Road Safety News

Brake calls on government to make it easier for councils to implement 20mph limits

Wednesday 30th September 2015

A report released today (30 Sept) by Brake calls for the removal of “unnecessary barriers” faced by local councils in implementing 20mph speed limits.

The report also suggests that moving to 20mph limits across built up areas would deliver “significant safety benefits”, especially for pedestrians and cyclists.

It goes on to blame “a lack of strong national government leadership... for the current UK postcode lottery when it comes to reaping the benefits of lower traffic speeds in communities”.

A FOI request to all 206 local traffic authorities in Great Britain identified some “key stumbling blocks” when it comes to implementing 20mph limits, including cost and central government guidance.

The report says: “The government’s guidance on introducing 20mph limits states trouble-free compliance is likely on roads where average traffic speeds are already 24mph or below. This has been misinterpreted by some councils as meaning 20mph limits should not be introduced on roads with higher average speeds.”

The report suggests that signs-only 20mph speed limits can be expected to achieve, “as a minimum, a 1mph reduction of average traffic speeds, leading to a 6% reduction in collisions”.

It goes on to say that where limits are backed by public awareness and enforcement campaigns, “speed reductions could be as much as 4mph, reducing collisions by almost a quarter (24%)”.

The report suggests this improvement in safety is “likely to have a positive impact on walking and cycling levels, with significant health and environmental benefits”.

Dr Tom Fisher, research manager for Brake, said: “At a time when local authority budgets are being slashed by central government, that government has a duty to do what it can to enable those authorities to spend that cash as efficiently as possible.

“However, when it comes to making streets in their communities safer, the government is tying the hands of cash-strapped councils with out-dated and unnecessary regulation.

“20mph limits are an effective and globally-recognised solution to unacceptably dangerous roads in our cities, towns, and villages. Ultimately, we would like to see 20mph become the default urban speed limit in the UK.

“In the meantime, the government can remove red tape and show stronger leadership by providing clearer and more positive guidance, and by doing away with the requirement for costly repeater signs.”

Photo: copyright Albert Bridge and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


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“Traffic Authorities rejecting the national restricted road limit of 30mph . .”

Or are they so pressured by central government weak at the knees to ‘do something Minister’?

20’s plenty really does sound like expansion of a ‘Smokers Weekly’ journal. Some fresh air needed amidst the perpetual smog.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (3) | Disagree (3)

"development of better urban realms". It seems, as 20 limits and "sustainable" transport projects are increasing, as though pedestrian and cyclist KSIs are leading the recent casualty increases. Perhaps the very complex issue of road safety needs more complex solutions than a number in a circle?
Dave, Guildford

Agree (7) | Disagree (2)


The current government has always maintained that speed limits other than the national limit for "restricted" roads are a matter for local Traffic Authorities. They must make decisions on the information available to them including the DfT guidance which is strongly supportive of 20mph limits for residential streets and those with or potential for numbers of vulnerable road users.

With so many Traffic Authorities rejecting the national restricted road limit of 30mph then it is perfectly reasonable for central government to investigate whether the 30mph limit is still appropriate as a national limit and would look at those places where the 30mph limit is being retained as well as those where it is being replaced by a general 20mph limit.

The 20mph lobby that I know certainly welcomes this investigation and look forward to its results being published so that appropriate changes can be made to the national 30mph limit which seems to be so much in question.

But it is certainly no grounds for putting the development of better urban realms on hold and that is reflected in the many Traffic Authorities that are continuing to decide on and roll out wide-area 20mph limits.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (7) | Disagree (7)

The 20mph lobby campaigns as if the benefits of 20mph limits are obvious and unambiguous. May I remind them and others that a formal investigation of the pros and cons is currently under way and that it would be as well not to install more until we know what their effects are?
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (9) | Disagree (8)

Funny how the widespread further reduction in speed limits including 20 limits, unprecedented levels of driver education and other "sustainable" travel "improvements" seems to have coincided with an end to road casualty reduction and a start to casualty increases. Well no it's not really. Because this has further removed attention from the primary issue: careless and dangerous driving.
Dave, Guildford

Agree (17) | Disagree (3)

A National debate? Only a minority of the Nation turns out to vote for a General Election. You won’t have a National debate on this subject, only a debate amongst those with vested interests with presumptions and ‘beliefs’.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (14) | Disagree (3)

I think that are two subtexts :-

1) The requirement for repeater signs on roads with 20mph limits was intended for the 1990s when they were exceptions, small and isolated. With so many local authorities implementing 20mph limits for most residential roads on the basis of government guidance then that requirement needs easing. It would reduce costs, increase implementations and reflect a growing consensus that 20 is plenty where people live, work, shop and learn.

2) The setting of any national speed limits have never been a local government responsibility. This call is about the national limit for restricted roads having been rejected as unsuitable by so many traffic authorities and the need for a national debate on what should be the correct default limit for restricted roads. In any such case traffic authorities have always been (and will be) able to identify exceptions based on local considerations. Indeed the very fact that 14m people now live in local authorities who have justified an exception away from the 30mph limit surely demonstrates the ability for local authorities to reflect local considerations within what is national guidance and legislation.

I therefore trust that this national debate can be undertaken constructively to understand what communities at local and national level can gain from 20mph limits and how these may include and extend beyond road safety.

I certainly welcome that debate and the involvement of road safety professionals, public health, urban designers and communities and their representatives.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (9) | Disagree (11)

I'm glad Dr Fisher wants Local Authorities to spend their resources as effectively as possible; so do I. I assume that he has researched all the options open to Local Authorities for making roads safer and has concluded the implementation of 20 mph limits is the most cost effective. When I see the report that underpins this I will read it with interest. In the meantime I would be interested to hear whether Councils have really misinterpreted government guidance or simply acted on it. It is my view that the phrase "postcode lottery" is increasingly used by people who don't understand why local decision-making should stand in the way of their preferences. The subtext of this piece is "Councils should be free to do exactly what Brake tells them to".
Tim Philpot, Wolverhampton

Agree (20) | Disagree (3)