Mixed responses to 20mph report

14.24 | 12 October 2010 | | 7 comments

A report published by the DfT about the UK’s first city-wide 20mph speed limit – in Portsmouth – has been interpreted differently by the Telegraph and Portsmouth City Council.

The Telegraph said that the £500,000 scheme ‘has not brought any significant reduction in the number of accidents’. In contrast, a report published on Portsmouth City Council’s website said the initiative ‘may be succeeding’.

The Telegraph said: “The number of people killed or seriously injured on affected roads actually went up, not down, after the limit was lowered.

“The analysis, carried out by the consultants Atkins on behalf of the DfT, found that prior to the reduction in the limit, an average of 18.7 people per year were killed or seriously injured on the streets covered. After the reduction this rose to 19.9 per year.”

Conversely, the Portsmouth City Council report said that when comparing the three years before the scheme was implemented with the two years afterwards, injuries and casualties fell.

The council says: “The number of injuries dropped from 183 per year to 142, a 22% drop. During the same period, researchers Atkins also said casualties fell by 14%.”

Simon Moon, Portsmouth City Council’s head of transport and street management, said: “This is very encouraging, in particular the number of recorded casualties falling by 22% and a significant reduction in sites monitored with higher average speeds.

“But the 20mph zones are about changing the culture of driving in the city, which is a long-term job.”

Councillor Jason Fazackarley, cabinet member for traffic and transport, said: “We brought this in because officers told us it would bring down accidents. Since it started, accidents have come down.

“Some people have been unhappy with the schemes since they were operated, but they are in a minority, and there are lots of people calling for it to be extended even further.”

Click here to read the full Telegraph report, or click here to read the Portsmouth City Council report.

Click here to download the DfT report, Interim Evaluation of the Implementation of 20 mph Speed Limits in Portsmouth.


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    I’m quite against this further anti-motorist measure. It has more than a whiff of smug green sandal wearers and seems to be supported largely by the economically inactive. It’s an illiberal and intolerant campaign thin on evidence and laden with a political agenda.

    Joe Thesiger
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    The purpose of 20 MPH limits is to make roads safer and pleasanter for all those who aren’t in motorised vehicles. Many other countries have had similar arrangements for years (eg 30 KPH = 18.6 MPH in Europe). It’s high time we in the UK caught up. The idea that a driver in a car should have priority over, say, a group of kids who want to cross the road is out dated and smacks of the Green Cross Code and other such victim blaming philosophies from decades ago. Streets are for people and need to be reclaimed as such from the motoring lobby. I say this as a 50 year old regular driver with a 33 year old clean driving licence by the way.

    Paul, Andover
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    I think the report is useful in reaffirming that 20mph speeds can best be acheived by using the zone approach utilising traffic calming features and that signs alone cannot bring speeds to 20mph unless speeds are already relatively low.

    It is interesting that Mr Francis has been able to complain about this report published in September since January!

    Mark, Manchester
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    Having complained repeatedly to Portsmouth City Council since January this year about their claims of success that have no statistical basis I have just filed a formal complaint with the UK Statistics Office about how both the Council and the Atkins report have systematically skewed and misrepresented the figures in attempts to justify the scheme.

    The plain fact is that the limited amount of data available from one City centre for only two years, as Atkins repeatedly state, are incapable of providing any statistically meaningful evidence of success – or failure for that matter – because the changes – whether reductions in some categories of slight injuries or by and large, increases in serious injuries, fall within what could easily be explained by purely random chance, including unquantified weather and traffic variations.

    Further, the changes are presented largely in comparison with the average of the 3 prior years – when long term trend would account for at least some falls.

    Also although there seems to be no meaningful data for traffic volume, despite one objective of the scheme being to reduce it, and although there was one note in an early report of a 12% fall in traffic – logically due to drivers avoiding the area and taking their accidents with them, to have them somewhere else – the claims deliberately ignore that factor.

    They also largely ignore or use weasel words to avoid the significance of the better or much better national results.

    My complaint includes an Excel spreadsheet showing how, if the data does have any statistical significance it is not the success that PCC claim but worse or much worse results than elsewhere.

    PCC were told before they abandoned earlier plans for 20mph zones with traffic calming and enforcement that signs-only areas were known to have little or no effect (DfT circular 01/06) but they blundered on anyway, spending more than £575,000 to achieve nothing or less than nothing.

    Furthermore PCC and Aktins systematically misrepresent public support – the contrast between the spin they put on public support and the poll results they provide is all too clear.

    Further, it is worth noting how PCC and Atkins concentrate largely on “all” casualties while sidelining the surely more important point that serious casualties increased in PCC by 6% despite falling nationally by 11%, in PCC allowing for a 12% fall in traffic, rose by 20%, overall 30% than nationally

    What makes matters worse of course is that PCC have all-but ignored my complaints and those of another campaigner and continued – and continue even after the most recent Atkins Report concluded that there is no meaningful evidence of success – to encourage other local authorities (at this of all economic times) to spend hard-pressed taxpayers money on more such schemes – and incidentally, by doing so, to remove limited road safety funds from other better ways of reducing accidents.

    I would be happy to copy all of this documentation to anyone who asks for it via this web site or http://www.abd.org.uk

    Idris Francis
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    There is no substitution for education for both pedestrians and drivers, both parties need to respect each other and a 20 mph zone (if used) should be part of that education.

    Linda, Walsall
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    Watch any outpouring of school pupils from school and the culture of ‘demonise the car’ is evident in their attitude towards crossing a road. The push to reduce speeds, further cycling, pedestrianising streets for shopping areas, has created a generation biased against cars and traffic in general. The respect of one type of road user towards another has thus been caused to deteriorate, and the result is more casualties as the majority of KSI occur at speeds lower than 20mph. If the young pedestrians are taught to expect priority over traffic, they will not be prepared for those few who expect clear roads with the knowledge that ‘Stop, Look & Listen’ will be foremost in the minds of others. The anti-car culture is based upon a failed policy that is costing lives.

    Derek, St Albans
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    Personally I do not support the 20 mph speed limit. What is needed is better education and better discipline. I still have youths deliberately walk in front of me when I am driving.

    Jim Mennie
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