‘Boldest ever plan’ to eliminate deaths on London’s roads

10.19 | 24 July 2018 | | | 20 comments

New 20mph speed limits could be introduced across central London as part of plans to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on the Capital’s roads.

Transport for London (TfL) – in partnership with Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, and the Metropolitan Police – has today (24 July) launched London’s ‘Vision Zero’ action plan.

The ‘Vision Zero’ approach starts from the premise that no death or serious injury on London’s roads is acceptable or inevitable.

At the heart of TfL’s plans is reducing the speed of vehicles on London’s roads – including making 20mph the new default speed limit on all TfL roads within the Congestion Charging Zone (CCZ) by 2020.

TfL says this would prioritise the part of the Capital where there is a high volume of vulnerable road users including people who walk, cycle or use a motorcycle.

TfL is also proposing to introduce 20mph limits on its road network in many of London’s other town centres and ‘high-risk locations’ by 2024 – with the aim of in implementing lower speed limits on 150km of the Capital’s road network.

Other elements of the action plan include addressing ‘dangerous’ junctions, tough safety standards for the design of HGVs and a comprehensive bus safety programme, which includes speed-limiting technology, and a new training course for professional drivers.

The Vision Zero action plan also includes education campaigns with local communities and schools, and safety training for motorcycle and moped riders and cyclists.

Sadiq Khan said: “I don’t accept that deaths and serious injuries on London’s roads are something we just have to put up with. Every single death or serious injury results in heartache and tragedy for those affected, and their loved ones.

“Our bold and far-reaching plans being announced today are some of most ambitious in the world, and start from the basis that no death or serious injury on London’s roads should be treated as acceptable or inevitable.”

As part of the new approach, the Met Police says it will intensify police focus on the most dangerous drivers and amplify the deterrent effect through widespread high visibility roadside operations and patrols.  

Chief superintendent Colin Wingrove, from the Met Police’s road and transport policing command, said: “We will contribute towards Vision Zero by intensifying our focus on the most dangerous drivers through the enforcement of road traffic legislation; the use of intelligence-led activity in problem locations; and we will conduct highly visible roadside operations and police patrols throughout London to amplify the deterrent effect.

“Excess speed is an undisputed contributor to road collisions in London, and the consequences of these collisions can be devastating for those involved, their families, and communities.”

Mike Brown, London’s transport commissioner, said: “This new approach to reducing road danger sees us working in coalition with many partners across the city to enforce new 20mph limits, transform dangerous junctions and raise awareness of the risks on the roads and street network.

“The bold actions outlined in the Vision Zero plan will set London on the path to eliminating death and serious injuries on our transport network by 2041.”

TfL’s Vision Zero plan has been welcomed by the road safety charity Brake and the campaign group 20’s Plenty for Us.

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said: “With our cities getting ever more crowded, congestion on our roads increasing, and more people wanting safe cycling and walking options this strategy couldn’t be more timely and we warmly welcome the Mayor’s plans.

“The Mayor is right to focus on speed reduction and the rollout of 20mph limits – simply put, lower speeds save lives. If you are hit by a car at 30mph you are more likely to die, if you are hit at 20mph you are more likely to survive.”

Jeremy Leach, London campaign co-ordinator for 20’s Plenty for Us, said: “Many cities around the world have embraced the idea of a Vision Zero approach but this action plan from the mayor of London and TfL is the first to focus singularly on the actions that are really needed to deliver the long-term goal of no deaths and serious injuries on our roads.

“TfL’s call for the UK Government to amend the default urban speed limit to 20mph also gives hope to all those communities across the UK demanding a fairer balance between people and vehicles.

“It is becoming increasingly hard to ignore the pressure that is building for UK’s default limit to be reduced to 20mph.”



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    The photograph you’ve chosen to represent a slow speed environment would be regarded as a shared space and subject to the ‘pause’ recommended by DfT, reported in other recent articles on this website. Will the pause on shared space designs result in traffic speeds which are higher than they might have been had more shared spaces been delivered?

    David McKenna, Liverpool
    Agree (0) | Disagree (1)


    Taking your questions in order.

    I am not opposed to them. Perhaps you could explain how they would work regarding speed limits and changing social norms.

    No I don’t believe they damage road safety. In fact I believe the reverse.

    And yes we should carry on installing more.

    And I haven’t noticed any loss of faith. And it would appear neither have Tfl, WHO, OECD,…..

    Now, you were going to tell us about those RTCs around the world!

    Rod King, Lymm, Cheshire
    Agree (4) | Disagree (3)

    Dave – as so many collisions are reputedly not reported to the authorities, how can assessing or undertaking ‘trials’ to evaluate any intervention to reduce collisions going to be accurate or scientific? How would you get around that? How is it ever going to be ‘gold standard’?

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (2) | Disagree (3)

    You’re right, Rod, but it is the “many different factors” and “randomness” of crashes that cause so many problems for those tasked with evaluating road safety interventions. That’s why we need to run RCT scientific trials. They are simple and probably cheaper than paying for estimates. And they are accurate because they account for the many different factors and randomness.

    Scientific trials are the gold standard so why are you so opposed to them? Is it your belief that 20mph may actually be damaging road safety and you would rather carry on installing more 20mph and hiding the truth from the public? I would suggest, Rod, that the public have a right to know the truth and that you therefore need more faith in your product.

    dave finney, Slough
    Agree (7) | Disagree (6)

    We must remember here that we are no longer talking about quiet selective residential roads and areas where there are fewer incidents and collisions occuring – and again where fewer pedestrians are injured or killed – but of main roads through one of the busiest cities in G.B.

    According to this article the only reason the Mayor is promoting this is not because it will reduce the carnage on the roads (ie the number of incidents) but that it might help to mitigate the degree of injury suffered by a pedestrian.

    Further, as it’s a busy metropolis I would assume that much of the heavy traffic will rarely reach the dizzy heights of travelling at or near 30 mph but in the main be following queue traffic that bumbles around closer to the 20mph limit proposed so what if anything will be the benefit.

    Surely he would be more interested in actually reducing the numbers and frequency of collisions rather than merely mitigate their results.

    Agree (3) | Disagree (2)


    You don’t really “get” the concept of a safe system approach do you. You don’t take into account the randomness of the so many different factors which cause “incidents” and the factors which will decide whether those “incidents” turn into “crashes”.

    Of that million drivers there will be many incidents in different places and with different results. Speed will effect the propensity for the incidents to turn in crashes.

    Its simple.

    20mph limits reduce speed. The amount they reduce speed on any particular stretch of road with any driver and at any time will be subject to many factors as well, just like any speed limit. It is these factors which make RCTs difficult.

    Perhaps you can point to any RCT trials which have been conducted on any speed limit in any place across the world as an example.

    Rod King, Lymm, Cheshire
    Agree (6) | Disagree (4)

    The effectiveness and benefit of 20s is not just the possibility of reduced collisions Dave, a lot of which wouldn’t get reported anyway and would not be a reliable indicator..but a quieter, less rushed environment for residents and peds. etc. will have been generated in the meantime – not sure how you would measure that scientifically to the level you would require. If compliance is poor it may of course be to no avail, but as I’ve said before, that is not a failure of the limit itself, but a failure of (some) drivers, depending on the character and location of the road. Drivers adjusting speed to conditions has to include a speed limit as a ‘condition’ surely?

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (4) | Disagree (1)

    How do drivers avoid crashing? Regarding speed, they adjust their speed for conditions.

    Consider a road where 1,000,000 vehicles will travel and 1 crash will occur if nothing is done. If we reduce the speed limit (say 30 down to 20) then we might influence that 1 driver and so prevent that 1 crash.

    The problem is that we may have also changed the behavior of the other drivers. If you take 999,999 drivers who would have had 0 crashes, and then change their behavior, their crash rate can only go up or, at best, stay the same.

    The question then is, does any reduction in crashes due to 20mph exceed any increase? To answer that question, just run simple, cheap and accurate RCT scientific trials. That is the start of an evidence-led approach.

    dave finney, Slough
    Agree (10) | Disagree (10)

    I don’t think the obstinate drivers are choosy Charles..wherever they are, they will always have the potential to cause problems…chance and luck plays a a part for these drivers and the other road users in their vicinity.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (1) | Disagree (2)

    Hugh, no – the problems can’t be the fault of individual drivers – or do you think that the “obstinate” ones always manage to avoid the consistently casualty-free parts of our road network and only use the parts where casualties occur?

    Charles, England
    Agree (3) | Disagree (3)

    So it’s the obstinate drivers that are the problem then Charles – couldn’t agree more.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (2) | Disagree (2)

    Hugh, I don’t think the point here is whether the laws of physics are understood, I think we all understand that lower speed collisions are less destructive. The point is whether arbitrary speed limits actually deliver a significant reduction in casualty severity levels. There seems to be an unproven premise in all of this that, somehow, lower speed limits equate to slower traffic. As far as I know, speed limits per se, deliver little, if any, slowing of traffic. As we know, the only speed limits that seem to “work” are those that reflect the typical “average” speed that drivers would tend to drive at anyway.

    Why waste our time and energy (and huge amounts of public money) on schemes with offer nothing in terms of real-world casualty reduction? Why not, instead, try to emulate the real-world casualty-free environments which exist is some parts of the country across the whole country?

    Charles, England
    Agree (7) | Disagree (4)


    You are doing it again. Assuming that the only evidence-led approach is one (RCTs) that uses the particular method that may in some experiments be useful. You seem to wish to discount all the scientific evidence there is about speed, time and distance, about kinetic energy, about the research that shows that casualty propensity and severity is proportional to the fourth power of speed.

    You throw in odd comments about “20mph limits resulting in increased deaths” without any evidence whatsoever.

    We have no problem in building public trust. According to evidence from British Social Attitude Surveys and many local authority surveys 70% of people say that 20mph is the right speed limit for residential roads.


    Rod King, Lymm, Cheshire
    Agree (8) | Disagree (8)

    I think what Rod was intimating in his last sentence Dave, is that the laws of physics and motion as it applies to moving vehicles and the stopping thereof, is in fact already established and no new evidence for this is required.

    Are you questioning established physics? i.e. the principle of lower actual vehicle speeds leading to shorter stopping distances and shorter stopping times and less collisions, or are you questioning the belief that the 20 limits will ensure the desired lower speeds? The latter I can understand, but it’s not clear when you keep going on about scientific trials, what it is you want evidence of.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (9) | Disagree (1)

    Why are you so opposed to using an evidence-led approach, Rod? Scientific trials will prove that 20mph really does save lives and we can all then accept a reduction in funding in other areas in order to roll-out your 20mph nationally.

    If, on the other hand, you believe that 20mph does not save lives, and maybe even results in more deaths, are you suggesting we should implement more 20mph schemes and hide the damage caused from the public?

    If the authorities really believe in the road safety products that they are selling to us, they have nothing to fear and everything to gain by using RCT scientific trials. Let’s use that evidence-led approach and start rebuilding public trust.

    dave finney, Slough
    Agree (11) | Disagree (5)

    I was just again reluctantly pointing out Rod, that despite the authorities introducing measures such as lower limits in urban areas, drivers still have to understand and appreciate them for themselves and comply with them to make it work.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (13) | Disagree (0)


    I agree. There is only so much the authorities can do.

    But equally, there is so much that the authorities can do! And setting the speed limit that WHO, OECD, and many others agree is the safe speed limit where motor vehicles wish to mix with pedestrians and cyclists.

    I also agree with the comment about being hit at 20 or 30. Personally I prefer the comparison of a 20mph vehicle managing to stop in the same distance a 30mph vehicle is still doing 24mph from seeing the hazard at the same point on the road. But equally I can appreciate the symbolism of 30mph creating a far greater risk of death than 20mph.

    I prefer drivers to associate an appropriate speed of less than 20mph that brings life back into their communities by making places better places to walk, cycle and simply live.


    You speak from a position of presumably supporting 30mph as an appropriate speed to travel in places where motor vehicles mix with pedestrians and cyclists. Perhaps I can ask what RCT trials have been conducted on such a limit. Simply relying on an 80 year old figure that was based on a finger in the air decision when we know so much more now about the human anatomy, science of car crashes and social consensus seems rather bizarre.

    And please do not use the phrase “evidence-led” and “scientific” as if they are some unique properties of your personal views. Are you really denying the medical, physics and engineering evidence that exists that going faster increases the incidence and severity of crashes and casualties?

    Rod King, Lymm, Cheshire
    Agree (13) | Disagree (5)

    Dave: TFL are also proposing “… addressing ‘dangerous’ junctions, tough safety standards for the design of HGVs and a comprehensive bus safety programme, which includes speed-limiting technology, and a new training course for professional drivers” Aren’t you going to demand RCT scientific trials for those as well? They also cost money and I presume you’d similarly want to see evidence of their effectiveness.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (9) | Disagree (0)

    Where’s the evidence? 20mph is a product that the authorities are selling to us, and we are forced to purchase it. Citizens have a right to known what effect 20mph has yet the authorities have always refused to run the RCT scientific trials that would provide that evidence.

    And what are the alternatives? Paying for 20mph means fewer police officers, or reduced funding for the NHS, or adding even more to the national debt.

    People are supporting or opposing 20mph without proper evidence, and without knowing the alternatives. We would never buy any other product like that, especially a safety product! I suggest that we should use an evidence-led approach where we support 20mph if it is within RCT scientific trials, and oppose if not. Let’s start that evidence-led approach.

    dave finney, Slough
    Agree (12) | Disagree (11)

    Fine..all they need to do now is to get every single road user in the capital to adopt ‘Vision Zero’ and apply it to themselves. There is only so much the authorities can do.

    Also, could Brake (and others who should know better), please stop saying that it is ‘better’ to be hit by a vehicle at 20mph than 30mph. “Great news Mr Pedestrian, you’re still alive, but you might be using a wheelchair for a bit”. The idea of lower speeds is that pedestrians are not hit at all.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (15) | Disagree (3)

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