MEPs push for 30kph (18.641mph) limit on residential roads throughout Europe

20's Plenty for Us campaign welcomes proposals designed to reduce child casualties

by Simon_MacMichael   June 27, 2011  

European Flag.jpg

Members of the European Parliament are calling for speed limits on residential roads and single-lane roads without cycle tracks throughout the European Community to be reduced to 30 kilometres an hour in the interests of road safety. That would equate to 20 miles an hour in the UK, and the move has been welcomed by the campaign group 20’s Plenty for Us, which lobbies for that limit to be put in place.

The proposal is one of the key recommendations made by the EU Transport and Tourism Committee comprising MEPs from various member states drawn from across the political spectrum and which has the target of halving the number of road deaths and injuries on Europe’s roads by 2020.

In a press release outlining measures that it believes will help lead to that goal being realised, the committee recommends that a 30kph speed limit be introduced throughout the EU, and says that the result would be to cut the number of children aged below 14 who are killed by 60 per cent, and those who are injured by 40 per cent. It also says that children should be given lessons in road safety at the earliest possible opportunity.

While the recommendation for lower speed limits would be welcomed by cycling campaigners, the committee also says that cyclists “should be encouraged to wear helmets and reflective vests after nightfall” – whether that ‘encouragement’ extends to seeking to make them compulsory remains to be seen.

The news follows a recent decision by Minister for Transport Norman Baker to make it easier for local authorities to put 20mph zones in place.

Rod King, Founder and Campaign Director for 20’s Plenty for Us said: “We have been working with MEPs for some time to show how the 20’s Plenty for Us campaign in the UK is attracting wide political and community support as an effective initiative to reduce danger on our roads and develop the right conditions to make our streets better places to be.

“This recommendation is recognition of not only the success of lower speeds in the countries already adopting wide area 30km/h limits and that, as evidenced in the UK, it is possible to “retro-fit” our streets with lower speeds that are accepted by communities and result in reduced casualties.

He added: “We now have over 5 million people living in towns, villages and counties where the local authority has adopted a Total 20 policy. 20 really is Plenty where people live and this new recommendation of best practice from a European perspective reflects the importance of this move towards a safer and more pleasant street environment for us all.”

20mph speed limits have already been introduced in a number of British cities including Bristol and Liverpool which this month announced plans to cut extend 20mph zones to 70 per cent of the city's residential streets, other cities looking at 20mph limits include Cambridge, Norwich, Brighton and Bath. In the past one of the stumbling blocks for their introduction has been the reluctance of some police forces to commit the manpower necessary to enforce them. Given the cuts in both police numbers and to speed camera partnerships enforcement is still likely to be an issue. However, the idea has proved overwhelmingly popular with the people who live in such zones and their proliferation should help to get the message across that driving at inappropriate speeds on residential streets is socially unacceptable.
 

37 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

I predict a Mail headline about Eurocrats making us drive at 18.641 m.p.h- or fining motorists who even dare measure their owm speed in m.p.h.

posted by wild man [283 posts]
27th June 2011 - 16:32

0 Likes

Note that cyclists are not limited by motor vehicular speed limits - ie 20 does not apply to cyclists who just must not ride dangerously - I think I've got that right. I think I even read it on this site somewhere.

We are in a London 20 zone and it makes a difference to the people who notice it... still rogue element but overall it's a lot better.

alotronic's picture

posted by alotronic [281 posts]
27th June 2011 - 17:09

0 Likes

neildmoss wrote:
Much more of this and we'll be back to the guy running in front waving a red flag.

Great. Full employment.

neildmoss wrote:
No, not as fast as they please. But limited to 20mph? Following that car limited to 2nd gear and constrained to 5mpg? I'd rather not.

If such a law were brought in it might finally halt, and hopefully reverse, the ever increasing and completely unnecessary power of modern cars. Manufacturers would have to design cars that can comfortably and efficiently travel at 20mph.

neildmoss wrote:
You can keep cutting limits, but there will still be injuries and deaths

Basic physics says deaths would be reduced and injuries would lessen.

posted by handlebarcam [529 posts]
27th June 2011 - 18:02

1 Like

Yes indeed - 20mph collisions lead to death in about 5% of cases, 30mph collisions lead to death in about 50% of cases. Quite a big difference.

It is nonsense to say that modern cars can't operate efficiently at 20mph. Again it's basic physics - rolling, wind etc resistance which require power to overcome to maintain a steady speed increase with the square of speed - pwoer consumption per km thus increases linearly with speed. There may be some adjustments around engine friction in lower speeds/lower gears but not enough to overcome these.

Portsmouth also has a city-wide 20 limit on all residential and side streets. Compliance is not universal, but average speeds have come down and motorists are generally more considerate than they are in, say, London. The cost was less than £400 per street to implement it.

posted by Paul M [318 posts]
27th June 2011 - 20:04

0 Likes

Cars tend to be most efficient in the 50mph range, it's no coincidence that manufacturers use 56mph as a quoted speed for fuel consumption. That's when the engine is operating very efficiently and before the big drag from wind resistance really kicks in. at 20mph they're less efficient than they are at 30mph. But not as inefficient as they are at 70mph, and we don't mind doing that, do we?

@alotronic - cyclists aren't required to fit a speedomoter, so they can't be held legally accountable for breaking a vehicular speed limit.

Quote:
You can keep cutting limits, but there will still be injuries and deaths

What, so we shouldn't try and reduce those injuries and deaths? come on.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7444 posts]
27th June 2011 - 20:21

0 Likes

neildmoss wrote:

Following that car limited to 2nd gear and constrained to 5mpg? I'd rather not.

Both my car, a Nissan Micra and the Astra td I drive for work can comfortably do 20 in fourth gear with the engine running at little more than idle - I fail to see why you would be in second, unless you're driving a clarkson mobile

posted by spen [87 posts]
27th June 2011 - 20:27

0 Likes

The 56 mph efficency thing is a bit of a myth with it's origins lost in the mists of time. The most efficent speed for a car to operate would be the speed at which it could travel with the engine running at it's slowest but without the danger of the engine stalling. Once a car has broken it's inertia fuel consumption will decline and the most efficent speed will be dependent on gearing - just lke riding a bike really (for instamnce an Astra 1.7 tdi van will do 0mph in 4th gear at around 1050 wells and 15 in 3rd at the same revs 0 same fuel consumption?)

posted by spen [87 posts]
27th June 2011 - 21:04

0 Likes

Spen - you'll probably be burning more fuel if you car is in 4th gear than 3rd when driving at 20mph.

On the whole the 20mph limits make sense for side streets. This would save lives, merely because there are so many inattentive drivers and lower speeds give everyone a better chance.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2253 posts]
27th June 2011 - 21:27

0 Likes

dave_atkinson wrote:
Cars tend to be most efficient in the 50mph range

Efficiency is really the wrong word. Effectiveness, as in cost effective, or time effective, is more apt. Cars are horribly inefficient and costly even when standing still with the engine off. Turn the ignition key, and they gobble up fuel and beltch out pollution at a frightening rate, which only increases with speed. It is only the massive inherent inefficiency of the internal combustion engine that makes certain speeds more cost effective than slower or faster ones. They are like buckets with holes in them being used to transfer water from one reservoir to another. If you go too slowly all the water runs out before you get to your destination. If you go too fast, it sloshes over the sides. Nobody talks of bicycles being more efficient at a certain speed, because they are efficient at all speeds. They are like sealed jerrycans, which avoid even losses through evaporation. Would anyone advocate giving priority to people with leaking buckets, allowing them to run around the place spilling water all over the place and colliding with people carrying jerrycans? No, of course not. But, despite oil being far more precious than water, and cars killing thousands of people per year, the primacy of the car goes largely unquestionned in our society. The fact that we live in a world where inefficient means - and not just of transportation - are often the most effective says a lot about the human race.

posted by handlebarcam [529 posts]
28th June 2011 - 7:41

0 Likes

It's only about speed though is it? Well, not to me anyway and yes, I have been hit by a car before!

What I mean is this:

When out on the road doing my 'local loop' I use roads that have 20, 30 and 40mph limits. I find that the close encounters come in the 20mph zone 9 times out of 10.

In the 40mph zone for example, I am given a wide bearth when being passed. Yet there seems to be a view point of 'I am only going slowly' at 20mph so I can 'just' squeeze past.

As much as speed plays a part and a big one at that, there are still other factors that a blanket speed limit would not address.

Just mho.

posted by Super Domestique [1626 posts]
28th June 2011 - 7:52

1 Like

dave_atkinson wrote:
What, so we shouldn't try and reduce those injuries and deaths? come on.

I didn't say that. I said that, regardless of speed, there will still be injuries and deaths. The argument that you must cut speed to reduce those injuries can be carried ad absurdum until the roads are closed. Less injuries at 20 than 30? Slow down to 20. Less at 10 than 20? Slow down to 10. 5? 3? 1? The argument in itself doesn't carry any balances.

Therefore, in cold (hearted) dispassionate terms, there must come a point at which the benefits to society of being able to move people and goods around more quickly is balanced with the human cost of life and limb. I simply disagree that such a point is at 20mph.

Don't forget, these are _blanket_ city wide speed limits. They apply 24 hours a day, even when the rush hour and jams are finished and the school kids are in bed.

If you tend to drive outside of peak times, as I do, wouldn't you say that 20mph is unncessarily slow?

spen wrote:
Both my car, a Nissan Micra and the Astra td I drive for work can comfortably do 20 in fourth gear with the engine running at little more than idle - I fail to see why you would be in second, unless you're driving a clarkson mobile

A bus? A lorry? A delivery van? None of these are particularly noted for their low-speed efficiencies, and we are talking about cities where such vehicles are more likely. Try going up a small hill at 20 in 4th gear.

Here is a chart from 1997 showing some steady speed fuel efficiencies for a selection of cars. With a couple of notable exceptions, 30mph returns significantly higher mpg than at 20mph. Hence 20mpg uses more fuel, hence more pollution, in the city centre. This is less relevant during rush/jam hour when no-one is moving anyway, but at off peak times it just seems wrong to me to force vehicles to use more fuel.

I just disagree. 20mph is too low a limit in my opinion. My final word.

neildmoss's picture

posted by neildmoss [201 posts]
28th June 2011 - 9:13

1 Like

I live in a 20mph zone, and aside from people (mostly residents, this is an isolated housing estate and not generally used as a rat run) largely not observing the speed limit, when confronted with a vehicle, the driver will either assert themselves in such a way that I am forced to the kerb, or use their horn as a kind of 'get out of my way' device, even if my speed is only a couple of mph below the 20 limit. Some drivers even mount the dropped kerbs and undertake at speed, this is something that happens depressingly often.

the_mikey's picture

posted by the_mikey [146 posts]
28th June 2011 - 9:24

0 Likes

That said, I'd still support a 20mph limit (if only it could be enforced effectively).

the_mikey's picture

posted by the_mikey [146 posts]
28th June 2011 - 9:25

0 Likes

Quote:
The argument that you must cut speed to reduce those injuries can be carried ad absurdum until the roads are closed

It can. but the big gains are made between 40mph and 20mph. Above 40mph, hit a ped and there's every chance you'll kill them. 20mph and below, nearly all collisions are survivable. that makes it the sensible driving speed for any residential street, in my opinion. The aim is to *halve* road deaths.

Quote:
the benefits to society of being able to move people and goods around more quickly

I'm yet to be convinced that in a city environment, reducing the speed limit to 20mph would have much effect on overall journey times at all, especially at peak times.

Quote:
If you tend to drive outside of peak times, as I do, wouldn't you say that 20mph is unncessarily slow?

yes, maybe. Personally I'm all for a slower speed limit at peak times with the 30mph limit remaining in place off-peak, especially on through routes. But that's a pretty big headache in terms of making people understand what the limits are and when. Given the choice of slightly dull evening drives through town, and a lot less people dying as a result of slower traffic, i'll take that choice.

Quote:
Don't forget, these are _blanket_ city wide speed limits

on residential streets and single lane roads, yes. not on arterial roads and larger through routes that goods traffic will tend to use.

Quote:
Here is a chart from 1997 showing some steady speed fuel efficiencies for a selection of cars

wow, those are some pretty representative cars of european driving habits, no? I'm glad i'm not driving around in an oldsmobile cutlass Smile

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7444 posts]
28th June 2011 - 9:43

0 Likes

Quote:
I live in a 20mph zone, and aside from people (mostly residents, this is an isolated housing estate and not generally used as a rat run) largely not observing the speed limit, when confronted with a vehicle, the driver will either assert themselves in such a way that I am forced to the kerb, or use their horn as a kind of 'get out of my way' device, even if my speed is only a couple of mph below the 20 limit. Some drivers even mount the dropped kerbs and undertake at speed, this is something that happens depressingly often.

I must admit I've seen this behaviour as well - the last leg of my commute home is a one-way system with a 20mph limit - the road is normal width but one side is lined with parked cars.

The number of times I've had drivers sit right up my bahookie revving their engines, just to have them do only a couple of mph more once past me, is quite annoying.

Buddha said:

Believe nothing, No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it, Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense.

mad_scot_rider's picture

posted by mad_scot_rider [555 posts]
28th June 2011 - 9:49

0 Likes

dave_atkinson wrote:
wow, those are some pretty representative cars of european driving habits, no? I'm glad i'm not driving around in an oldsmobile cutlass Smile

Don't know why - it's apparently more efficient at 25 mph than at 60 - and the Jeep Grand Cherokee is more efficient at 20 than at 30 - odd chart to use to support a contrary argument

Buddha said:

Believe nothing, No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it, Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense.

mad_scot_rider's picture

posted by mad_scot_rider [555 posts]
28th June 2011 - 9:55

0 Likes

Aah - my bad - for the Oldsmobile I was reading the Celica - missed the hatching on the lines - was just going by colour

Buddha said:

Believe nothing, No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it, Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense.

mad_scot_rider's picture

posted by mad_scot_rider [555 posts]
28th June 2011 - 9:57

0 Likes

Because we're talking about cutting down from 30 to 20, and in that range, the broad reduction in efficiency is clear.

neildmoss's picture

posted by neildmoss [201 posts]
28th June 2011 - 9:59

0 Likes

neildmoss wrote:
Because we're talking about cutting down from 30 to 20, and in that range, the broad reduction in efficiency is clear.

the AA reckon it's a 10% drop in efficiency, or thereabouts:

http://www.theaa.com/public_affairs/news/20mph-roads-emissions.html

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7444 posts]
28th June 2011 - 10:46

0 Likes

Personally, I don't agree with this. It's nannying going too far again. My opinion is that those likely to cause the problems are going to be causing the problems whether the sign says 20 or 50mph. It's largely a mentality thing, those that are considerate and able to drive well (which funnily enough should be taught and subsequently tested in the driving test) won't cause a problem, and those that are tools will - and that's certainly borne out by my commuting experience.

And then there's a whole plethora of impacts from emissions, journey time, delivery schedules etc. All these will have to be costed into an equation somewhere, and that costing will make its way into product prices, but in order to maintain margins, won't make it into salaries and benefits. Sound familiar?

This whole concept is basically coming down to we can't enforce the existing rules we've got, because it's too expensive to do so, so how about we come up with an arbitrary limit which may reduce casualties, and obviously only put a positive spin on it by using the headline of casualty reduction.

Oh, and not to forget the lack of investment in driver education, discrepancies in licence and driving standards, and equally, free movement of labour and transport has to stay, as everything in the EU is equal.

posted by the-yorkshire-p... [180 posts]
28th June 2011 - 12:26

0 Likes

In my opinion the arguments against 20 limits in residential areas are either bogus, or just symptomatic of the British driver's obsession with their "right" to drive as they like and damn the consequences.

Many residential streets in the UK are blighted by rat-running drivers travelling too fast for the conditions. Its obvious that over the decades our streets, which were once places to live and play in, have been hijacked and turned into places mainly for driving through and parking in.

20 limits would obviously only be a first step to re-humanising our neighbourhoods, but it would at least be a start. Of course, as others have suggested, without enforcement the effectiveness of the limit would be weakened. However, there is no reason why other EU countries (with a more enlightened attitude to road danger reduction than ours) shouldn't make a success of it.

posted by don_don [149 posts]
28th June 2011 - 13:14

0 Likes

Cars today may operate most efficiently at a continuous ~50mph, but that's irrelevant as cars can't keep to a continuous speed on residential roads - and they certainly should NOT be doing anywhere 50mph in them! That also applies to any mixed-use urban roads. Even ignoring the existence of 30mph speed limits today, cars simply can't average much over 20mph on such roads. Traffic lights, frequent junctions, etc. are going to keep them waiting for significant amounts of time. Accelerating to 30mph only leads to longer idling at lights.

Cars would almost certainly be more efficient if driven more slowly, closer to the average speed than the limit in urban areas. Dropping limits to 20mph would quite likely *help* drivers achieve that, and so save them fuel!

posted by Paul J [651 posts]
28th June 2011 - 15:41

0 Likes

"However, there is no reason why other EU countries (with a more enlightened attitude to road danger reduction than ours) shouldn't make a success of it."

It's worth bearing in mind that the UK has some of the safest roads in Europe. Only Sweden and Norway (the latter is not in the EU of course) have lower fatality rates in road accidents. Given that the UK also has some of the highest vehicle densities/km of road of any developed nation, this is of particular note. Italy has roughly the same population as the UK, just under 60 million. Yet Italy's road fatality rate dipped just under 4,000 during 2010, compared with 2,222 in the UK. Italy by no means has the most dangerous roads in the EU, though it is worth noting that data from Switzerland shows that the country's Italian speaking cantons have significantly higher accident levels than the German speaking cantons, with the French speaking areas slotting somewhere in between (perhaps only the Swiss could be so precise with such data).

The accident black spot for road deaths in the EU was previously held by Greece and Portugal. But since the EU was widened and Eastern European countries allowed, the appalling road accident rates of Romania and Bulgaria in particular have highlighted the need for harmonised action on road safety.

France and Portugal have had particular success in reducing road accidents due to a combination of measures, with much tougher enforcement by police being a key factor. You can say what you like about Jacques Chirac during his tenure as French president (corrupt is a common criticism) but one definitely positive mark he made on France (and which will probably be mentioned in his epitaph when he no longer walks this mortal coil) was his campaigning of the safer road policy and the crackdown on drink driving in particular.

Introducing 20mph limits in built-up areas won't necessarily increase fuel consumption given that average speeds in congested London can be just 10-11mph anyway. Better phasing of traffic lights would also help encourage drivers to drive more slowly. Careful drivers will still drive carefully, rubbish drivers (in BMWs) will still be rubbish but both braking distances and impact forces will be lessened, almost inevitably saving lives.

If you want to drive fast, go to a race track. That's what I do.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2253 posts]
28th June 2011 - 16:18

0 Likes

Let's face it, most cars do not travel at a constant speed in rush-hour congestion. It's stop-start,gear-stick shuffle stuff. The 20 mph limit's most important when the congestion isn't there.

it would encourage more cycling and that's good. More bikes=fewer cars.

Then we want to exclude I-C vehicles from town centres.

posted by Recumbenteer [149 posts]
28th June 2011 - 17:58

0 Likes

deleted

posted by Recumbenteer [149 posts]
28th June 2011 - 18:22

0 Likes

The 1997 fuel-efficiency chart is for constant speed and therefore is only a rough guide.

posted by Recumbenteer [149 posts]
28th June 2011 - 18:25

1 Like

I am all for reducing speed limits in residential streets, and side roads, but I can't help feel that it will give people a false sense of security. Nowadays, all of the blame is on the driver, because they are in a big motor-driven metal box, yet the people that walk out in front of them are allowed to do so.

Reducing speed limits to 20mph, will make people think that it is safe for their children to play football in the road out the front, and that there is less danger. There may be less deaths, but there will still be injuries, and surely we should be trying to reduce that as much as we are deaths.

I just think that pedestrians will get the wrong idea by reducing speed limits, after all these are roads we are talking about, surely it should be the pedestrians responsibility to look around them and not walk accross a road if a car is coming, not the driver's responsabilty to drive so slowly that if a pedestrian does decide they want to walk out they can stop? We should be encouraging use of parks for children to play in, and zebra crossings for people to cross at.

On the note of efficiency, I know from closely monitoring my mpg needle, that my car is most fuel-efficient around the 40-50mpg range, and at 20mph you will be continuosly changing up and down between 1st, 2nd and 3rd gear, which isn't fuel-efficient at all. It's also worth noting that at 20mph, in say 3rd gear, most cars will be running at practically idle, and will be almost silent. While this is generally good, it will only add to the 'false sense of security'.

Avonlea-Treasure Race Team
http://www.altrt.com
twitter:@davidcwhitfield

roadracedave's picture

posted by roadracedave [75 posts]
28th June 2011 - 21:48

0 Likes

I am torn between the devil and the deep blue sea on this.
As a cyclist and a Grandad 20mph is good but as a motorist its not always so good. The problem is speed limits need to make sense to all users and even I can cycle faster than 20 with a fair wind; so does 20 apply to me too?
To a motorist 20 only makes sense in very limited areas like school zones; heaven help the BMW that runs over my Granddaughter. But elsewhere else its very slow progress and drivers need to be able to see why it applies in order to respect it.
Like most things safety is basically common sense but sense is so often spoiled by the do-good brigade; speed humps being a perfect example of good intentions giving bad outcomes for all users.

Alg

posted by alg [131 posts]
29th June 2011 - 9:41

0 Likes

I suspect that most people who live in a residential area and have kids, want a 20mph limit outside their house. It is a massive act of selfishness to want a 30mph limit everywhere else.

posted by AleT [52 posts]
29th June 2011 - 14:13

1 Like

I drive, in fact I've even been a white van man at times, I'll even admit to occasionally exceeding the speed limit, I dont have children and I cant see how a 20 mph speed limit in residential areas is an act of selfishness.

I think some roads should possibly be even lower than that, I grew up playing football on streets (and two weeks a year of street tennis when Wimbledon came around) and didnt have to worry about cars speeding down the road. If kids tried that now on the same street they would almost certainly be cleaned out, more than likely by someone cutting through to Tesco.

posted by farrell [1526 posts]
29th June 2011 - 15:32

1 Like