NICE recommends 20mph limits to improve air quality

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence says smoother driving means cleaner air

20mph limits across urban areas would protect the quality of air and encourage walking and cycling, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

NICE, which reviews evidence on health policies, said “unnecessary acceleration and deceleration”  which cause additional emissions.

It advises authorities to set “20 mph limits without physical measures to reduce speeds in urban areas where average speeds are already low (below around 24 mph) to avoid unnecessary accelerations and decelerations”

20mph limits are increasingly being used in areas including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hammersmith and Fulham, where councils have justified their wide area 20mph limits both on health grounds from fewer casualties, and due to reduced acceleration and encouraging modal shift away from car use towards non-polluting methods like walking and cycling – which all improve air quality.

NICE added: “Where physical speed reduction measures are used to reduce road danger and injuries, consider using them to encourage drivers to maintain a reduced, steady pace along the whole stretch of road, rather than road humps that may increase acceleration- and braking-related emissions”

Rod King MBE, Founder of 20’s Plenty for Us said: “Many authorities recognise that 20mph helps them to both meet their air quality as well as ‘duty of care’ responsibilities to the vulnerable. In fact switching to a 20mph limit makes a significant reduction in the most dangerous NOx and PM10 emissions.

“It is entirely appropriate for NICE to make this recommendation to direct local authorities in their statutory duty to improve air quality and public health.”

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on

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