The case for 20mph speed limits

PUBLISHED: 10:11 27 April 2015 | UPDATED: 10:11 27 April 2015

An example of a 20mph speed limit on a residential road / Photo:

An example of a 20mph speed limit on a residential road / Photo:


Worcester councillor Matthew Jenkins explains why communities are pressuring councils for the implementation of a 20mph speed limit

An example of a 20mph speed limit on a residential road / Photo: An example of a 20mph speed limit on a residential road / Photo:

There is a policy that local councils can introduce to greatly improve health quality by tackling inactivity, obesity and isolation, whilst also being child, disability, elderly and dementia friendly.

This policy is supported by numerous public health bodies such as NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence), Public Health England, Association of Directors of Public Health and WHO (World Health Organisation). Plus, it would only cost around £3 per person to implement.

“What is this amazing policy?” I hear you ask. It is the introduction of 20mph speed limits on residential roads. The great benefits of wide-area 20mph speed limits may explain why they are becoming so popular throughout the country and across political parties. Already more than 14 million people live in local authorities that are adopting or have adopted the policy.

There are also many advantages beyond the clear health benefits of more walking and cycling, and less pollution. For instance, children and families are big winners as it helps them get around locally in a safer and more pleasant environment. Research shows that making places better for walking and cycling can boost trade by up to 40%; pedestrians spend more than people arriving by car.

What about some of the arguments against 20mph speed limits you may have heard, such as increased journey times, that they should be reserved only for outside schools, or that drivers often don’t obey 30mph speed limits so they are unlikely to obey 20mph? Such criticisms can be readily answered.

Driving at 20mph rather than 30mph has been shown to add only a tiny amount of time to journeys. Congestion is far more likely to delay drivers. Plus, with wide-area 20mph speed limits congestion actually reduces as traffic flows more freely and more people walk or cycle instead.

Having 20mph speed limits only outside schools will have no impact on the vast majority of child road casualties that occur elsewhere. Plus, older people and the disabled are vulnerable and also need protecting.

The fact that some drivers will break the speed limit is a poor reason to reject a reduction in road speeds. 20mph is 7-10 times safer than 30mph. Reducing the speed limit still reduces the average speed and every 1mph less has been shown to reduce casualties by 6%.

Many people assume that at lower speeds extra fuel is used and more pollution created. In fact, the reverse is true. Driving more slowly at a steady pace saves fuel. Plus, as roads become safer more people are happy to leave their cars at home and choose to walk or cycle. Fewer cars equals less pollution.

The argument in favour of wide-area 20mph speed limits is very strong. There may already be a group in your area that is pushing for 20mph speed limits. If not, you can get together with other people in your community to set one up. The group ‘20s Plenty for Us’ can help you organise a campaign to get 20mph limits where you live; visit their website to find out more:


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