Television presenter James May – known for fronting motoring shows Top Gear and The Grand Tour – has come out in support for reducing the default national speed limit to 20mph.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the presenter said the lower speed limit “makes perfect sense” in a lot of urban places, city centres, towns and villages.
Mr May – who has earned the nickname Captain Slow throughout his TV career – backed new planning guidance for designing streets, which is due to be published by the DfT this year.
A draft version titled Manual for Streets, seen by The Sunday Times (and reported by the Telegraph), said: “The default should be to work to a design speed limit of 20mph in urban environments.”
It added that “for residential streets, a maximum design speed of 20mph should normally be an objective, with significantly lower speeds usually desirable”.
This would be a reduction from the existing national speed limit of 30mph on single and dual carriageways with street lights.
While Mr May says he would agree that a blanket 20mph limit “would probably be a little bit knuckle-headed”, in a lot of places “actually 20mph makes perfect sense”.
“30mph does feel too fast”
James May, presenter of The Grand Tour, tells @MarthaKearney that he thinks the default speed limit should be changed to 20mph but there also needs to be a ‘change in attitude’ from motorists#R4Today pic.twitter.com/zjttaVQYNu
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) January 30, 2023
Mr May said: “I live in Hammersmith in west London which is an area where people seem particularly fond of just running out into the street without looking, which is their prerogative because they’re people not machines, but 20mph is plenty fast enough and 30mph does feel too fast.”
Mr May also talked about the importance of bringing about a “change in attitude” from motorists.
He added: “We can become over-obsessed with things like rules, street furniture, signage, traffic lights and so on… [but] ultimately these things are cured by a change in attitude.”
Wales and Scotland are currently lowering their default national limits to 20mph, while in England, Cornwall is rolling out a 20mph-only limit in residential areas by 2026.
The new guidance would not create a new, lower national default speed limit but councils would be empowered to set the limits locally.