20mph limits – a subject which often polarises opinion – will be the focus for the ‘Hot Topic’ debate at the 2019 National Road Safety Conference.
Organised by Road Safety GB, the 11th running of the National Conference takes place at Telford International Centre on 12-13 November.
The 2019 conference will follow a similar format to previous years, with both a main and fringe programme running concurrently. There are also a number of new initiatives – including an informal chat show style session on the closing afternoon.
The Hot Topic debate was first introduced at the 2017 National Conference and has quickly become a popular addition to the agenda.
For 2019, three speakers will debate whether 20mph limits/zones can help reduce collisions and casualties, and improve road safety.
20mph – the current position
20mph limits are never far from the media spotlight – with ongoing debate about whether 20mph should become the default limit in urban and residential areas.
Last month, MSPs voted down a bill which sought to make 20mph the default limit on residential streets in Scotland.
The Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill was put forward by Green MSP Mark Ruskell in September 2018, who said it would improve child safety and save five lives a year.
However, in a passionate debate in Holyrood, opponents of the bill questioned the evidence for this claim and argued that local authorities are best placed to make a decision on where 20mph limits are appropriate.
In the vote which followed the debate, 83 MSPs opposed the bill, with only 26 – mostly Labour and Green MSPs and one from the SNP – voting in favour.
In contrast, plans to make 20mph the default limit for residential areas in Wales appear likely to be implemented, with the country’s first minister, Mark Drakeford, issuing a statement of support in May.
Mr Drakeford cited the city-wide roll-out of 20mph limits by Cardiff Council, labelling it “a good example of what can be done.”
In London, TfL is adopting a similar stance and recently announced plans to introduce 20mph limits on all central London roads by May 2020.
The proposals, which were put out for consultation in June, are described as a key part of the mayor’s Vision Zero ambition to eliminate death and serious injury on the Capital’s transport network.
Meet the participants
The three speakers who will participate in the 20mph debate at National Conference represent different sides of the argument.
Richard Fernandes is a senior consultant at Atkins, who was responsible for both the safety and speed analysis used in the DfT’s 20mph Speed Limit Evaluation report, published in November 2018.
The report found insufficient evidence to conclude that there has been a significant change in collisions and casualties following the introduction of 20mph limits in residential areas.
Speaking in support of 20mph limits is Rod King, founder of campaign group 20’s Plenty for Us.
With a focus on the single issue of campaigning for 20mph limits for most roads across a complete local authority area, 20’s Plenty now has 420 local campaigns in the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada and Australia.
Providing an alternative view is Pat Bates, road safety strategy officer, Torfaen Council.
While Pat is in favour of lower speed limits where there is evidence they would reduce casualties, he is totally unconvinced that wide area, default, signed only 20 limits are effective – due to widespread non-compliance and little, if any, enforcement.
Delegate registration is now open and the full residential fee is £355 for Road Safety GB/Academy members, and £445 for other attendees. The residential rate includes all conference sessions, refreshments throughout the two days, overnight accommodation and the conference dinner.
Day delegate places are available for both or either day, from £105 (all prices plus VAT).