Speakers all agree ‘20’s Plenty’

12.00 | 20 March 2015 | | 9 comments

A procession of speakers at the sixth annual 20’s Plenty for Us conference last week made the case for 20mph in a series of “announcements that will shape the future of Britain’s streets”.

Transport for London used the conference, held in Cambridge on 12 March, to announce a series of 20mph pilots on sections of eight Red Routes across the Capital.

Chris Boardman MBE, British Cycling policy advisor and Olympic gold medallist, called for a national 20mph speed limit, telling delegates he doesn’t allow his children to cycle alone. “We all deserve 20mph limits. Why should people even have to campaign for them?”, he asked.

Councillor Lewis Herbert, leader of the host city’s council, told delegates that 20mph is “key for non-car travel options to become even more attractive for a rising population”.

Rachel Christie, Manchester City Council’s strategy manager, announced that an additional 1,800 of the city’s roads would go to 20mph, while Nicola Wass, Liverpool’s “20mph social marketing guru”, told a story of “behaviour change and engagement through pictures and videos of children”.

Living Streets’ Joe Irvin described walking as “the glue of transport”, and transport journalist Christian Wolmar linked “car culture with increasing social and environmental problems”.

Rod King MBE, founder of 20’s Plenty for Us, announced a timetable for the national speed limit to go 20mph, using the slogan “Total 20 by 2020”.

He told delegates: “The Government can’t afford to waste tax payers money forcing local authorities to buy repeater signs for 20mph when only a few roads will stay 30mph. It makes sense to only sign the faster roads.

“Places like Birmingham and Edinburgh would save millions with a DfT plan to go 20 nationally.”


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    I for one, living in an area which has rolled this out, am confused and appalled by these campaigns. They have been introduced on inappropriate roads in a haphazard way. As has been stated before bad laws are ignored. I do worry though 10% of 20 = 2mph and the margin for error on handheld speed guns is such that I can see a lot of tickets being issued and for what? Where is the evidence?

    Steve Armstrong, Halifax UK.
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    There is more to road safety than reducing the urban speed limit to a mere 20mph. It is not a cure for all ills on the road. If that were the case surely if it’s further reduced to 10mph most citizens would agree that it’s a safer speed than 20? The 20mph is going to be forced upon the public by law and therefore extremely unpopular to the majority of motorists, corporations, transport etc. and not necessarily as helpful to some of the residential population as perhaps previously thought. I believe that it will be held in disrepute by the majority of motorists and as such is going to be a bad law and disobeyed. Not dissimilar to many laws presently broken.

    Bob Craven Lancs…Space is safe Campaigner
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    You keep talking about “scientific trials” but I wonder if you really understand the nature of this issue.

    When you look at a 20mph on a single street where the majority of drivers only find out about it through the interaction with the speed limit signs when driving then “scientific” trials may be appropriate.

    But all the implementations of authority-wide 20mph limits are very much about people and whole communities making “lifestyle decisions” about how they drive and share community roads. The whole process is one of social engagement and developing national consensus. In order to conduct your “scientific trials” then you would need pairs of idential communities with similar roads and social make-up. You would then, presumably, go through the whole democratic process of setting a wide-area 20mph limit in one but denying it in the other. Would this mean banning any local 20’s Plenty campaigns in the control area, would it mean denying the democratic right and responsibility to set what is considered to be the correct limit? The more you look at your proposal then the more inappropriate it becomes.

    Rod King, 20’s Plenty for Us
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    Any political propaganda machine will fully understand the idiom that – if told often enough, a lie becomes the truth. Campaigns are won on it, wars are fought on it. Where an element of truth may be at the core of the theory such as slower is safer, any scientific evidence is corrupted by the human element at input stage, i.e. you will never stop people moving into danger through the disbelief some harm might come to them, in effect – pure ignorance. Others seek a platform for their 15 minutes of fame – or infamy.

    Derek Reynolds, Salop.
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    Duncan is absolutely right, I have found the same reaction so often over the years from people who really should know better that I named it the “My mind is made up, please do not confuse me with the facts” syndrome. Later I came across academic work on that problem, identified as “cognitive dissonance” see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

    In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.[1][2]

    Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency. When inconsistency (dissonance) is experienced, individuals tend to become psychologically uncomfortable and they are motivated to attempt to reduce this dissonance, as well as actively avoiding situations and information which are likely to increase it.[1]

    I am far from being the first to point to similarities to religion, where belief trumps logic or evidence, or that the all-too-evident dislike of the 20mph lobby have for motorists, and their “green” arguments that make no sense in physics or economics.

    Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield
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    Be careful what you wish for Dave as there is a well known psychological phenomenon called “The Backfire Effect” that can scupper your plans. We all assume that when people’s beliefs are challenged with facts and evidence, they will alter their opinions and incorporate the new information into their thinking. Sadly though what actually happens is that when a person’s deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, their beliefs get stronger!

    Any trial of a multi-variate system will always throw up a sufficient number of ambiguous results that ‘true believers’ will sieze on to confirm that their original hypothesis is indeed correct. This is another perfectly natural, but very powerful psychological phenomenon called confirmation bias and although we all suffer from it, it is the very devil to shift.

    Perhaps the following quote from Francis Bacon puts it all in a nutshell. “The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusion may remain inviolate”.

    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident.
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    I’d like to know why the speakers in favour of reducing everyone’s speed to 20mph were so sure they are right and that others are wrong? We still have the opportunity to prove what effects 20mph has by installing them within scientific trials. I note that 20sP are dead set against scientific trials and the anti-20 groups also seem not to want scientific trials. What about the rest of us who would be persuaded by good quality evidence? Why can we not have what we need to allow us to form an unbiased evidence-based view?

    Dave Finney, Slough
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    In the UK, ‘national speed limit’ also includes the current default 30 for built-up areas, so the quote from Rod King referred to by Keith re the ‘national speed limit to go 20’ (for built-up areas) is not incorrect.

    Also, I can’t find anything in the Highway Code that says ‘always drive at a speed that will not adversely affect the economy’ (whatever that actually means anyway). The HC seems to lean more towards the need to reduce speeds with respect to (and for) other road users. In residential areas, I would also add ‘…and with respect for resdients’. Motorists should be doing this anyway – it’s just a pity that the mentality of some necessitates further legislation to bring it about.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    So the suggestion as “Rod King MBE, founder of 20’s Plenty for Us, announced a timetable for the national speed limit to go 20mph, using the slogan “Total 20 by 2020”.
    Last time I checked the National Speed Limit was depicted by a particular black and white sign as a 60mph or 70mph limit depending on vehicle category. Does no one pick these speakers up on their errors. Does he not know the impact on the economy of a 20 mph limit throughout the country!

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