Blanket 20mph speed limits ‘senseless’: ABD

12.04 | 14 August 2019 | | 8 comments

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has launched a new campaign against blanket 20mph speed limits – claiming there is ‘much misinformation’ being spread by campaigners.

The ‘20’s Senseless’ campaign says ‘anti-car activists’ – encouraged by campaign groups – are wasting millions of pounds nationwide.

The ABD points to a DfT study, published in November 2018, which it describes as the ‘long-awaited evidence that enormous amounts of money are being wasted on implementing 20 mph schemes’.

The report, commissioned by the DfT and authored by the consultancy Atkins, found insuficient evidence to conclude that there has been a significant change in collisions and casualties following the introduction of 20mph limits in residential areas.

However, it also found a small but statistically significant improvement in reported levels of cycling and walking.

Key paragraphs from the report – according to the ABD

“The evidence available to date shows no significant change in the short term in collisions and casualties, in the majority of the case studies (including the aggregated set of residential case studies).”

“Journey speed analysis shows that the median speed has fallen by 0.7mph in residential areas and 0.9mph in city centre areas.”

Despite opposing a blanket 20mph limit, the ABD says is supports the use of 20mph speed limits ‘where it might be of benefit or where compliance will be high’.

However, it says 20mph is not the solution to all road safety problems and ‘simply sticking up signs is a waste of money’.

The ABD is calling for money to be ‘better spent’ on other road safety measures – such as road engineering and education of young drivers.

20mph – the current position
20mph limits are never far from the media spotlight – with ongoing debate about whether 20mph should become the default limit in urban and residential areas.

In June, MSPs voted down a bill which sought to make 20mph the default limit on residential streets in Scotland.

Opponents of the bill questioned whether the move would save lives and argued that local authorities are best placed to make decisions on where 20mph limits are appropriate.

In contrast, plans to make 20mph the default limit for residential areas in Wales appear likely to be implemented, with the country’s first minister, Mark Drakeford, issuing a statement of support in May.

Mr Drakeford cited the city-wide roll-out of 20mph limits by Cardiff Council, labelling it ‘a good example of what can be done’.

In London, TfL is adopting a similar stance and recently announced plans to introduce 20mph limits on all central London roads by May 2020.

The proposals, which were put out for consultation in June, are described as a key part of the mayor’s Vision Zero ambition to eliminate death and serious injury on the Capital’s transport network.

20mph limits, and whether they have a role to play in reducing collisions and casualties, will also be the subject of a debate at the National Road Safety Conference in November 2019.



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    Dear Pat

    I can assure you that my mind has not stopped working in a normal way and my behaviour has not become very strange as a result.

    By all means criticise my analysis and defend the DfT for spending money analysing ridiculously small case studies, but attacking that state of my mind would not seem to be the best way of engaging in debate in this forum.

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (5) | Disagree (11)

    Crikey Rod
    The dog whistle comment in your last sentence is bordering on irrational. Has your campaigning zeal sent you off the deep end?

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (12) | Disagree (2)

    The Atkins report has a huge number of inconsistencies in it, particularly around the minimal size of the case studies. The reason why “no evidence” was found was because their choice of a handful of case studies, most with less than 20 casualties per annum, meant that significant evidence would always be hard to find. There are also question marks about the way they compared casualty stats on small sample sizes with whole regions of the UK. And in several of the case studies casualties reduced whilst crashes increased or vice versa. Signs that really should have been warning bells of the inability to draw any meaningful conclusions on casualty reduction for such small and inconsistent samples.

    There was no objective comparison between methods used for gaining compliance. No comparative analysis of the impact of enforcement, cross-party support, engagement or involvement of public health behaviour change techniques.

    See for more questions.

    One has to wonder whether “not finding evidence” was an unwritten objective from the start. Far from being “the most comprehensive survey ever” it has turned out to be woefully inadequate in the resources which it allocated to investigating how 20mph limits could reduce casualties.

    Perhaps we should all be questioning why this government spent nearly £1m on this exercise without establishing a scale or methodology which would produce meaningful results. It has failed to address this issue competently and in doing so has failed communities, failed its road danger reduction responsibilities and also failed the road safety profession. And clearly what it has done is provided a dog-whistle to every “faster is safer” devotee.

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (6) | Disagree (11)

    The finances would be better spent enforcing current limits.

    David Matthews, Northamptonshire
    Agree (19) | Disagree (5)

    “..there is ‘much misinformation’ being spread by campaigners.” Could equally apply to the ABD generally I would think.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (7) | Disagree (6)

    > We have never advocated “blanket” 20mph speed limits, but instead for 20mph to become the default with higher exceptions decided by local traffic authorities.

    blanket, adj.:

    > covering all cases or instances; total and inclusive.

    This sounds like a blanket policy to me – especially given how cash strapped local authorities are. Why spend time and money they don’t have discussing and building a report on whether or not vehicles should travel 6mph faster?

    David Weston, Newcastle-upon-Tyme
    Agree (16) | Disagree (6)

    20mph limits are the global standard where pedestrians and cyclists mix with motor vehicles. This is supported by the World Health Organisation, OECD, Global Network of Road Safety Legislators and many global and national NGOs. In many countries, 30km/h (18.5mph) limits are standard across cities, towns and villages. Already 21m people in the UK live in authorities that have already set or are setting 20mph for most residential and city centre streets. 20mph becomes the norm rather than the exception. This delivers across a wide range of community aspirations including reducing road danger, enabling active mobility, child mobility , elderly mobility and reducing emissions and car-dependency.

    The ABD has always opposed initiatives that brings further regulation to the way motor vehicles are used on our roads. This opposition to the adoption of 20mph limits is neither new nor brings anything new to the debate. We have never advocated “blanket” 20mph speed limits, but instead for 20mph to become the default with higher exceptions decided by local traffic authorities. Their labelling of supporters of 20mph limits as “anti-car activists” betrays their own prejudice against anyone wanting a more civilised use and sharing of roads through slower speeds. Sensible authorities at local and national level will continue to implement wide-area 20mph limits to make their places better places to be for their communities and residents.

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (17) | Disagree (25)

    Do they mean ‘senseless’ in principle, or in practice simply because compliance is too variable to be effective overall?

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (9) | Disagree (0)

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