Lower speed limit wanted in some residential areas and near schools, but campaigners say only blanket approach works

The AA has issued a call for more 20mph zones to be put in place in residential areas and near schools to help improved the safety of vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. The comments were made by the motoring organisation’s president, Edmund King, who was speaking to The Times as the newspaper continues its Cities Fit For Cyclists campaign.

“We accept that if we had more twenties it would help. If it is a residential street or a road outside a school, absolutely,” Mr King explained. “Our view is that we support 20mph zones where they work but there are still some roads in urban areas that are roads for movement. A blanket 20mph may stop people getting around.”

Road safety campaigners however have pointed out that the problem with adopting a piecemeal approach, as advocated by the AA, is that it leaves the decision to be made on a street-by-street basis, leading to delays in implementing such zones as well as confusion over which speed limit applies in a particular area, meaning that drivers are less likely to change their behaviour, as highlighted by Chester Cycling Campaign last month.

The Times says that research conducted by the government has found that reducing the speed limit if the most effective measure that can be implemented to cut cycling casualties, citing a 50 per cent reduction in the number of cyclists killed or seriously inured, and 60 per cent among child cyclists, in areas where a 20mph limit had been trialed.

A number of local authorities throughout the UK have introduced 20mph speed limits on all or some of their residential roads, with Portsmouth the first to do so and Oxford among those following suit. Recently, Liverpool said that it planned to introduce the limit on 70 per cent of its residential streets, and Manchester and the London Borough of Islington both intend to introduce the lower limit in place of the current 30mph one.

In June last year, Local Transport Minister Norman Baker announced revised rules that would make it easier for local authorities to implement such zones, and Robert Gifford, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, told The Times: “There is definitely a case for more extended 20mph speed limits.”

The newspaper also quoted Road Safety Minister, Mike Penning, as saying: “I think local authorities need to wake up to actually what they can do and what they can’t do. They have the powers. They can do it.”

In response to police concerns regarding enforcement of such speed limits, Mr Penning highlighted average speed cameras as being effective, and moreover would pay for themselves through fines imposed on motorists breaking the limit.

Last year, Sustrans said that implementing 20mph zones on roads currently subject to a 30mph speed limit could save hundreds of children from suffering death or serious injury each year.


Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.