Police not enforcing 20mph speed limits, MPs told

12.00 | 5 March 2013 | | 8 comments

A senior police officer has told the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group that forces around the country are not enforcing 20mph speed limits, according to a story in The Times.

If true, it is being left up to local authorities to enforce the law as a growing number of cities, including Manchester and Liverpool, move to citywide 20mph limits.

According to The Times, MPs were astonished at the disclosure from Mark Milsom, assistant chief constable with West Yorkshire Police, that police had decided against enforcing the lower speed limit in residential areas.

Rod King, from 20s Plenty for Us, said the police are taking a "20th Century approach" and need to "align their thinking with modern developments".

ACC Milsom told the Parliamentary hearing into cycle safety: “We are not enforcing 20mph speed limits at this moment in time.”

Ian Austin MP, co-chair of the inquiry, said he was “disappointed and dismayed” by the “unacceptable” admission that police appeared to be turning a blind eye. He added: “I think all too often we see the people responsible for really serious injuries or deaths on the roads get away scot free or with derisory sentences and I think there needs to be greater emphasis on cycle safety from the police and the CPS.”

In response to ACC Milsom’s comments, an ACPO spokeswoman said: “In most cases, 20 mph limits will follow DfT guidance and include features such as speed bumps or traffic islands designed to slow traffic.

"ACPO guidelines include thresholds for enforcement across all speed limits to underpin a consistent policing approach. However it is for local police forces to apply a proportionate approach to enforcement of 20mph limits based on risk to individuals, property and the seriousness of any breach.

"Where drivers are exceeding the speed limit through wilful offending, we would expect that officers will enforce the limit and prosecute offenders."

Stephen Hammond, road safety minister, said that he would be pursuing the issue. “We will be having further discussions with the police,” he said.

Norman Baker, transport minister, said: “My view is that the law of the land is the law of the land. Parliament sets the law of the land and it is the police’s job to enforce it.”

He added that he was coming under “quite considerable pressure from local councils” to have 20mph limits enforced.

Rod King, from 20s Plenty for us, said: "Wide-area 20mph limits are the way forward as clearly suggested by DfT and many local authorities.

"The police are still taking a 20th Century approach and need to align their thinking with modern developments in urban design and community aspirations. That requires a collaborative approach with local authorities and whilst hapenning in more enlightened police forces needs to become the norm rather than the exception.

"Whilst we accept the perogative of the police to make tactical decisions on the enforcement of limits on specific roads it is not acceptable for them to make any blanket exclusions of particular speed limits."

Click here to read the full Times’ report.


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    “There is no evidence that enforcement (of speed) yields a net safety benefit.”

    That’s a big statement – it will be interesting to see whether any of our readers wish to challenge your assertion!

    Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety GB newsfeed
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    The problem is that there is no evidence that enforcement (of speed) yields a net safety benefit, and plenty of evidence to the contrary, including reports from the Highways Agency and Coroners.

    Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans
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    Perhaps these comments from one of my correspondents who is a cyclist as well as a motorcylist might give us some insight.

    “On the 20mph limits – I hate them. When I’m on a bike doing 15-20mph, I want cars to overtake me and be on their way, not hanging on my tail frustrated or worse still driving alongside with me in their blind spot for prolonged periods. Here in Lancashire they’ve gone 20mph mad, and nobody takes a blind bit of notice”.

    Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon
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    As there will be far more infringements in ’20’s than there currently are in ’30’s, this announcement at least puts paid to the oft-voiced accusations that the authorities deliberately lower speed limits to unrealistic levels solely to enable more speeding fines to be imposed.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    In every industry that has a safety system from commercial air transport to nuclear power it is common knowledge that if you have need of an enforcement branch then your education and engineering systems have badly failed.

    You cannot punish safety into a system because punishing the actors doesn’t change the system in any way. A system can only be made safer by understanding the latent failures within the system and knowing the importance of human factors and human error and how they interact with the physical parts of the system.

    In this case the Police are perfectly right to not ‘enforce’ the 20 limits as it will make no difference to the outcome.

    Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon
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    The three E’s are essential and well established elements in casualty reduction, namely Engineering, Education and Enforcement. Many would add a fourth E for Encouragement. They each and all should be considered in any casualty reduction work. Therefore, debate about matters pertaining to any or all of the Es are also subjects of immediate relevance to road safety practitioners and others with an interest in casualty reduction. Whether we agree, disagree or whatever about 20 mph zones and limits, as a profession we need to be informed and up to date on current debate, differing opinions, what is happening and what we are being asked or tasked to deliver. This item is one part of that.

    Honor Byford, Vice Chair, Road Safety GB
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    Why is a 20mph limit being rolled out as a “cycle” safety theme?

    Trevor Heywood Stockport
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    Once again we have a report here on a road safety website where the issue discussed is about enforcement and compliance, and not ostensibly about safety.

    At last year’s 20mph Places Conference the ACPO spokesman explained why 20mph would not be a policing priority. The police are stretched and it makes no sense to catch people doing 24mph in a 20 zone when there are bigger fish to catch.

    Ironically, an unenforced 20mph area is probably safer as pedestrians will need to be more alert and take care of themselves.

    Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans
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