, yet the wider health benefits of increased active travel are worth more.  Total costs of road danger are at least £10bn in casualties, £10bn in non injury crashes and £16bn[1] in suppressed exercise, even before disability benefits and obesity changes. Road danger therefore costs us all a massive £36,000,0000,000 or £570 per head pa. 


Total 20 is affordable at £3 per head[2], with exceptional rates of return from improved quality of life. 20mph limits reduce danger, fear, pollution and noise. They raise public health and the local economy. Many experts acknowledge 20mph limits as the single biggest impact, affordable intervention to radically improve Britain today.


Maximising a 20mph limit’s cost effectiveness is best achieved by investing in education to maximise long-term driver compliance.  In the trade-off between maximising compliance and minimising cost the experience of first Local Authorities to implement 20mph limits is that raising compliance through public health education is worth the price to achieve lasting behaviour change toward slower speeds and raising active travel.  


Regarding the extent of limits, creating as wide a 20mph area as possible has the biggest impact and is most cost effective.  Monitoring speeds, pollution or noise will not give much new or useful information.  Measure driver understanding and resident satisfaction levels instead.


Our experience of implementations around the country suggests the following as a best practice model:

1)      Gain Cross Party Support. All local political parties and all Councillors buy in. Councillors are empowered by their authority officers or local experts to understand the evidence basis for slower speeds. City leaders must give clear, consistent messages to residents that Total 20 will happen.  E.g. circulate photos of the entire cabinet/executive with opposition leaders holding 20mph signs.

2)      Gain Cross Government Services Support. Ideally the Police, Fire, Ambulance, NHS, schools and transport operators are all briefed on the benefits of Total 20 and their logos, staff photos etc are prominently displayed to residents as being supportive.  E.g. hold a half day seminar early in the process for 20mph limits with key organisations and partner agencies to understand why 20’s Plenty and present this positively in internal communications e.g. in staff newsletters and intranet sites.

3)      Expert resident consultation and communication. Resident and community interest group level communication should go beyond the principle of lower speeds – which is widely accepted. Consultation is on the specifics related to their streets and motivations to comply.  Eg ask people about any marginal roads where exemption to 20mph is perhaps warranted.  Speak to key residents and community leaders, parish councillors, head teachers, taxi drivers e.g. at ward meetings, resident association groups, online and through press releases and the media.

4)      Communication by Local Experts. Ideally communication of the reasons for 20mph and the extent of the limits, especially to the wider public is done by public health communication experts, rather than transport planners alone.  The marketing budget must be high enough to make a significant impact.

5)      Avoid pilots. Small area trials have a lesser impact than an authority-wide plan and also fail to model wide-area implementations. By all means learn from a phased approach but keep the overall implementation period as short as possible.

6)      Decide on Roads Included.  Go large. Mass roll-out to include as many miles as possible, in a wide area. Make 20mph cover the whole community, town, borough or city.  Go to the extent of natural geographical limits e.g. up to the green belt, not just political or ward boundaries, which won’t make sense to drivers.  Any excluded roads must be those where drivers understand why higher limits may be justified- e.g. dual carriageways or very major arterials or where there is adequate pedestrian and cyclist off-road provision. Consider the simplicity of including main roads as chosen by Islington.

7)      Market research to find the messages that motivate drivers to go slower. Liverpool City Council’s social engagement partner found in market testing that the best motivation was ‘safer for children’ and used The 20 Effect people banner logo.  “Slower Speeds, Safer Streets” is their tagline.

8)      Limit monitoring of pre-speeds or technical changes to just a few key marginal roads. Look at average speeds along a stretch.  Detailed monitoring of speeds provides less value than monitoring resident and driver responsiveness.

9)      Issue Traffic Regulation Orders in the media and on lampposts. Do not deliver it to every home as this is a legal technical document that the average resident won’t read or engage with. 

10)  Implement in one go.  Start with the city centre and work outwards. Ideally a one off implementation since the message is easier and compliance will be higher. The next best is as a clockface sweep along natural boundaries or arterial roads.  Phased implementations must make sense to drivers and maximise contiguous and adjacent 20mph limits.

11)  Communicate about 20mph limits to drivers. Explain the scheme area with a website, posters and an easy-to-read, and well-illustrated leaflet delivered door to door or through school book bags (ideally with photos of real people). Keep explaining the benefits clearly – that 20mph limits enable drivers to help create a safer and better community for all.

12)  Do co-production marketing piggy back on existing community events. Make videos, use Twitter, FaceBook, radio, TV etc. Continue the public health messages with an extended branded campaign – e.g. 6 months before signs change and at least 18 months after to support long term behaviour change.

13)  Monitor success of communication to drivers about 20mph’s benefits. Adjust the campaign messages and media accordingly to get the right motivating message to the right target market segment.

14)  Take out unnecessary signs. Review existing signage to streamline it. Remember that in speed limits of 20mph or less most warning signs do not need lighting.

15)  Lobby for changed signage. Write to the government minister to gain approval to only put repeater signs on 20mph exceptions. This means just adding repeaters to the small minority of 30mph roads. This would hugely reduce costs.

16)  Celebrate 20mph limits with unveiling of signs, community events and street parties. Work with local 20mph activists or resident groups as ‘champions’ in the community. Take community leader photos.

17)  Police Enforcement. Light touch occasional enforcement significantly increases compliance.

18)  Monitor resident satisfaction – see the improvement in creating a better community!


Please ask 20’s Plenty for Us to help get your Total 20 right first time.  We are happy to critique documents and marketing materials. You could request a speaker to inform councillors and strategic partners on 20mph limit evidence and best practice, speak at a public meeting or help to design a marketing campaign.

[1] Transport’s non casualty costs (excluding disability benefits):-Direct NHS £1.08bn, Indirect NHS £8.2bn, Other Costs from National Audit Office £7bn=£16bn vs £10bn casualty costs pa.

[2]York £600k for 200k population £3 p/head, Middlesbrough £1.80, Oxford £2, Portsmouth £2.75, BathNES £3.58 

Open PDF

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.