Global transport ministers to back default 20mph limits

10.57 | 6 February 2020 | | 12 comments

Image: 20’s Plenty via Twitter

Ministers from around the world are set to send out a ‘clear and unambiguous message’ that the default speed limit on all residential roads should be 20mph.

On 19-20 February, transport ministers from more than 100 countries will meet at the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Stockholm.

The ministers will agree on the ‘Stockholm Declaration’ – described as an ‘ambitious and forward-looking’ road safety plan.

The declaration has a focus on speed management, promising to ‘mandate a maximum road travel speed limit of 20mph in areas where vulnerable road users and vehicles mix in a frequent and planned manner’.

It says that efforts to reduce speed will have a ‘beneficial impact on air quality and climate change as well as being vital to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries’.

There will be an exception where ‘strong evidence’ shows higher speeds are safe.

The move has been welcomed by campaign group 20’s Plenty for Us, who says 20mph limits are ‘becoming the standard for best practice in communities around the world’.

Rod King MBE, director of 20’s Plenty for Us, said: “This declaration by transport ministers worldwide will endorse 20mph as the appropriate limit wherever vulnerable road users mix with motorised vehicles. 

“This sets a clear and unambiguous message that adoption of 20mph limits as a default is necessary on urban and village streets where people live, work and visit. 

“It also endorses the wide benefits of such lower speeds beyond just road safety to include air quality, public health and climate change.”



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    I gather from your last comment that you seem to have given up on the power of engagement and education, coupled with some enforcement. Places like Bristol and Birmingham and many others are pleased with the outcomes from their 20mph limits. I trust that when Wales does so with proper engagement and education coupled with some enforcement that you also can be pleased. Many of us are working hard to get that right and use the experience of other places to get even better success.

    Winning hearts and minds will always be more difficult than communicating with physical calming via buttocks and spines. But the gains can be delivered far more widely.

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (2) | Disagree (21)

    It’s the 20 limit that has least compliance though Rod – not the higher ones – and if there is overwhelming support for them, then why is compliance so low?

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (8) | Disagree (17)

    I agree with your 3rd paragraph Rod.
    And it looks to me that none of the various governments in the UK have so far been willing to cough up enough funding to pay for a proper sized stick. We are therefore back to my fundamental point on 20s – that (whether you are for or against 20s) without enforcement and/or engineering they will be largely ineffective. And that is also my personal experience of other vehicles when I’m driving around parts of Bristol and Birmingham with wide areas 20mph limits.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)


    You could say that about any speed limit. Probably any double yellow line that gets parked on illegally. Probably any pavement that gets driven over illegally. Probably any traffic light where people illegally accelerate over on orange when they could safely stop. Probably any advanced stop line where drivers illegally go over the line on red.

    This idea that because drivers agree with a law but sometimes don’t comply, then the law should be somehow not deployed has been around ever since the internal combustion engine. And its as false now as it was then.

    “Sadness” doesn’t come into it. We need both the carrot and the stick. The carrot to engage, inform educate and explain how driving slower makes all our places better places and the stick to catch those who think the law doesn’t apply to them.

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (2) | Disagree (22)

    The public my well be ‘overwhelmingly in favour’ of 20 mph limits, but sadly that seems to be forgotten when some of them get behind the wheel.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (4) | Disagree (22)


    Yes, “resistant mindsets”. Always a problem when you want to make a change for the better.

    In fact I would suggest that often campaigning is about “helping politicians to do the right thing” so that they can overcome “resistant mindsets”.

    In the case of 20mph limits then it helps that the public is overwhelmingly in favour of 20mph limits for most streets. So whilst it may not be an “open door”, it is one where any “resistant hinges” can be oiled and given a little push with the help of community pressure.

    And the public is also in favour of enforcement to gain compliance and once we get past the “resistant mindsets” who would prefer to just “wring their hands” and put up with anti-social road users, then all is possible.

    Enforcement on limits is possible. Avon and Somerset Police issued over 25,000 NIPs on 20mph roads in 2018. And authorities implementing wide-area 20mph limits are successfully using education and engagement to change “reluctant mindsets” around the community values of driving more sedately.

    That isn’t to say that some mindsets are not so resistant that they will never change, but the world around them is changing, and this global acceptance of 30kmh/20mph being the right default speed limit where people mix with motor vehicles is welcome.

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (3) | Disagree (26)

    It may not be about education and engagement at all. It may simply be that without a great big compliance ‘stick’ of heavy enforcement and/or physical traffic calming everywhere, many drivers will just refuse to comply. Reason? They don’t want to go that slow. Nothing more complicated than that. And all the time they think they can “get away with it”, they will. It is just human nature.

    I don’t see the politicians coming back with the levels of expenditure required to deal with such resistant mindsets.

    Perhaps the “non-compliant” drivers have already sent a message to the politicians?

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (9) | Disagree (2)

    Yes I appreciate it wasn’t your own personal view Steve, I simply copied and pasted the whole para which included the source of the findings.

    On the contrary, one of the many benefits of an automatic is that no speed is inconvenient or difficult to maintain, compared with a manual in which I’ve found, drivers are more likely to speed and drive too close.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (1) | Disagree (22)

    Rightly or wrongly, their view not mine Hugh. We also found many drivers endorsing the view that automatics are more difficult than manuals to drive at 20mph. Perhaps they hadn’t worked out how to put it and keep it in a low gear to facilitate compliance.

    Steve Stradling, Altrincham
    Agree (7) | Disagree (1)

    Thanks for the link it’s not just a UK problem then! Compliance seems to be a widespread problem with some drivers’ mindset.

    i.e. from the report in the link: “Drivers seem to not find it easy to drive at low speeds. In a survey by Stradling et al. in 2003 [6], most drivers agreed that it is difficult to manoeuvre modern cars at speeds below 56 km/h (35 mph).” What utter nonsense!

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (6) | Disagree (23)

    You may find this of interest Hugh

    I suspect that the key “soft” factors in compliance on limits are :-

    Degree of engagement and education
    Degree of enforcement

    Of course both can vary enormously from local authority to local authority in the UK. Note that in 2018 Avon and Somerset Police issued over 25,000 Notices of Intended Prosecution on 20mph roads whilst some police forces issued zero.


    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (3) | Disagree (24)

    Does anyone have any information on whether compliance with 20mph limits (or equivalent) is better or worse abroad, than in the UK?

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (2) | Disagree (17)

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