Survey suggests public support for 20mph limits is ‘holding firm’

12.00 | 3 November 2017 | | 9 comments

More than 70% of adults in Great Britain support the introduction of 20mph speed limits on ‘busy streets’, according to the findings of a survey conducted earlier this year.

72% of the 3,000 respondents to the YouGov survey backed the limit in busy streets, with 21% in opposition.

When asked about the use of 20mph limits on residential roads, 64% of respondents indicated support, compared to 28% who were against the idea.

The results mirror findings from similar online surveys in 2013 and 2015, carried out as part of a study funded by Bristol City Council.

The survey results were analysed by Professor Alan Tapp and Dr Adrian Davis, from the University of the West of England.

Participants – randomly-selected adults living in Great Britain – were asked for their opinions on 20mph limits and about their driving behaviours on 20mph roads.

29% of respondents said they ‘may not stick’ to a newly introduced 20mph limit (3% fewer than in 2013), while 48% indicated they would abide by the limit. The researchers say this suggests an ‘improvement in driver compliance’.

Approximately half of those surveyed agreed 20mph speed limits ‘will be ignored by many drivers’ and as such are of limited benefit – and that 20mph limits will not be effectively policed or enforced.

The results are also said to show a rise in the number of respondents agreeing that 20mph limits will ‘improve quality of life, improve traffic flow, encourage walking and cycling, and reduce congestion’, although no numbers are quoted.

Professor Tapp, an expert in social marketing, said: “20mph limits divide opinion, with some pro-motoring groups criticising their expansion in UK cities.

“These results suggest their opinions are not shared by the public. People are, overall, strongly in favour of 20mph limits on streets where they live, work and play.

“Our wave of surveys over the last five years shows the clear majority support for 20mph limits that we first identified in 2013 still holding steady, and actually a small but significant increase in other supporting attitudes over that time.

“It is also interesting that there is a slight increase in the number of drivers who indicated they will comply with the new limits – this is significant because it remains important that communities are united with both residents and drivers continuing to support slower speeds."

Category: 20mph limits.



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    Speed surveys should be taken before and after speed limit changes are made to roads. The 85th percentile speed of the road is a good indicator of how drivers perceive the road. This perception influences how they treat it i.e the speed they drive at.

    Pat, Wales
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    Since when have Councils recruited nurses and police staff, Dave?

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    I suspect that your options provided are somewhat flawed. At a cost of £1,100 per km then £200,000 would purchase 113 miles of roads with a 20mph limit. Now I am not sure which 3 roads you were thinking of but they must be pretty long to add up to 113 miles. In fact £200,000 would purchase a wide-area 20mph limit for a population of about 60,000 people. And consistently surveys have shown that when you implement such a wide-area 20mph limit then support increases to around 70-80% of those surveyed.

    It is somewhat strange that in an era when 37% of the electorate votes to leave the EU in an advisory referendum that this is claimed by the government as “will of the people” and it starts running towards the cliff regardless of the consequences, yet when twice that percentage call for 20mph limits for residential streets then the government just wrings its hands!

    And for Andrew the evidence is that 20mph limits reduce speeds on roads and on faster roads by 3-6mph.

    Rod King, Warrington – 20’s Plenty for Us
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    I wonder what proportion of the population would now support mandatory ISA on roads where a 20 miles/hr limit is desirable. Let’s face it – 20 miles/hr limits will not work without ISA, as 20th Century experience has shown.

    Andrew Fraser
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    These surveys seem to be created in a political world where everything is free, and there are no negative side-effects.

    In the real world otoh, when we consider buying a product then we will want to know:
    1) what does it cost?
    2) is it fit for our purpose?
    3) what are the alternatives?

    Surely, the same ought to be true when the authorities buy a product with our money? Eg ask the public a question like:

    Your local council plans to spend £200,000 each year. What would you prefer they do?
    1) reduce the speed limit on 3 roads to 20mph
    2) deploy 5 new speed cameras
    3) employ 3 more police officers
    4) employ 5 more PCSOs
    5) recruit 6 more nurses for the local hospital
    6) reduce council tax by £10 per household

    This sort of “real-world” question might produce results that could actually be actioned.

    dave finney
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    There are roads that benefit from 20 mph limits, where there is double parking for example as in the picture, but in some cases they are being applied inappropriately on wide open roads which can safely support 30 mph traffic. Politics and the anti-car lobby rather than safety issues are behind some of the 20 mph introductions.

    Derek Hertfordshire
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    Opinion is a very fickle thing. “The public” are frequently swayed by how questions are presented. Especially ones out of context. I sometimes have to reset the balance after certain campaign groups present facts out of context to people with little knowledge of the subject. It is a fairly widespread concern, not just in road safety.

    Pat, Wales
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    I would suggest there are matters upon which the authorities should have the courage of their own convictions as to what is right and desirable and not require the reassurance, via a survey, of the less informed general public.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    The results from a survey containing leading questions should be discarded and certainly not be taken seriously.

    This survey, gratuitously it appears, confuses the introduction 20mph speed limits with the deliverance of appropriate traffic speeds. Sure if you ask someone whether they support 20mph limits they are likely to say yes – but only if they believe that 20mph limits will guarantee appropriate speeds.

    A more useful survey would be able to distinguish between those who would support the introduction of 20mph speed limits even if they were shown to have no significant effect on traffic speeds from those who would support the introduction of 20mph speed limits only if they were shown to have a significant effect on traffic speeds.

    Charles, England
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