Plans have been announced today to reduce the speed limit on some of London’s major roads to 20mph in a new trial announced by Transport for London (TfL) as part of an effort to reduce road casualties in the city and encourage active travel.
While a handful of boroughs have introduced 20mph zones on the roads for which they are responsible, until now there has been no corresponding reduction in the speed limit on major roads that form part of the TfL Road Network and which runs through those boroughs.
The trial, which has been broadly welcomed by some road safety campaigners, will run for 18 months and could be rolled out to other major roads in the capital, and builds on similar pilots at Waterloo and in the City of London.
While TfL says the initial locations chosen are the ones with most potential for casualties to be slashed, it has been pointed out that lorries - responsible for half of London cyclist fatalities, despite making up 4 per ceny of the city's traffic - can be lethal to bike riders at much lower speeds.
The first pilot scheme will be launched next month at Commercial Street in Tower Hamlets, as the borough joins Camden, Islington and the City of London in implementing 20mph zones across its entire area.
Hackney is also studying bringing in a borough-wide 20mph zone, and the Commercial Street pilot could be extended across the so-called Shoreditch Triangle and into its area.
Other locations where TfL plans to reduce the speed limit to 20mph, all of them so-called red routes, are:
Upper Street and Holloway Road (between Pentonville Road and Seven Sisters Road);
Westminster Bridge, Stamford Street and Southwark St (between Victoria Embankment and Borough High Street - this trial would also incorporate the previous 20mph trial at Waterloo Roundabout);
Brixton Town Centre (between St Matthews Road and Stockwell Park Walk);
Clapham High Street (between Clapham Park Road and Bedford Road, which forms part of Cycle Superhighway 7);
Earls Court Road and Redcliffe Gardens (between A4 Cromwell Road and Fulham Road);
Kings Cross Road and Farringdon Road (between Pentonville Road and Charterhouse Road, linking up with the previous 20mph trial along Farringdon St and Blackfriars Bridge);
Camden Street (between Camden Road and Crowndale Road).
In 2013 the Mayor’s Task Force recommended that TfL and the boroughs should implement 20mph zones across London “to improve safety, attractiveness and ambience,” and around 25 per cent of the city’s roads now have that as their speed limit.
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "Lower speeds have the potential to significantly improve road safety while enhancing the environment for walking and cycling.
“As well as actively supporting and funding the installation of 20mph zones and limits on borough roads across London, we have also been looking at the TfL Road Network to see where further 20 mph limits could provide significant benefits.
“These locations will help us to better understand the role that 20 mph limits could play going forward."
Leon Daniels, Managing Director of Surface Transport at TfL, said: “We are working extremely closely with all
Lutfur Rahman, mayor of Tower Hamlets, added: “I am committed to making our streets and roads safer for all users to reduce accidents and injuries. The introduction of a 20mph limit is an effective starting point to achieve this aim.”
The sustainable transport charity Sustrans welcomed news of the pilot schemes, with its London director, Matt Winfield, saying he hoped would encourage more local authorities to implement 20mph zones across the bporough.
He said: “This is a bold move from Transport for London to improve some of London’s busiest streets.
“The advantages of 20mph go beyond the obvious gains in road safety – lowering the speed limit also helps to make our city a more comfortable and pleasant place to be.
“Our research shows that Londoners are keener than anywhere else in the UK to walk or cycle to school if their route was on 20mph streets. On the back of these new trials I hope to see more London boroughs adopt 20mph.”
According to the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), a pedestrian hit by a vehicle at 20mph has a 2.5 per cent chance of being fatally injured, but at 30mph that rises to 25 per cent.
Moreover, according to RoSPA, the lower speed limit also reduces the chance of a collision happening in the first place, since motorists’ reaction times are greater.
But Kate Cairns, who founded the campaign group See Me Save Me after her sister Eilidh was crushed by a lorry while cycling to work in 2009, said that lower speed limits are of little use when large vehicles are concerned.
She told the London Evening Standard: “Reducing the speed of lorries will not prevent deaths, because we know a lorry can kill at 2mph.
"We are learning to adapt our streets for modern living, but in our efforts to reduce deaths we should remember that HGVs are disproportionately represented in cyclist fatalities, and twice as many pedestrians as cyclists are killed by lorries."
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.