Government makes it easier for councils to create more 20mph speed limit zones

New policy will benefit cyclists and pedestrians… if councils make use of their new powers

by Simon_MacMichael   December 18, 2009  

20 sign.jpg

The number of 20mph zones on Britain’s roads is set to increase after the government announced plans to make it easier for councils to implement lower speed limits in a move designed to reduce casualties among cyclists and pedestrians.

Until now, councils have had to introduce designated zones and traffic calming measures such as speed bumps to put a 20mph limit in place in residential areas and on roads that have high levels of usage by cyclists and pedestrians, such as near schools.

Under the new proposals, though, councils will no longer have to do that, which according to Road Safety Minister Paul Clark will make it cheaper and easier for them to apply 20mph limits.

Mr Clark said:

"The number of people killed and seriously injured on Britain's roads has fallen by 40% since the mid-1990s and Britain now has the joint safest roads in the world. But too many pedestrians and cyclists – including many children – are still being killed or hurt on the roads around their homes and schools.

"We have seen that 20 mph zones with traffic calming measures can make a real difference to the safety of local roads. Allowing councils to put in place 20 mph speed limits on more streets without speed humps or chicanes will mean that they can introduce them at a lower cost and with less inconvenience to local residents," the minister continued. 

He added: “Allowing councils to put in place 20 mph speed limits on more streets without speed humps or chicanes will mean that they can introduce them at a lower cost and with less inconvenience to local residents.”

The new rules, which have been drawn up following a successful city-wide trial in Portsmouth, covering 94% of its road network, which found that the number of accidents fell by 15% after speed limits were reduced to 20mph.

The news follows last week’s report in the British Medical Journal which found that the introduction of 20 mph zones in parts of London had led to a reduction of almost one fifth in the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured.

Recently, we reported that the London Borough of Islington plans to introduce a 20mph speed limit on most of its roads.

That initiative was applauded by Lord Adonis, who was recently profiled on Cycling England’s website. In response to the question, “What most encourages you about cycling where you live?” the transport secretary, a keen bike rider, said “new 20 mph zones throughout Islington’s residential streets, which together with traffic calming is making the area safer for cyclists.”

8 user comments

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I'm all for 20mph limits on local road...bring it on.

posted by mrchrispy [413 posts]
18th December 2009 - 15:05


me too. in fact its happening round these parts pretty soon..(end of Jan i thunk)

does this mean that more cyclists may get stopped for speeding?

Fringe's picture

posted by Fringe [1097 posts]
18th December 2009 - 15:22


We've been trying to get the speed reduced outside my kids primary school (Kirkland & Catterall, St. Helen's in Churchtown, Lancashire). It's currently 50mph! Maybe these new proposals will help. We wouldn't expect it to reduce to 20mph in one go but a reduction of any amount would be better than nothing.

I think the council have been waiting for a fatality, God forbid, before they will do anything.

Ian Crook's picture

posted by Ian Crook [16 posts]
18th December 2009 - 15:45


I think Cambridge city centre is becoming 20 mph soon. Would be a good thing; the current twenty 'zones' are quite patchy and some of the signs are insanely small.

Kevin Steinhardt's picture

posted by Kevin Steinhardt [30 posts]
20th December 2009 - 17:28


Better enforcement of existing speed limits would be a start, before new speed limits can be considered. There are also issues of red light running and other categories of bad driving to be dealt with. While I understand the logi in the 20mph limit, I'm not sure how effectively it'll be enforced. The existing 30mph limit in urban areas certainly isn't.


posted by OldRidgeback [2579 posts]
21st December 2009 - 15:47


I imagine as everyone seems to drive at 38 mph in a 30mph zone that the drop to 20 mph will mean driving at 28 mph.

I'm all for it but unfortunately when you try it riding at 20 mph does seem so much quicker than driving at 20mph! Maybe within 15 years power efficiency and enjoying the journey will become the goal rather than time efficiency between A and B. It will be a major psychological change but it will come as speed is in it's end game as the sign of success and importance now - partly due to sheer numbers on the road and partloy as people have had enough of the tyranny. Hopefully we'll soon be laughing at ridiculous "0-60 in 8 seconds" car ads of the past just as we already feel incredulous when reminded there was once smoking on the tube, on planes and in the pubs. I'm waiting for the first electric car Hamlet ad. can't be long now. With Clarkson driving of course...

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1218 posts]
7th September 2010 - 21:08


Blanket 20 mph zones would be nice, perhaps it might slow down the traffic to 30 mph!

Drivers need to be educated that they mustn't expect to drive around in top gear in a 30 mph zone.

The basic rule that they should have been taught is to match the gear to the speed, that way the engine is operating in its power band and the driver gets the triple advantage of better fuel efficiency; engine braking; and the option of rapid acceleration should an emergency arise. I can tell that most of the drivers who pass me are in 'top' and they're wasting a lot of fuel and they have no acceleration & etc.

But of course a significant number of the drivers I see are crap and anyway show little sign that they were ever taught or passed a test.

posted by Recumbenteer [156 posts]
23rd September 2010 - 8:14


Recumbenteer wrote:
Blanket 20 mph zones would be nice, perhaps it might slow down the traffic to 30 mph!

There's at least one council (somewhere in Yorkshire, I think) that accounted their 20mph zone a success because the majority of drivers now did 30!

"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [428 posts]
23rd September 2010 - 11:00