Road Safety News

Lib Dem conference backs 20mph limits

Tuesday 25th September 2012

The Liberal Democrat conference has called on English councils to “actively consider” introducing a maximum 20mph speed limit in all residential roads (BBC News), a move that has been welcomed by Brake the road safety charity.

Conference delegates supported plans to move towards 20mph limits on residential streets “over the next few years”, but rejected a call for a mandatory change to be implemented over the next decade.

While the conference vote is not binding on the Government the Lib Dems hope it will influence policy.

A motion put forward by Sarah Osborne, a councillor in Lewes in East Sussex, called for the switch to 20mph to be phased in over 10 years, but this was amended. Party members approved the amendment, - agreeing the process should be driven by local councils, not central Government - and should not be mandatory.

BBC News reported that 20mph zones in residential areas in cities including Brighton, Oxford, Bath and Portsmouth have proved popular and “made roads safer”. Campaigners say that secondary benefits include reduced congestion and emissions and that the cost of changing street signs is small compared with the benefit of fewer lost lives.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of Brake, said: “Brake strongly welcomes this recognition by the Liberal Democrats that 20mph is the most appropriate speed limit on residential streets. Slowing down to 20 gives drivers far more chance to react in an emergency and avoid hitting someone, significantly reducing the threat posed to the most vulnerable road users.

“There is a huge amount of enthusiasm at the moment for enabling people to live healthy, active lifestyles as a post-2012 legacy. We know fast traffic is a major barrier to this. 20mph limits are evidenced to make walking and cycling safer and they are widely supported.”

Click here to read the full BBC News report.



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Just to confirm Eric Bridgstock's reference to my web site on 20mph and in particular Portsmouth's area.

It has shown for some time how, properly compared, Portsmouth's results were, in the first 2 years, mostly worse or much worse than nationally.

I have now obtained the 3rd and 4th year results, which continue to show significant increases in serious injuries despite substantial falls in the rest of the country. I hope to put a detailed analysis of the data on my site within a few days.

I would also like to agree with Andrew Fraser - far too much policy these days is set by those who fail to understand that real life is not as simple as they think, and who seem unaware of the Law of Unintended Consequences that lurks around the next corner.
Idris Francis Petersfield

Agree (4) | Disagree (11)

For those looking for evidence and argument for the detrimental effect of 20mph on road safety, please see Idris Francis's website, where some of my material can be found at the bottom of this page ...
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (7) | Disagree (14)

Ms S Down, The "sudden" aspect of collisions is investigated in the 2nd motorcycle report at 1.9:

About 550 fatal or injury collisions per day in stats 19, probably over 2,000 per day in reality according to the DfT. So, including all non-injury accidents, your estimate of 10,000 collisions a day seems about right.

Approach speed would clearly be relevant in all collisions, as would weather, driver/ rider/ pedestrian/ cyclist concentration levels, hazard concentrations and a host of other factors. The problem is that each factor will not be independent of the others. Change one and others change.

It's complex and that's why scientific trials are needed.
Dave Finney - Slough

Agree (7) | Disagree (6)

I'm interested to know what evidence there is out there in relation to increases in accidents as a result of a new 20mph initiative. If anyone can point me to that evidence it would be most appreciated.
Timmyrobbo - Huddersfield

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

"Emergencies are extremely rare"? Approximately 10,000 collisions a day in the UK (rare?). An account of each of them by those involved would probably use the word "suddenly" e.g "...the child suddenly ran out..." or "..the car in front stopped suddenly..." etc. Can one therefore envisage a scenario - in an urban area particularly - where "emergency" braking did not immediately precede a collision and therefore where the approach speed would not be relevant?
Slow Down for Safety

Agree (6) | Disagree (4)

With so many variables involved, a controlled trial is really one of the only ways to ascertain whether a change has a positive, negative or neutral effect. The change may be based on sound scientific theory (i.e. your stopping distance is shorter at a slower speed) and/or evidence from other countries, but it still needs to be evaluated according to the way people drive/behave in the situation being changed (i.e. in specific residential/urban areas in the UK).

Surely we all want to know that something actually works/doesn't work rather than investing significant amounts of time, effort and money on hoping, presuming or guessing?
Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

Agree (8) | Disagree (1)

"Slowing down to 20 gives drivers far more chance to react in an emergency and avoid hitting someone."

Thankfully, emergencies are extremely rare - even poor drivers seldom have emergencies or (in the extreme) collisions. So, if that is where 20mph benefits, it's aiming at a minuscule target.

But 20mph encourages pedestrians to take less care - something instantly visible in any 20mph limit, and that is why casualties increase despite reduced traffic volume in virtually every 20mph scheme.

The Lib Dems and Brake are ignoring all of the evidence and swallowing the emotional pleas.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (4) | Disagree (9)

There is evidence that 20 mph zones work - Europe. If they led to more crashes and higher KSIs, then why do countries such as Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands have lower KSIs, despite having widespread 30 Kmh (18 mph) zones?
Steve, Merseyside

Agree (2) | Disagree (5)

Are you kidding? Which part of "Slowing down to 20 gives drivers far more chance to react in an emergency and avoid hitting someone" are you finding it hard to grasp?
Slow Down for Safety

Agree (4) | Disagree (6)

The assertion from Brake is no substitute for the scientific approach recommended by Dave Finney. Every action produces unexpected reactions - especially in the roads environment. Take care, I'd say.
Andrew Fraser, STIRLING

Agree (6) | Disagree (3)

Evidence often finds the obvious to be false. It is obvious that the earth we are on is stationary, yet when the evidence is examined ...

It is obvious that speed cameras slowing drivers down means fewer collisions, yet when the evidence is examined:

It isn't just Portsmouth where serious injuries have risen after 20mph introduced, I've recently found out it's also happened here in Slough.
Dave Finney - Slough

Agree (6) | Disagree (11)

Dave - it's there in the 6th paragraph of the news item: "Slowing down to 20 gives drivers far more chance to react in an emergency and avoid hitting someone." You don't need "controlled scientific trials" to see what's obvious!
Slow Down for Safety

Agree (7) | Disagree (8)

This is a major missed opportunity. The Lib Dems could have voted to introduce 20mph in controlled scientific trials and then the benefits (or otherwise) could have been demonstrated and quantified.

They chose instead to follow standard practice in road safety of ignoring basic safety engineering and simply implementing without controls.

The evidence so far suggests there may be more serious injuries after 20mph, but this information appears to be being withheld from the official publicity.

Surely we do want to know whether 20mph improves safety or makes it worse?
Dave Finney - Slough

Agree (9) | Disagree (13)