Road Safety News

Briefing describes 20mph “win, win, win”

Thursday 12th December 2013

A ‘local democracy think tank’ has published a policy briefing note in which it describes area-wide 20mph limits as “a win, win, win for local authorities”.

The briefing has been published by LGiU and is intended for transport planners, elected members, road safety teams, fire and rescue authority members, police and public health teams.

The briefing describes 20mph schemes as “a potential vote winner for councilors” and suggests that they bring “multiple benefits to local people”. The benefits identified by LGiU include “fewer deaths and injuries, increased physical activity, increased local (trading) activity and better quality of life for local people”.

However, the paper says that the biggest public health gain is the potential for tackling the ‘inactivity timebomb’.

The paper says: “Researchers at University College London have found that half of children aged seven don’t get enough exercise; a lack of sufficient physical activity is reflected throughout the population, with enormous consequences for health and social care spending in the future.

“One study found that switching from commuting by car to an active transport mode could create annual health budget savings from £1,121 (cycling) to £1,220 (walking) per person because of the increased health benefits from an individual being more active.”

The paper concludes: “Given the potential for lower speed limits to improve health, facilitate local economic activity, reduce pollution and create better quality of life for local people, lowering the cost of implementing 20mph seems a sensible way forward, especially for a government committed to cutting red tape and devolving more power locally.”

For more information about the briefing contact Janet Sillett at LGiU. 


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One of the reasons for imposing 20mph limits is suggested to curb the "inactivity time-bomb". Perhaps that question should be aimed at Microsoft/Apple as children never have to leave their homes to talk or interact with friends! Same as for adults. So that is a really weak excuse to re-introduce a speed limit that was abandoned in 1930 as out-dated, even for the primitive old vehicles of the time.
Terry Hudson

Agree (12) | Disagree (4)

20mph is clearly dividing opinion (see Agree|Disagree and Road Safety GB 20mph big debate). I want both sides to come together to agree the way forward and this is patently not going to happen if we carry on as we are.

Scientific trials could assess any predetermined metric: changes in collisions, changes in KSI, changes in local air quality, changes in cycling rates etc. Implementing 20mph in simple scientific trials could end this perpetual tiresome debate and bring both sides together to agree on what the effects of 20mph actually are.
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (10) | Disagree (6)

Police the existing limits, don't waste money on updating legislation and 100s of 1,000s of road signs. Many drivers have contempt for the existing speed limits, other road users, as well as the law.
David Matthews Northamptonshire

Agree (15) | Disagree (4)

Hugh is correct - can we pls return to the subject of the news item rather than an examination of each other's road safety credentials. Thanks.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (9) | Disagree (1)

As I’m sure the editor will shortly be pointing out, this has moved away from the original news story, however if you check back just a few weeks Eric (I think it was another 20mph news story) I clarified the 85th%ile for you. As I said to you then, the only way you (or Idris for that matter) will grasp it and realise the significance of it is by actually doing a few speed surveys of your own when it should become clearer.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (7) | Disagree (5)


At the National Road Safety Conference last month, while participating in the debate about 20mph limits, Chief Constable Suzette Davenport, ACPO lead on roads policing, emphasised on more than on occasion the need for speed limits to be realistic and reasonable in the eyes of the motoring public, and enforceable with current resources.

Based on what she said, I certainly do not believe the police see 20mph limits as a "win, win", or as an opportunity to raise revenue, as I think you are implying.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (14) | Disagree (1)

It is a 'win, win' speed limit for those that are going to enforce it! As with all speed enforcement, it is entirely controlled by the police and the private companies they are in partnership with. Especially as the police are now gearing up to 'sell' 20mph Speed Awareness Courses as they do with other speed limit transgressors. 20mph speed limits maybe a vote winner for local councillors as they appease a few, vocal and local NIMBY's and curtail to their prejudices, but then these supporters do not seem so keen on these speeds when driving down somebody else's road! People have a totally different perception of speed between driving or being a passenger, than as a resident. That is why speed limit setting should not be based on the whims and fancies of a few councillors.
Terry Hudson, Kent

Agree (17) | Disagree (4)

The "explanation" that demonstrated that Hugh Jones does not understand the 85%ile is here...
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (10) | Disagree (11)

Er.. no Idris, you thought you did. You need to have day-to-day experience of some subjects to fully understand them which is where the amateur enthusiast or campaigner can be at a disadvantage. Such groups of people will inevitably invite scrutiny of their own credentials, if they question the credentials of others.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (15) | Disagree (4)

Eric is of course right, that it is seriously misleading to claim that costs were recovered when more than half of the notional benefit, the subjective value of pain and suffering avoided exists in no known ledger. And when most of the rest is for "lost output" of casualties - see for why no output is lost. For example - the real cash cost to the State of a fatal road accident is of the order of £20,000 not £1.9m.
Idris Francis Fight Back with Facts Petersfield

Agree (12) | Disagree (15)

Re Hugh's criticism - The editor of Conservative Home web site where several articles of mine on road casualty analysis have been published told a lady who had complained about my analysis that he, the editor describes me as an "expert" because I had put in the hours to find the evidence and analyse it. I do not claim to be a road safety "expert" in general terms, instead I comment on subjects where I have relevant knowledgem, in part to inform and in part to encourage debate, which is of course essentuial.

In June I pointed out here and elsewhere that the new RAC Foundation method for assessing speed camera benefit was seriously flawed - and why. As a result a revised version has finally been published - still flawed in my view, but less than before.

And come to think of it, some time ago I persuaded Hugh that the 85th percentile speed does not allow avarege speed to be calculated as he claimed!
Idris Francis Fight Back with Facts Petersfield

Agree (11) | Disagree (15)

This "briefing" appears to have been created by trawling the 20's Plenty for Us website. I note particularly "Warrington recouped its implementation costs by a factor of 8 times (800%) due to the prevention of serious casualties alone" is an extreme example of confusing costs and values, as well as claiming casualty reductions from 20mph that would have been due to other factors such as reduced traffic volume, or trend. Nothing balanced about this "briefing", nor can it be considered authoritative.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (20) | Disagree (14)

I have no strong feelings either way about the briefing referred to and the subject of 20s is starting to become a bit tiresome now. However I was bemused by Andrew Ross's experience in the field of road safety being brought into question by one of several regular contributors, of whom the same question could be asked.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (18) | Disagree (5)

I'm a keen cyclist and pedestrian and I have to say 20 zones don't make me feel any safer. Certainly can't imagine anyone deciding to cycle rather than take a car based on whether they cycle through 20 or 30 zones. What would make me feel safer would be some proper roads policing which seems to have been replaced by obsession with unrealistic speed limits which it seems the majority of drivers ignore anyway.
Dave Taylor, Guildford

Agree (22) | Disagree (6)

One of the very real problems in these and similar matters is that politicians's decisions are too often based on the need to be seen to be "doing something' to win votes - as this report makes clear.

Like the "Parliamentary Committee on Transport Safety" the "Local Government Information Unit" is not an offical organisation as its name implies, but a Registered Charity.

My impression that the writer Andrew Ross actually knows little about road safety is confirmed by there being no reference to any relevant experience in this field. Perhaps he could clarify that point?
Idris Francis Fight Back with Facts Petersfield

Agree (21) | Disagree (10)

Prof John Wann of Royal Holloway College has spoken out against blanket 20mph zones - they don't work, and I could add that anything that breeds disrespect for the law is probably a bad thing.

There is a place for 20 limits, such as roads with chippings, weak bridges and narrow single track roads with parked cars, but it seems to me that there is a fetish for slowing everyone down regardless.

The Highway Code is clear on what both drivers and pedestrians should do over controlling speed for the conditions and crossing the road, and I wish that some more parents would read it!
Jerry, Brighton

Agree (28) | Disagree (12)

This site is called road safety! If only 20 was about road safety but it isn't, it's about vote catching and pretending to care. There is little or no evidence about road safety deriving from 20 mph. If councillors care about increased mobility perhaps they would like to improve play facilities and parks instead of wasting money on unenforceable 20 schemes.
RJBull portishead, Bristol

Agree (23) | Disagree (12)

Obviously two and two make five. Well they do according to this report.

It looks like they pick items out of the air, no doubt from other publications, that can hardly be described as related, and then put them out with their own slant on them in order to persuade a gullible public what the future may or may not hold.

Pull it apart and yes there are some arguments there, but put together it's faulty thinking and very optimistic in its view and possible results.
bob craven Lancs

Agree (21) | Disagree (10)

Have LGiU not noticed that serious injury rates have generally increased where 20mph has been tried? Are they also not aware that emissions are generally worse below 30mph? It is surely a concern that political pressure groups seem to be advocating policies that produce in practice the opposite of what they claim will occur.

But there is a simple solution. Just implement 20mph (and other road safety interventions) within scientific trials? If that were done we could end the perpetual debate and create a foundation of solid evidence.

Although road safety policy often divides people into 2 opposing camps, one curious observation is that both sides oppose scientific trials. Why is it that neither side has the courage of their convictions to not only agree to scientific trials, but also to strongly advocate them?
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (21) | Disagree (20)

I find it unbelievable in a policy briefing that talks about the benefit of a increase in walking and cycling, that there is no mention of further training for child pedestrians and cyclists. There is talk of an allocation of funding for changing behaviour (publicity), but no funding allocation through 20mph schemes/zones for helping children overcome these environments through training or education. At a time when RSOs and teams are being hit, we are committing millions towards signs with a number on them to keep children safe. At least it will be a vote winner for Councillors and that is what counts.

Agree (20) | Disagree (15)