Road Safety News

News report ‘seriously misrepresents’ York situation: Rod King

Thursday 18th July 2013

Rod King MBE, founder of the 20’s Plenty for Us campaign, has hit back at a news report about a survey about 20mph limits in York.

The news report in the York Press, subsequently also covered on this newsfeed, said that a survey of 13,000 residents in west York drew just 97 responses - 87 of whom opposed proposals for reducing the speed limit to 20mph, with just seven in favour.

Mr King says that the report on Road Safety News “seriously misrepresents the actual situation in York”.

In an email to Nick Rawlings, editor of Road Safety News, Rod King provided the following “facts about York and the ‘survey’ which may help readers to better understand this story”:

“In numerous local and national surveys 60%+ of residents support 20mph as the right speed limits for residential roads. The 2012 British Social Attitudes Survey reported 73% in favour and only 11% disagreeing with 20mph limits.

“The “survey” referred to in the article was not a “survey” at all. In the past York has issued any Traffic Regulation Order notification by post to all residents whose frontages were effected. It therefore chose to also do this with the West area 20mph limit scheme and these 13,000 residents were sent the notification.

“The Speed Limit Order ‘Information Pack’ was a four-page document which provided a detailed ‘Notice of Proposals’. As any TRO it is designed to fully detail the proposals in technical terms so that objections can be sought and their nature understood. Whilst it asked for community support for the scheme it invited objectors to respond in writing. Its objective was to seek objections rather than survey opinion. Hence it is hardly surprising that most of the responses were from objectors.

“In addition the issue of 20mph limits in York is highly politically polarised. There are a number of reasons for this, but the York situation is atypical and in most local authorities implementing 20mph limits there is broad cross-party support. Hence it has become a ‘controversial’ issue for the press.

“In reality 13,000 residents who were about to get a 20mph limit outside their house were posted the Speed Limit Order and asked to write in with objections if they had any. The fact that less than 0.7% did so should be seen as sign of just how uncontroversial this initiative actually is.”

Responding, Nick Rawlings said: “We merely covered the story as reported in the York Press.

“Our policy is to remain ‘neutral’ in our news coverage – we report the news, rather than make the news.”


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From all that you have posted on this page, I see nothing from you claiming that 20mph reduces casualties, and nothing to suggest that 20's Plenty is a road safety organisation.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (7) | Disagree (4)


20’s Plenty for Us is a voluntary organisation that supports grass roots aspirations within communities for setting an appropriate speed limit on residential and community streets. We aim to provide information to enable community debates to take place which look at how those communities wish to share their streets for the equitable benefit of all. Whenever we supply information it is usually fully referenced and comes from professional or academic organisations where papers have been put to the test of peer review.

The problem is that within the “papers” published by Independent Road Safety Research the figures are usually presented as percentages without data and certainly without reference to the source of the data. There is also no peer review. The conclusions of those papers also gets compromised when people find that far from providing comprehensive research it is instead focused just on the data sets which seem to support the “researcher’s” views.

With regard to speed as a contributor to collisions you make the mistake of ignoring the fact that in most collisions it is the speed of participants which almost always contributes to the collision not being avoided.
Rod King, Cheshire 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (6) | Disagree (7)


In York it was not re-elected members but an election which rejected the old “executive member” and brought in a new one. I am not sure that even if an executive member were an “avid cyclist” how this should preclude him/her making a valid and balanced judgement. Presumably with many years driving cars around and being a regional spokesperson for IAM then you are an “avid motorist”. Would that compromise your judgement?

Regarding police support for selective enforcement based on their views/priorities then this is a matter for the communities and their Police and Crime Commissioners. There is majority support for 20mph limits with most of those wanting enforcement. The minority (11% according to BSAS) who are against often claim to be against because the police don’t enforce it. This indicates a separation between community aspirations and police empathy.

My remark regarding “those who care least about our communities” was targeted at those who break speed limits that have been democratically decided by community representatives and the idea that speed limits should be set higher as a consequence. I presumed that you would not be included in that group.
Rod King, Cheshire 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (5) | Disagree (7)

Alan said in his first comment: “At twenty it is ridiculously slow for most situations ..” ....for whom? ..the motorist in a hurry? Let’s not forget that urban/residential speed limits are there primarily for the benefit of the non-motorised road users and residents of these roads, not for drivers who might feel impeded by them. I agree that on modern distributor roads and above, a 20 limit would be too low, however I gather that the majority of 20s will be for local access roads, estate roads and terraced streets in which case a 20 limit is definitely not ‘absurdly slow’. Motorists who moan about 20 limits in these roads are being rather selfish if I may say so and it is this mind-set that campaigns like 20s Plenty are trying to change. I think he's right about the compliance and enforcement though - my main concern on these schemes.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (2) | Disagree (8)

Ben (Sustran) Knowles

Please look at the details from Portsmouth's much vaunted scheme on:

That webpage also includes my handout prepared for the 2012 20mph Places Conference and a lot of other reports and comment about speed management schemes and other road safety topics.

If reducing limits to 20mph slashed casualties by 40% etc, it would be all over the 20's Plenty website. Reducing limits has no such effect, and that's why 20's Plenty are rather sheepish about the effects on casualties.

In any case, as excess speed is generally agreed to be a major contributor to no more than about 6-7% of collisions, it is impossible that reducing speeds (of some law abiding drivers) could achieve reductions in excess of 6-7%.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (7) | Disagree (7)

I am pleased that Rod allows me to have my opinions.
Regarding people not objecting, rest assured that many people have lost interest in engaging with local and national government and that is seen in the turn out for elections. Re elected members setting limits, yes that happens but often via an executive member, who just might be an avid cyclist.

Regarding police carrying out enforcement, well that is the point, there is very little traffic enforcement. Of course police will support the idea of a 20 limit but certainly having spoken to a few forces including my home force, they will not be enforcing either with safety cameras or patrol cars. The four or so that I understand cover the whole of Avon and Somerset will not be busying themselves with 20 limits.

If I am encompassed in Rod's remark about 'those who care least about our communities' then I will happily forward him my community involvement CV including the 33 service as a member of Keynsham Lions Club (not rugby) as well as my work (own time) now as the co-ordinator of Keynsham Foodbank. Some of us can care greatly and constantly about our communities but still make logical predictions that people will widely abuse 20 limits and there is little or no one out there to stop them.
Alan Hale - South Gloucestershire.

Agree (9) | Disagree (4)

Hi Eric,

I've never seen any evidence that reducing a speed limit increases serious injuries, but I'd be really interested to see it. All the evidence I've seen shows overwhelmingly that reduced speed limits slash road casualties by 40%+ and cut serious injuries and deaths by more. Of course this is not the main advantage of 20mph limits in my view (increased liveability for residents with less traffic noise and making it easier to cross the road) but it is important. Please supply your sources so I can take a look?
Ben Knowles

Agree (4) | Disagree (8)


I am perfectly happy for Alan to have his opinions. But we have in this country a principle of elected community representatives setting laws and speed limits, a professional police enforcing them and an independent judiciary applying sentences. The separation of these is a key component of our individual and collective freedoms.

I am pleased that in many parts of the country police are collaborating with colleagues from other agencies to support lower speed limits and gain compliance. Over the years that I have been involved with this initiative I have also seen the police providing ever increasing support to 20mph limits and am confident that this trend will continue for the future.

It really is a sign of a healthy society that rather than limit our aspirations to the standard of those who care least about our communities, we should engage and debate and sometimes enforce to create a better and more equitable use of the public spaces between houses that we call streets. I am delighted that this is happening on an increased scale across the country.
Rod King, Cheshire 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (9) | Disagree (8)

I am slightly amused with the idea that there could be residents who would have wanted to object in writing but could not be bothered to read to the end of the page to see the invitation to object.

Speed limits are decided by elected councillors based on the information presented to them. The whole point of a TRO is to inform residents of what is being proposed. In York’s case the decision and development of plans was preceded by surveys showing majority support and an election where the policy on limits was a clear element in respective manifestos.

“Scientific trials” are all very well in laboratories, but behaviour change based on shared community values cannot be isolated in quite the same way.
Rod King, Cheshire 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (10) | Disagree (9)

Rod, thank you for the link and I agree with you that that was hardly a “consultation”.

Those who might support 20mph could not be expected to realise they should respond, and those who might oppose 20mph might not even realise that they could object unless they read the whole of the letter right down to the last paragraph.

Furthermore, the information makes very clear that 20mph is going ahead anyway therefore the vast majority of both supporters and objectors might well think that responding would be a complete waste of time.

For the results of consultations to have any merit, people must feel their views are sought, they will be listened to and they must be provided with competent and unbiased evidence. I don't think any of these has been achieved and that's why I am in favour of 20mph, being introduced only within scientific trials.
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (7) | Disagree (3)

Alan also makes the observations that: "twenty is ridiculously slow for most situations" and "wasting £500,000" (something that is happening across the country at a time of financial belt-tightening).

Alan also says "confidently predict that the majority of drivers and riders will abuse the limit and there is every chance that those supporting it will be those who abuse it".
I would be interested in seeing your response to those wise words.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (7) | Disagree (8)

Alan makes the interesting comment about police abdicating responsibility for roads policing. With 20 years experience of the same then he is perhaps well placed to make this observation and understand the reasons why this may have happened.

Some people have asked me whether it is time for some "moving traffic offences" to be enforced by any traffic authority as is the case in London and these to be extended to include urban speed limits!!
Rod King, Cheshire 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (5) | Disagree (9)

Thanks Nick

Readers may also find a wide range of Briefing Sheets at

We accept that these come from our particular perspective on 20mph limits, but we do try to reference any research or statistics with the source.
Rod King, Cheshire 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (6) | Disagree (8)

I have to agree with Ian Shelton's summing up of the situation. As road safety professionals we should be aware that road users as a whole do not obey the law as they should. Lack of response to consultation notices reflects the general lack of interest in local government, until your bins have not been emptied.

As an elected member in Bath & North East Somerset, my council is about to introduce 20 mph limits throughout with the exception of main through roads. In the process wasting £500,000. There will be no traffic calming and there will be no police enforcement. Therefore there will be a greater level of speed limit abuse than at 30.
At twenty it is ridiculously slow for most situations, unless factors dictate, 25 is better and many more might try to achieve it, better still would be a real effort to improve driver training from the outset, so that people make conscious and considered decisions as to their speed.

I recently slowed to 20 on the approach to a school crossing patrol in Bath and within a part time 20 limit and guess what overtook me, a cyclist!

Having spent twenty years of my police service on motor patrol I can confidently predict that the majority of drivers and riders will abuse the limit and there is every chance that those supporting it will be those who abuse it, however as the police have more or less abidicated roads policing they are unlikely to get caught. So what is the worth?
Alan Hale - South Gloucestershire.

Agree (17) | Disagree (7)

May I suggest a visit to the 'speed' section of the Road Safety Knowledge Centre where there are a number of reports into the effectiveness, or otherwise, of 20mph limits/zones.

These include:
• a study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine which looks at the cost benefit analysis of 20mph zones in London
• A briefing note on the topic produced by RoSPA
• A review of 20mph zone implementation in England, published by DfT
• Another study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine into the effect of 20mph zones on casualties in London which suggests a 41% reduction in casualties
• And a report by Warrington Council into a 20mph pilot in the borough which suggests a 25% reduction in injury collision occurrence.

I've not read all of these reports in detail but perhaps it would be useful if those who wish to comment on this topic from a position of authority were to do so.

If you have difficulty finding any of the reports I will happily forward links. Hope this helps.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (12) | Disagree (0)

My "hypothesis" that 20mph is bad for road safety is supported by reasoned argument, observations that anyone with their eyes open can see in a 20mph area, and the results that I have obtained or been supplied with. You have provided no evidence or argument that 20mph has a positive effect on serious injuries. It is unfortunate that your scienceornot website cites man-made global warming in support of its explanation.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (7) | Disagree (11)

I provided the link to the actual Information Pack so that readers could make up their own minds about it. The idea that a hypothesis can be proven by simply requiring that people to prove it is not true is known as the "reversed responsibility response". It is explained here:-

..Interesting reading!!
Rod King, Cheshire 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (5) | Disagree (5)

It’s not enough to condemn any road safety intervention - whether it be engineering, enforcement or education - just by totting up and comparing before and after figures. There may have been an increase - and even that is only based on reported accidents and not necessarily the actual number - but unless you know the individual circumstances – i.e. what happened, why and how – you can’t really conclude anything and it could just become speculation to reinforce a biased view.

Anyone tasked with looking into accidents with a link or suspected or presumed common cause at for example, cluster sites or, over wider areas such as recently introduced 20 speed limits, would not simply accept the total number of accidents as irrefutable evidence of a problem or link – there may not be one. They would look at the circumstances of each one and then decide - not speculate.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (10) | Disagree (3)

Hugh (and Rod)
I've yet to find, or be supplied with, a 20mph scheme where serious injuries (adjusted for traffic volume and trends) have not gone up. That is consistent with observed behaviour in 20mph zones where pedestrians wander into the roads without looking, while cars are often travelling at much the same speed as they were pre-20mph. Those pedestrians can also be seen using crossings while cars have a green light. To prove me wrong, simply find a scheme where 20mph can be credited with a measured improvement in serious injuries.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (8) | Disagree (8)

"Like all 20mph schemes, it will increase serious injuries..." Like I said, a bit less hyperbole and more rational comment please. Does Eric mean a coincidental increase, or as a direct result of? If the latter, could Eric explain or demonstrate (not speculate) by reference to actual known accidents, how a 20mph limit does this?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (9) | Disagree (5)

Thanks for that but, having read it, it is a propaganda pack underpinned by wishful thinking. It paints a rosy picture of the 20mph plans and contains only a hint that drivers are expected to take "additional care" (but without acknowledging that this is because vulnerable road users are being encouraged to take less care). Like all 20mph schemes, it will increase serious injuries (when adjusted for traffic volume and trends) and is therefore not a road safety scheme.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (10) | Disagree (7)

For information, here is a link to the actual Information Pack pdf which was sent out to residents:-
Rod King, Cheshire 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (6) | Disagree (2)

Can we have less twisting of other people's words, Hugh? David never said "all motorists", you inserted the "all". I read it as implying "some motorists", which is what I am sure he meant, and which is a valid comment.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (10) | Disagree (2)

Could we have less hyperbole and more rational comment in these forums please? e.g. “Wherever I drive, speed limits are ignored by motorists” Really? By all of them? So nobody ever, ever drives at less than 30mph absolutely anywhere in the towns and cities in the County of Northamptonshire then?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (9) | Disagree (5)

Upholding the current speed limits would be a massive step forward, reducing incidents.
Wherever I drive, speed limits are ignored by motorists. What is the use of bringing in new speed limits if the existing ones in place are not going to be policed? 20MPH will be ignored just the same, spend the costs accurately, don't just tick a box!
David Matthews Desborough Northamptonshire

Agree (18) | Disagree (2)

Am I the only one that thinks the installation of 20mph limits is a political wheeze under the banner of 'road safety'. I see them introduced on roads that have mean speeds way above 20 with no traffic calming measures (or police/enforcement support). All this means is that drivers/riders exceed the speed limit by 10mph more than they exceeded the previous limit. It gives false hope to residents and brings the genuine 20 limits/zones into disrepute. Stop bowing to political pressure to introduce these measures where they are clearly inappropriate!
Ian Shelton, Sheffield

Agree (20) | Disagree (9)

Whether we call it a notification, survey or consultation, the recipients would have been free to find out as much as they wanted to about the scheme and 20 limits in general and then decide if they wanted to object and in the final analysis, it would appear that approximately 12900 out of 13000 people who could have objected – didn’t. As a means of letting people ‘have their say’, I don’t know why anyone has a problem with this – it’s surely more honest and open than the Council keeping the advertising to a minimum in the hope of trying to sneak it through unopposed.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (19) | Disagree (7)

According to their website, City of York Council performed a “consultation” inviting households to “have their say”. So this was not merely a TRO requesting objections, it was a “consultation” and therefore the word “survey” seems entirely appropriate.

I have read through the original RSGB story again and I can't find anything that is even questionable in RSGBs short news item, let alone a single thing that “seriously misrepresents” any part of the consultation. RSGB do actually use the word “consultation” in their news item, the same word the City of York Council themselves use.

We must give credit where it's due. Rod King appears to be a master of PR able to exert powerful influence over those in media and the government. If I were a member of a political pressure group, I would love to have him on board.
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (16) | Disagree (9)

Rod King evidently believes he is an authority on what constitutes a valid survey, and quotes “numerous local and national surveys”.

My local 20mph survey asked: "Traffic speeds within most of the study area are low. The implementation of a 20mph zone together with measures to slow traffic in those locations where speeds are too high would produce a worthwhile improvement in the quality of life for residents. Do you agree with the proposals, are they worthwhile?"

This question tells the public that the improvement is worthwhile, and then asks them if the proposals are worthwhile! Despite that blatant bias, over 27% disagreed with the question.

As Rod's “60%+” figure for residents supporting 20mph schemes is based on the results of such “surveys”, his claim of public support is built on sand.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (15) | Disagree (18)

I was unhappy with the initial news report because in my opinion it misinformed readers on this site. This wasn't Nick's fault and he cannot be expected to check and vet every new story which is added here.

Readers should be aware that in York the 2010 elections were conducted with the previous transport member opposing wide area limits and with the (then) opposition clearly including wide-area limits for the whole city (with exceptions) in its manifesto. The outcome of the election was that the previous transport member lost his seat and the opposition gained a majority to become the current administration.

Since then the new administration has been carrying out its election promises. Inevitably this has been opposed by the opposition. I can therefore assure readers that democracy is very much "alive and kicking" in York.

Regarding the comments about the £500,000. Note that this was for the whole city and not just this phase.
Rod King, Cheshire 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (14) | Disagree (9)

Dave: To be fair to the City of York Council, legally they didn’t actually have to notify the residents, as I’m fairly sure there’s no statutory requirement to notify highway frontagers of a speed limit TRO and therefore, by sending out 13,000 notices giving those who might not have agreed with the proposal, the opportunity to object, no-one could accuse them of not being open about it - the very opposite in fact. They notified so many people, I’m surprised I didn’t get a notice myself and I’m 120 miles away. The actual TRO notice is on the Council's website.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (24) | Disagree (5)

This is a true shame, because the press article raises important questions, but they are obscured by a chronic misinterpretation of the process. To have reached this point the scheme will have been approved by the elected representatives of the community, namely Ward Councillors and the lead Councillors for Transportation. In all probability key community groups will have been consulted. There may have been representations already from the community in favour of the scheme. This last stage is to elicit objections, which must be considered on their merits. Sometimes these bring about amendments to schemes, but in terms of sheer numbers, this is a clear if tacit endorsement of the scheme. But the key questions, "Will this scheme change anything for the better?" and "Could more be achieved by spending the money differently?" are lost. At least in York the Councillors are accountable for the decision. The same cannot be said for unelected people who promote this concept nationally without any idea whether or not it is the best use of public money for casualty reduction.
Tim Phipot.Wolverhampton

Agree (23) | Disagree (9)

Just to clarify the position. Rod was unhappy with the original story because in his view it 'seriously misrepresented' the position in York. I invited him to respond and then decided to publish his response in full as a follow up story - which provides the opportunity for others to comment on what he is saying.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (18) | Disagree (0)

Rod does seem to be a master of PR as he could have made his comments on the RSGB story. I was surprised he hadn't and now I know why. He has managed to create a new story so that his views can be presented in full. This perhaps shows why his political pressure group is so successful.

If York didn't “survey” their citizens, then:
1) the notification “asked for community support for the scheme” therefore there were very few who actively supported 20mph. Are there 7 members of 20splenty in York by any chance?.

2) What precisely did the notification say and exactly what were the questions?

3) Has, or will, York actually survey their citizens before implementation?

4) If they have (or will), did they ask those who will have to pay the £500,000, those affected, or just the residents of the roads?
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (15) | Disagree (17)

Makes far more sense now. There's a big difference between a survey/questionnaire asking for responses - for or against - and a TRO or similar statutory notification where action is required ONLY if there is an objection - not consent.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (21) | Disagree (0)