Road Safety News

Consultation proposes default 20mph limit for Scotlandís urban areas

Monday 26th June 2017

A Scottish Green Party MSP has launched a three-month consultation on a proposed ‘Safer Streets’ Member's Bill, which would lower the default speed limit in urban areas across Scotland from 30mph to 20mph.

The press release which announced the consultation referred to an opinion poll which showed that ‘most Scots support the idea’, while a quarter of respondents said a 20mph limit would ‘make them more likely to walk or cycle’.

The web page where the consultation can be found says: “20mph speed limits reduce traffic speed making our streets safer, healthier and cleaner in areas where we live, work and play. Reducing speed cuts accidents and saves lives, while encouraging walking and cycling and lowering air pollution.

“However there is currently an incomplete patchwork of 20mph zones across Scotland as the process for creating (them) remains costly and time-consuming for councils.”

While Mark Ruskell MSP Member’s Bill would change the default speed limit in built up areas across Scotland from 30mph to 20mph, councils could keep higher speed limits on some streets in consultation with communities, but these ‘would be the exception rather than the rule’.

Mark Ruskell MSP said: "30mph limits date back a century and the process of creating 20mph zones is too slow and too costly.

“By bringing forward legislation I want to create safer streets so we reduce the risk for pedestrians and cyclists, especially children and the elderly.”

Mr Ruskell’s proposed Bill is supported by the British Lung Foundation Scotland, Living Streets Scotland and the campaign group 20’s Plenty for Us.

Irene Johnstone, head of British Lung Foundation Scotland, said: "We want to protect Scotland’s lungs from dirty air. There are around one million people here currently living with a lung disease. We need to explore all policy solutions to tackle this public health crisis.

“Traffic emissions are the major cause of pollution in our towns and cities. A 20mph speed limit could be a step in the right direction, by encouraging more people to cycle and walk."

Stuart Hay, director of Living Streets Scotland, said: “We know that many communities across Scotland are concerned about the speed of vehicles in their streets. We also know that if speed is reduced then people of all ages are more likely to walk and cycle to school, to work and for local journeys.

“Streets with low speed limits become more liveable spaces.”

In a briefing issued today (26 June) 20’s Plenty for Us is asking individuals and organisations to ‘help Mark Ruskell make history by being the first country in the world to agree 20mph limits as the normal road speed’.

The briefing goes on to list benefits of 20mph limits including ‘about 20% fewer casualties and 7-10 times fewer fatalities’. It also suggests that ‘every 1mph less reduces crashes (by) 5-6%’.

Earlier this month researchers at the University of Edinburgh launched a new study which will evaluate the impact of 20mph speed limits in two British cities - Belfast and Edinburgh - over the next three years.

The results of another study looking at whether 20mph limits reduce speeds and collisions, being carried out by Atkins on behalf of the DfT, are expected later this year or early in 2018.

Click here to respond to Mark Ruskell’s consultation and to access supporting paperwork including the full consultation paper and a summary, along with responses to date. The consultation runs until 7 August 2017.


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I've seen some villages where the council have just decided on a blanket 20 limit and while many of the ordinary residential streets are of a standard where you naturally wouldn't go much more than that fast anyway, but also included are modern roads with clear sight lines no parked cars and lined with refuges have also been included, but because it was blanket roads like that were included also, so it ended up being quite non-uniform.
Alex Hosking

Agree (7) | Disagree (1)

How I wished I lived in Scotland and could respond positively to the consultation. I'm very jealous of efforts to get 20mph on all residential streets.
Adrian Berendt, TN4

Agree (2) | Disagree (9)

Those harking back to the halcyon days of the 1930's could do well to reflect on the fact that at the time there were only 1.5 million cars in the UK. Now the total is 35 million.

I look forward to suggestions as to how 33.5 million cars can be taken off the road so that the same ease of crossing the road can be restored.

Those talking nonsensically about pollution should have been bright enough to recognise that emissions are measured in grms/kmh. Hence if emissions per km are similar at 20mph and 30mph the length of time to cover the km is irrlevent. Of course if in the real world you were accelerating up to 30mph after reaching congestion or other stopping points then you consume and emit 2.25 times more to reach 30 than 20.
Rod King, Warrington, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (7) | Disagree (8)

Hore-Belisha introduced the 30 miles/hr speed limit after a (presumably successful) trial. It has served us well, and we tinker with it at our peril. Mr Ruskell makes a great deal of the effect on speeds of 20 miles/hr ZONES (page 8). He refers to the TRL's PPR243, but seems to have overlooked its author's warning: "The use of 20 mph signs alone ... is likely to lead to only small speed reductions of about 1 mph." History teaches us (I think) that we won't even achieve that.
Andrew Fraser

Agree (12) | Disagree (3)

Yes Andrew but a few years later in 1934 a speed limit was set for small vehicles in built up areas that had street lighting and that limit was 30 mph that we have today.

That limit was not held in contempt by the majority of drivers and so it has remained. As a bye the bye zebra crossings were introduced that year also and that dramatically reduced the numbers of KSIs for pedestrians. Further to that, about the same time some 1364 (I believe) cyclists were killed on the roads that year.

As regards pollution as I have already mentioned if we increase our journey time by about 50% (doing 20 mph instead of 30 mph) then we will be back to the some or similar levels of polution that we started with. Won't we?
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (5) | Disagree (4)

Since cars are "supposed" to be less polluting at higher speeds I don't see how driving at less than twenty will be better for the environment and public health.
David Cornwall

Agree (8) | Disagree (3)

While preparing my response to Mark Ruskell's query about the origins of the 30 miles/hr speed limit, I found that the 20 miles/hr speed limit was set in 1903. It was held in such low regard that the government of the day abolished speeds limits altogether in 1931. One does wonder whether history is about to repeat itself.

I am not against a finer grained system of speed limits, supported by Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA), but Mr Ruskell seemed unaware of the possibility. One does wonder who advises our representatives.
Andrew Fraser STIRLING

Agree (6) | Disagree (2)

It doesn't reflect well on the driving test if despite being 'qualified' to drive on the highways, so much extra work has to subsequently be carried out by the authorities (principally the three 'E's) to compensate for the shortcomings of drivers who were seemingly allowed to slip through the net, somehow gained a driving license and were let loose on the roads - perhaps they managed to suppress their anti-social tendencies for the duration of the test.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (0) | Disagree (7)

The report does say that roads and streets over 20 mph would be the exception rather than the rule. It seems that what is wanted is a blanket cover of towns, villages and cities and that would in fact cost a minimal amount. Its where each individual street and in all areas that cost astronomical amounts of monies with a multiplicity and duplicity of signage.

We will have to wait and see what the general public want even though they would no doubt be preconditioned to want the streets to become safer and I presume more accessible. I don't actually think it will and I believe that they will end up with arterial roads at normal speeds and all ancillary/residential roads limited and signed to 20mph, at greater expense.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (11) | Disagree (1)

Members of another forum I frequent spotted this about a month or two ago, and we've all put objections in. Think of how much pollution will happen with changing all the signage?
David Weston, Corby

Agree (7) | Disagree (12)

It doesn't matter about the cost Pat as it's all monies from Whitehall that will be used as in all other counties and cities and boroughs.
gill craven

Agree (0) | Disagree (8)

Which urban roads are to be 20s and which are to be 30s, is always going to be the problem. Some urban main roads could be 30 (depending on c/way width, likelihood of parked vehicles, access points etc. i.e. how much the driver can and can't see.) but then you have to balance that against constantly changing limits and the need for drivers to be looking out for signs (those that bother anyway).

I was driving around suburban Liverpool this afternoon and unless one is a resident familiar with the local limit changes, one is constantly looking out for changed limits - nothing wrong with that perhaps, but roads of similar characteristics could be 20 or 30 - in one case, changing halfway along a particular road's length, for no obvious reason.

One final point, referring to the third para, it should say ď20mph speed limits SHOULD reduce traffic speed making our streets safer, healthier and cleaner....etc" i.e. they have to be complied with first!
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (11) | Disagree (1)

IF (in capital letters) IF it happens at all, Iím relieved that that this proposed default 20s scheme may be happening in Scotland, rather than England or Wales.

With all the ifs, could, might, may, and other non-definitive terms that accompanies a jump in the dark, itís better it happens there than where I live and travel.

Of course thereís a chance that many will realise that the theoretical gains in the proposed scheme may not happen in reality. Or that the consultation will not proceed to secure the mandate it desires.

By the way, how much does the MSP propose that Scotland keep up their sleeve for engineering measures and extra police if it all goes horribly wrong?

Go on Scotland, be our guinea pig.
Pat, Wales

Agree (15) | Disagree (2)