“Policymakers should be less anxious about potential public backlash when considering the scale-up of 20mph speed restrictions.”
That’s the headline finding from a study by researchers from the University of East Anglia titled, “Tweeting about twenty: an analysis of interest, public sentiments and opinion about 20mph speed restrictions in two UK cities”.
In the study, published on an open access basis in BMC Public Health, researchers extracted public opinion and sentiments expressed about the new 20mph speed limits in Edinburgh and Belfast, which were implemented between 2016 and 2018, using publicly available Twitter data.
The project team analysed public sentiments from Twitter data and classified the comments in plain English into the categories ‘positive’, ‘neutral’, and ‘negative’. They also explored the frequency and sources of the tweets.
They found the total volume of tweets was higher for Edinburgh than for Belfast, but the volume of tweets for both cities followed a similar pattern, peaking around 2016, when the schemes were implemented.
Overall, the study says the tone of the tweets was ‘positive or neutral towards the implementation of the (20mph) speed limit policies’.
This finding is described as ‘surprising’, given there is ‘a perception among policymakers that there would have been public backlash against these sorts of policy changes’.
The most commonly used hashtags focused largely on road safety and other potential benefits, for example air pollution.
In its conclusion, the study says: “Overall, public attitudes towards the policies were positive, thus policymakers should be less anxious about potential public backlash when considering the scale-up of 20mph speed restrictions.”