Road Safety News

20’s Plenty publishes ‘lessons learnt’ from Manchester

Tuesday 14th March 2017

In the wake of Manchester City Council’s decision to review its 20mph scheme, the campaign group 20’s Plenty for Us has published what it is calling the ‘lessons to be learnt’ from the episode.

A recently published evaluation of 20mph zones in Manchester recommended that the City Council should for the time being focus on alternative road safety schemes because the zones have had little positive effect on speed, collisions and casualties.

It its briefing, 20’s Plenty for Us says the roads selected for the 20mph scheme are ‘atypical of the aggregate of Manchester roads’, and that enforcement of the scheme has been ‘almost non-existent’. It also says the casualty numbers quoted are ‘not statistically significant’, and that the 20mph roll out in Manchester ‘has been far too slow and not shown the necessary commitment and vision’.

The 20’s Plenty of Us briefing says: “Some of the media and 20mph opponents have used this as ‘proof’ that 20mph limits ‘don't work’ and are calling for other cities to ‘learn from Manchester’ and change their 20mph plans.

“At 20's Plenty we take the view that all evidence is useful evidence but needs to be put into context to understand how relevant it is.

“In the case of the statistics quoted by Manchester there is considerable doubt as to whether they can tell us anything positive or negative, but may point to things which Manchester needs to do better in its 20mph roll out.

“The report admits that the data is flawed and inconclusive. The report actually says ‘we would need to evaluate data over a longer time to get data that is more statistically relevant’. Indeed taking a similar broad-brush approach without appropriate consideration of the detail could be considered careless.

“We are pleased that Manchester City Council is continuing its 20mph Phase 2 roll-out, however we believe that it has made a mistake in questioning the value of 20mph limits.

“Whilst there may be much for others to learn, it is probably more about how Manchester can implement 20mph limits more effectively rather than whether they should be doing it at all.”

Click here to read the full 20’s Plenty for Us briefing.

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Report recommends pause on Manchester’s 20mph scheme
09 March 2017




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I am looking forward to my meeting next week with Manchester City Council officers and would expect to understand far more about their analysis, reasoning and plans after that meeting.

I suspect that one aspect that has considerably skewed the results has been the £8.3m spent on physically calmed zones outside schools before the wide-area 20mph limits were implemented.

I am not aware of GMP being any more vigilant in other metropolitan boroughs. But clearly there is a huge difference between some enforcement and no enforcement in terms of the police endorsing a limit or appearing rather laissez-faire.

I look toward the meeting positively and am sure that MCC officers will be doing so as well.

Note that I am now back in the UK after speaking at the UN Road Safety Collaboration meeting in Bangkok on behalf of WHO on the subject of their #SLOWDOWN DAYS for the Fourth UN Global Road Safety Week. May I suggest that WHO's view that "where pedestrians and cyclists mix with motor vehicles then 30kmh is the safe speed" is rather more up to date than that of 8 police officers from the 20th century!
Rod King, Warrington, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (1) | Disagree (1)

20s Plenty comments welcome, however note a distinction between Manchester and Greater Manchester. Manchester is 1 of 10 Highway Authorites in Greater Manchester. Ask yourself why 20mph in some of the other Highway Authority areas have been enforced and rolled out more effectively within the same police force area. The buck stops with Manchester City Council.

Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

I suspect Fore Street was not built that way for the specific purpose of one day in the future to serve as a shining example of a shared space Charles. The authorities had to work with what they had and if designing a new town now for the 21st century, Fore Street, Looe would not be top of the list as a model and I doubt if the Manchester authorities are eager to recreate it either!

The no-brainer comment refers to the fact that speeds should not excede 20 in your typical residential road, hence the use of the words 'upper limit' - not an instruction or a recomendation. Still a problem persuading people I know - that's why I mentioned traffic calming.

I believe my own neighbourhood is soon to be a 20 zone, so I'll be able to advise on it's effectiveness, as time goes by.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (3)

Hugh, given that 20 mph speed limits in such places do not significantly slow the traffic, and may even speed it up, why do you insist that "an upper limit of 20 is a no-brainer"? 20 isn't a magic number, traffic needs to be at a speed appropriate for the interactions required with other users, so in one time and place 4 mph might be the no-brainer absolute maximum, whilst at another time 20 might be just about acceptable. I agree that speed needs taming, but profoundly disagree that speed limits have a part to play in that taming. What is it about Fore Street in Looe that leads to slow traffic (5 or 6 mph is my estimate based on keeping up with cars when walking briskly) that is absent from these streets in Manchester? Fore Street doesn't have an upper limit of 20 or physical calming (if by that you mean humps and kerbed islands or chicanes).

What Fore Street *does* have is what we might call "psychological calming" - the streets are narrow and have a cluttered appearance due to the closeness of the buildings and no clear priorities of one mode over another, which means drivers actually feel the need to concentrate on driving. That act of concentration means they have to go slow enough to negotiate their passage with other users on the road and cannot fly along between kerbs at 20-30 mph, assuming priority over pedestrians and it *also* means they do not have the bandwidth to use their mobile phones or drink coffee whilst driving!

Why can't such effective and sustainable calming be designed into the streets of Manchester? It doesn't have to be expensive. A few strategically placed planters and benches would achieve more than 20 mph limits and wouldn't need police enforcement. How about end-on, rather than parallel, parking, and on alternate sides along the street? Take a look at these DIY ideas: I'm sure we can create roads that don't look like unimpeded speedways, and down which drivers need to have full concentration to be able to make effective progress. Almost *anything* though would be more effective at doing that than 20s.
Charles, England

Agree (3) | Disagree (5)

Speed limits, except when set at the 85th percentile speed, are 'net-negative' for traffic safety ... because, when forced to drive at a too-slow speed the driver's attention suffers ... and 8 police officers from 7 countries and 2 continents agree on that as the precipitating cause of crashes. see .
Al Gullon, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Agree (6) | Disagree (9)

Thanks Charles. I have duly noted that you think they could do something useful in Manchester rather than 20 limits.

Anyway, I mentioned Crashmap before and apart from Fore Street in Looe which you diverted us to, I also looked at the new arrangement in Poynton which you've highlighted more than once on this forum as an example of a shared space and note that there have, nevertheless, been a few collisions recorded for both locations. Even a quick glance at Fore Street shows how close the traffic is to peds and how contact will sometimes be inevitable. I’m not convinced the speeds are consistently as low as 5-6 mph as you’ve suggested. Have you measured them?

For the residential roads in Manchester which are the subject of the article and other similar roads elsewhere, an upper limit of 20 is a no-brainer but achieving total compliance is difficult, but I don’t believe engineering the road as a shared space is the answer – it has to be physical traffic calming as I mentioned elsewhere but that is prohibitively costly. It's a pity isn't it, that not everyone drives as considerately as us and such measures are needed at all.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (2) | Disagree (2)

Hugh, we were being told, despite the evidence from Manchester, how effective 20 mph limits are at reducing traffic speeds from 30 to 29.3 mph, or whatever and how if they were properly enforced it might go down to as low 28.7, or something like that. My observations that there were better and more sustainable ways of reducing speeds to something significantly lower and more appropriate for town centres was met with insults and indignation. So I illustrated my point with an example of the sort of thing I was thinking about. So rather than evading the point and trying to stall the discussion, why don’t you comment on the point I am making about why I think they could do something useful in Manchester rather than wasting so much money on 20s?
Charles, England

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Well actually Charles, the subject under discussion was the 20 speed limits in Manchester - it was you who switched it to the road layout in Looe and helpfully provided us with a link to it.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (4) | Disagree (1)

Hugh, please keep to the subject under discussion - we were discussing the point of speed limits in relation to street safety and utility, not the unrelated parking regulations or use of one-way streets. Do you think 20 mph limits would make these town centre streets in Looe safer and more user-friendly, or not?
Charles, England

Agree (7) | Disagree (3)

Nice try Charles! Crashmap shows collisions have occurred on that stretch you referred us to and elsewhere in Looe. Looking at the street view image, you can see how close peds are to vehicles and contact is therefore inevitable (although hopefully rare) but not necesarily less likely than other places. Did you notice the parking restrictions, No Entry/One Way and Traffic Signal installations? Regulations (and presumably fines) still seem to be required here to keep order, rather than completely rely on the considerate and harmonious nature of motorists - no doubt absent in Cornwall to the same degree as anywhere else.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (5)

Rod, Hugh, there are no 20's, no speed humps and no police enforcement here: - and yet vehicles and pedestrians cohabit in harmony. With no explicit convincing, force or encouragement drivers never exceed about 5 or 6 mph. Cars wait for peds without the need for pelican/toucan/zebra crossings and peds wait for cars. There are no motor vehicle bans, and yet there is no conflict - even at school start/finish times. There are no special offences invoked and no penalty charges, or court cases needed to try to keep the motorists under control and best of all there is no carnage. I wonder just what is the big difference in the makeup between the drivers in Looe and the drivers in Manchester - or could it possibly be that the drivers are the same species, but the different road designs are affecting the way they behave?

And Rod, no I do not expect 20 mph limits to have magical properties, that seems to be your belief, I think they should be scrapped altogether because they are useless and pointless. We see from the example here in Looe that drivers can behave as human beings and interact normally with other human beings, but only if they are treated as human beings. The main thing we have learnt from the use of speed limits is that drivers are not automatons and cannot be relied upon for 100% concentration and 100% compliance 100% of the time, which is why we still have so much carnage on our roads. As soon as we all realise that, and stop expecting such interventions to magically start working one day, we will be in with a chance of attaining the elusive zero serious casualty goal. How much is that goal worth to our society?
Charles, a happy pedestrian in Looe, England

Agree (10) | Disagree (3)

Cloud cuckoo land stuff Rod.

With our hard pressed and overloaded police we know that "light touch enforcement" frequently turns out to be the occasional flurry of activity linked to longish periods of nothingness. This is not a criticism of the police, it is just recognition of the current reality. Complaints of speeding in a 30 are common, so if drivers commonly don't comply with the speed limit when it is a 30, why would we expect better compliance in a signed only 20?
Pat, Wales

Agree (17) | Disagree (1)

When it comes to average speeds reduced then Manchester has shown that the vast majority of streets (about 30 at least) have indeed had no more than a one mile per hour reduction. The funny one of 9 mph is actually a block end. So its a cul de sac and one can only imagine what form of obstruction there must have been to have caused such a wide variation from 23 to 13 mph.

When it comes to costing. The exercise was started in 2003 and till 2012 the cost ran into £8.3 million. That being around some 138 schools at an average cost of £60,000 each. A further £500,000 was spent in 2014 and some £130,000 or so is required to finalise the last stage. Now that is a lot of monies, some almost £9 million in all for one conurbation. There were some police interventions stated or rather understated and that resulted in some prosecutions so that was nice to see.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (1) | Disagree (1)

I am sorry, but "the anonymous ones" keep on repeating falsehoods. They do so without showing any evidence and expect magical properties for 20mph limits which they never expect with other limits. The guidance does call for enforcement and says that whilst they should be "generally self enforcing" should not need anything beyond "routine" enforcement. Note the word "routine" rather than "zero". There is a complete difference in societal endorsement if it is clear that police will do some enforcement rather than zero enforcement.

20mph limits have consistently shown to reduce speeds. This varies from 6-7 mph on faster roads to zero on roads already slow. The fact that "on average" it comes out around 1-1.5mph is reflected in measurements across the country.

I am all in favour of shared space but those advocating its widespread adoption rarely put any costs on their "project".

What has been shown time and time again, and why so many 20mph pilots have been turned into authority-wide roll-out, is that 20mph limits including engagement and light touch enforcement do work well, and even if not included, work in reducing speeds.

But they are not a "silver bullet". They benefit from nuanced implementation with consensus in mind rather than just traffic management. Those who fail to understand this and think of them as "only signs" will also fail to be able to exploit the opportunities to set new standards on how roads are used.
Rod King. 20's Plenty for Us, Bangkok

Agree (8) | Disagree (15)

Referring to the very recently archived news item about the Manchester 20 report Charles and in my post recent post on that, I did expand a little on how there will always be a variation in drivers' speed for the same circumstances on the same road - regardless of how well you engineer the environment to try and equalise speeds.

I share your concern on how drivers need to be convinced/forced/encouraged to slow down however and believe physical traffic calming to be the only answer. I don't sadly share your confidence that drivers are "...seeing such a high limit..". A significant portion of motorists aren't interested in checking or looking for speed limit signs to 'see' them in the first place, however I'm sure the speed bumps would catch their attention.
Hugh Jones, C

Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

Yes, very good Hugh, but how do I convince the drivers of that? Seeing such a high limit they assume they are entitled to drive that fast, even when pedestrians are around. Any that do risk going slower often get beeped at from the traffic behind. I prefer places where there is no excuse for drivers to try to drive that fast, and where pedestrians are treated as equals on the road, rather than as inconvenient obstacles in the way of drivers’ 20 mph entitlement. Given that 20 mph limits don’t generally actually lower traffic speeds, I don’t think they are anything more than a “permission” for drivers to do about 20ish mph and harass pedestrians, where without the limits they were happy to go slower.
Charles, a hapless pedestrian in England

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It's an upper limit Charles, not a command! I hereby can confirm that you are free to drive below 20.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (7) | Disagree (6)

20's Plenty for Us's whinge that enforcement of the scheme has been ‘almost non-existent’ is, in fact, an admission that speed limits do not work. And that is the point really, and that is the reason why such measures are a useless waste of money and an insult to the local communities.
Charles, England, 20's often too fast for me!

Agree (15) | Disagree (8)

Points 2 and 4 of the 'Lessons to Learn' report from 20s plenty indicate almost non-existent policing of the 20s and a slow roll-out of the scheme by the council. That, I would have assumed, was only to be expected and I would suggest that any other assumption at the outset would have been unduly optimistic. Perhaps the best lesson for others to learn is that Manchester is likely to be closer to reality and more ‘normal’ for most Local Authorities setting out on 20s and therefore not to have rose tinted specs on likely outcomes when implementing such schemes. Some of the elephants in the room have now been spotted but have not given an indication that they are intending to leave any time soon.
Pat, Wales

Agree (18) | Disagree (5)