With more councils implementing 20mph limits on residential streets, a Guardian Bike Blog asks whether the limit could soon become as widely accepted as the smoking ban in pubs.
Portsmouth, Oxford and other cities have pioneered the switch within the past five years, and campaigners from the 20’s Plenty For Us movement say eight million people now live in areas committed to adopting the limit for residential roads.
But, according to the Guardian blog, the most significant recruit to the cause may turn out to be Liverpool, where the local NHS trust will pay £665,000 over four years to implement and study an extension of the city’s 20mph limits to a majority of streets.
The blog notes that nobody yet knows if injecting money from the public health budget will pay back in reduced hospital costs for treating victims of road accidents, but it could be the start of a trend.
From 2013, councils will take on larger responsibilities for public health in England. The idea, says the blog, is that lowering road speeds may cut the NHS bill for treating crash victims, and also combat obesity by encouraging more people to walk and cycle.
Until last year most of the enquiries handled by the 20’s Plenty movement came from individuals and campaigners. However, Rod King, its founder, says that in 2012 more than half the inquiries have come from local government. But while momentum appears to be growing and all three major political parties are supportive, the Government is against legislation.
Norman Baker, junior transport minister, recently said: “It is not Government policy to have a default limit. This is a matter of localism. It would be wrong for us to impose our view from Westminster and Whitehall; those days are ending, I am happy to say.”
Mr Baker says he wants councils to think hard about 20mph limits, and is trying to make implementation easier and cheaper by simplifying guidance on signage and scrapping the previous requirement for extensive physical traffic calming.
However, Chief superintendant Jerry Moore of ACPO says that the police will not support 20 mph limits unless they are self-enforcing: "Simply altering the signs and lowering the limit and dumping it on the police is inappropriate," he said.
Campaigners say evidence from Portsmouth and elsewhere shows strong public support for 20mph limits, with up to 80% of residents backing the change. They also say that complaints from motorists that their fuel consumption and their journey times will rise steeply are based on myth.
Click here to read the full Bike Blog.