Councils ‘wasting millions on 20mph zones’: The Sun

09.38 | 14 September 2018 | | 11 comments

Councils are wasting millions of pounds of 20mph zones which, rather than improving safety, could be causing more deaths – according to The Sun.

Figures obtained by The Sun – via Freedom of Information requests to 20 councils – show that £11m has been spent on implementing 20mph schemes on 1,536 miles of road.

However in some cases collision rates have risen since their introduction, according to The Sun.

In Bath and North East Somerset, the local council spent a total of £804,000 on implementing 20mph limits between 2012 and 2017.

But, according to The Sun, a report published by the council in 2016 revealed the number of killed or seriously injured casualties increased in seven out of the 13 zones where speeds were reduced to 20mph.

The report read: “Casualty severity has worsened marginally in Bath and more so in outlying towns. Again, this is reflective of the national situation.”

The Sun reports that council chiefs later said it would be too expensive to remove the ‘ineffective’ 20mph signs and road markings.

Patrick Anketell-Jones, deputy leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council, said: “It has cost over £800,000 to roll out the 20mph zone and it would probably cost the same to reverse them.

“We just haven’t got the money. I’m pretty sure the 20mph zones will stay in place for the foreseeable future.”

In Manchester, The Sun says £1.7m has been spent on a ‘heavily criticised’ scheme dating back to 2012.

According to the newspaper, council bosses later admitted speeds had not changed significantly where the new limit was introduced – and on some roads had actually increased.

In Hampshire, The Sun reports that a county council monitoring group concluded that the 20mph schemes have had ‘no impact in terms of accident or injury’.

Council officers said the number of collisions has also increased in some zones since the speed limits were lowered – adding that in terms of ‘accident and injury data’ the impact of the schemes were ‘neutral and there is no evidence of enhanced road safety benefits’.

In response to the FOI data obtained by The Sun, the AA described the schemes as a ‘waste of money’.

The Sun also points to DfT figures which shows that 80% of drivers fail to comply with 20mph limits – the majority of whom travel at 21-25mph.

In addition, The Sun says ‘cash strapped police forces have also failed to enforce the limits, claiming the work would be a waste of resources’.

In a response posted on its website, the campaign group 20’s Plenty for Us describes The Sun report as ‘sloppy journalism based on reports that have been widely de-bunked and critiqued’.

20’s Plenty for Us goes on to say: “Whilst the ‘faster is safer’ message may sell newspapers there is robust evidence that 20mph limits work and are the right speed limit for where pedestrians and cyclists mix with motor vehicles.

“In the city of Bath casualties reduced by 23% on 20mph roads after implementation. Manchester’s report had serious failings and the Hampshire trial was badly planned and badly executed.”



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    Let’s be perfectly clear. Having obtained the full details of the KSIs for the period that the BANES report referenced in The Sun covered we can confirm that there were only 3 crashes which resulted in fatalaties.

    1 fatality on a 30mph road 14 months before being set at 20mph. A driver lost control
    1 fatality on a 30mph road 32 months before being set to 20mph. A motorcyclist mounted a pavement and hit a wall.
    4 fatalities on a 20mph road in one incident 14 months after being set at 20mph when a runaway truck hit pedestrians and cars when its brakes failed on a hill.

    So we now know that :-

    There were no fatalities on 20mph roads in the 12 months after being changed from 30mph
    There was one crash after 14 months which caused 4 fatalities. However this was totally unrelated to the speed limit.

    Hence there is absolutely no grounds for suggesting that “20mph limits may be causing more deaths”

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (0) | Disagree (5)

    My apologies to Charles and Pat.


    Rod King, LYMM
    Agree (1) | Disagree (2)

    Rod, you are confusing me with Pat – I hadn’t commented on this story.

    Charles, England
    Agree (4) | Disagree (1)

    ” a report published by the council in 2016 revealed the number of killed or seriously injured casualties increased in seven out of the 13 zones where speeds were reduced to 20mph.” This was a gross misuse of statistics. Overall KSIs fell substantially. Only by dividing up into zones with only a few events in each could the inevitable “noise” be enlisted to get the desired result.

    Paul Luton, Teddington
    Agree (3) | Disagree (6)

    Not music to my ears sadly – Mr (Edmund) King needs to give it more thought – his views as listed below in those four paras do not stand up to scrutiny. e.g. is he aware that it’s dark at midnight and in an urban area it is not impossible for peds to be around? He is not in position, any more than I am or anyone else, to state categorically that “.. x mph is too slow” anywhere, anytime, as he cannot possibly know.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (12) | Disagree (5)

    Charles, may I suggest that if the Express and Star article is “music to your ears” then perhaps you should have your hearing checked.

    I have obtained the detail for all the KSIs featured in the Bath report. Hence I can comment with some authority on the accuracy of the article you referenced. Lets start with the first paragraph:-

    “AA hits out as figures show the number of people killed in seven of 13 of the new 20mph zones has actually increased”

    In Bath there were no deaths in the 13 wards in the 12 months after setting 20mph limits. Whilst there were 4 deaths in one ward from one collision 14 months after the Newbridge and Weston 20mph limit was implemented, this was due to a runaway truck loaded with brake failure and had nothing to do with the speed limit.

    You will notice that consistency in the article is further compromised when 2 paragraphs later it says :-

    “A Department for Transport (DfT) report from 2016 shows that the number of people killed or involved in serious collisions in 13 new 20mph zones has gone up, not down”

    1) It wasn’t a DfT report it was a Bath and North East Somerset report.
    2) It has now been transformed from people killed in 7 of 13 new zones out of 13 to KSIs increasing in all 13 zones.
    3) In fact the KSI numbers we are talking about actually increasing in 7 out of 13 wards were minimal either way and have no statistical significance due to being so small. a change from 0.8 KSI pa to 1.0 pa or vice versa has no significance.

    It implies that the figures come from FOI requests by the Sun when in fact the FOIs were only for the amount spent by 20 councils.

    The rest of the article is riddled with opinion and conjecture. Its taken an already compromised Sun article that regurgitates some dubious articles and then embellished it. Journalism at its worst.

    You can see our critique of the Sun article at

    In a tweet in response to comments on the Sun article Edmund King said :-

    “Don’t believe all that you read”.

    That comment is certainly common sense from one of our largest motoring organisations.

    Maybe the fact is that what may be “music” to one set of ears is simply “noise” to another. When it comes to the tabloid reports on speed then those serious about road safety and liveable communities will recognise “noise” when they hear it.

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (10) | Disagree (16)

    Not just in the Sun, (see link at bottom of posting) but it seems to come from the Press Association.
    But does anyone know :
    (1) the source of the quotes -in particular those from AA president Edmund King and
    (2) are the newspapers quotes in context (would be a first)
    (3) Would Mr King (Edmund not Rod) offer the full script/context for us all to read as he is alleged to have said:
    “Spending more than £10m to put in blanket 20 speed signs on more than 1,500 miles of road without targeting is frankly a waste of money.
    He also said that lowering the speed limit to 20mph could cause more congestion, emissions and crashes.

    King told the Press Association: “Speeds of 20mph should be well targeted by location and time of day. Twenty miles per hour when kids are going in and out of school is probably too fast but 20 on the same street at midnight is too slow.

    “The best 20mph zones are those that are self-enforcing, such as flashing lights outside a school at peak periods.

    “Spending more than £10m to put in blanket 20 speed signs on more than 1,500 miles of road without targeting is frankly a waste of money. If drivers understand the reason for the speed limit they are more likely to obey it.

    “Rather than spending millions on signs that are ignored, it would be safer to improve dangerous junctions and put in pedestrian crossings.”

    Music to my ears. Could we be having an outbreak of common sense from one of our largest motoring organisations?

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (15) | Disagree (6)

    I think the key phrase is in the first line: “…according to the Sun”. (other tabloid newspapers are available)

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (8) | Disagree (0)

    So many pro default 20mph speed limit articles appear in newspapers with very little in the way of counter argument be offered, so it it amusing to see the boot on the other foot for a change.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (16) | Disagree (5)

    Hi Dave. Having read two of the three reports in detail – Bath & NE Somerset and Hampshire – I confirm that is impossible to draw the conclusions stated in the Sun and Daily Mail headlines. I have also read the BRITE report on 20mph in Bristol and its conclusions are altogether more robust.

    Adrian Berendt, 20s Plenty for Kent, Tunbridge Wells
    Agree (6) | Disagree (12)

    Is the Sun right, or is 20sP right? The scandal in road safety is that we do not know. There are many other factors influencing crash rates (randomness, RTM, weather, the economy etc) such that changes in crash rates are not the effect of the intervention. Furthermore, the authorities have been unable or unwilling to produce accurate evaluations. We could, though, end the scandal right now simply by running RCT scientific trials.

    Run the scientific trials, find the truth, and end the scandal.

    dave finney, Slough
    Agree (16) | Disagree (5)

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