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Campaign launched for nationwide 20mph speed limit as Road Safety Week begins

Brake and Sustrans among charities leading calls for lower speed limit to be introduced in residential areas across England

A number of charities led by Sustrans have joined forces to launch a campaign calling for 20mph to be made the default speed limit on roads in built-up areas. The campaign, GO 20, is launched today to coincide with the start of Road Safety Week, which continues until next Sunday 25 November.

While some local authorities in England have already introduced 20mph speed limits on all or some of their roads – Oxford and Portsmouth, for instance, have city-wide limits, while Merseyside is introducing it on an area by area basis – Brake and the organisations that have joined it the campaign are calling for such a limit to be introduced nationwide.

In the meantime, they are asking more local authorities to implement the speed limit, as well as appealing to motorists to reduce their speed to 20mph when driving near schools, shops and residential areas.

A survey of 8,000 schoolchildren aged 7-11 years conducted by Brake, Brain Injury Group and Specavers ahead of Road Safety Week and the launch of GO20 found: 

Seven in 10 (70%) say they would be able to walk and cycle more if roads in their neighbourhood were less dangerous
More than three-quarters (77%) say drivers need to slow down around their home and school

Four in 10 (43%) say they have been hit or nearly hit while walking or cycling, and more than half (54%) worry about being hurt by traffic when out and about

72% said they would like to walk and cycle more than they do at present

75% would like more traffic-free cycle paths in their area, while 61% would like more footpaths, pavements and crossings, which they could use to get to school, the park, shops or to see friends

38% said they are not allowed to walk unaccompanied and 47% said they are not allowed to cycle unaccompanied.

Brake and the other charities involved in the initiative, which besides Sustrans include Living Streets, the National Heart Forum, 20’s Plenty for Us, Campaign to Protect Rural England and Ramblers, say that implementing the lower speed limit would result in:

Fewer casualties: at 20, drivers have much more time to react, to help them stop in time if they need to, like if a child runs out. Studies show that when 20 limits replace 30, it means fewer casualties among pedestrians and cyclists.

More walking and cycling: danger from traffic is a major barrier in enabling more people to walk and cycle. Town and city-wide 20 limits have resulted in more people walking and cycling.

Healthier, happier people: More walking and cycling means healthier people, and more enjoyable outdoors activity for kids and adults. It helps communities interact and be communities.

Less pollution: GOing 20 means lower emissions from vehicle journeys. Plus if more people can switch their commute or school run to foot or bike, it means less polluting traffic.

Lower costs: Poor health from inactivity costs society dearly. Road casualties cost even more, due to the suffering and burden on health and emergency services.

Preventing casualties and improving health means GOing 20 pays for itself many times over. It also helps people save money by choosing the cheapest ways to get about: foot and bike.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of Brake, said: “GO 20 is all about enabling people to walk and cycle without fear or threat.

“If we are to bring about a 2012 legacy of more active communities, we need to make our streets and communities safer places.

“Fleet operators can play an essential role in bringing this about, by ensuring their drivers always put protecting people first, and understand the vital importance of slowing down.

“Our main message in Road Safety Week is appealing to drivers to stay well within limits, and slow down to 20 around homes, schools and shops.

“It makes roads safer for walking and cycling, and makes little difference to journey times.

“It’s great so many fleet operators are getting involved and helping to communicate this and other life-saving messages this year.

“We urge other employers to register on the Road Safety Week website to get our free guidance on managing driver speed.”

The campaign will be formally launched at 1030 this morning with a walking and cycling street party at William Tyndale Primary School in the London Borough of Islington, the first in London to introduce a borough-wide 20mph peed limit.

Malcolm Shepherd, chief executive of Sustrans, commented: “A 20mph national speed limit would save lives and make our streets better places to socialise, play, walk and cycle.

“It would also improve our health, tackling obesity and heart disease as well as reducing the burden on the NHS.

“A 20mph limit is already in place in many parts of the country, but a postcode lottery where children are safer in some areas than others is not acceptable.

“A new national limit would save money for public health, education and transport budgets, and the Government should now act to lower speeds on streets where we live, work and play."

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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