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Police don't enforce 20mph zones senior officer tells Parliamentary Inquiry… ACPO seeks to clarify

Ministers and MPs greet remarks with astonishment at Get Britain Cycling inquiry

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has sought to clarify its position on policing of 20mph zones after a senior police officer representing the body at the Get Britain Cycling parliamentary inquiry earlier this week said its guidance was for such speed limits not to be enforced.

Mark Milsom, Assistant Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, told MPs, that ACPO “are not enforcing 20mph speed limits at this moment in time,” reports The Times.

His remarks were greeted by astonishment by government ministers and members of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, which hosted the inquiry over the past two months, with co-chair Ian Austin saying that he was “disappointed and dismayed” by what he termed an “unacceptable” admission.

Mr Austin went on: “I think all too often we see the people responsible for really serious injuries or deaths on the roads get away scot free or with derisory sentences and I think there needs to be greater emphasis on cycle safety from the police and the CPS.”

Norman Baker, Minister for Transport and whose brief includes cycling, said: “My view is that the law of the land is the law of the land. Parliament sets the law of the land and it is the police’s job to enforce it.”

His colleague at the Department for Transport, Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond, added: “We will be having further discussions with the police.”

In a statement issued in response to Monday’s criticism, ACPO said:

“In most cases, 20 mph limits will follow Department of Transport guidance and include features such as speed bumps or traffic islands designed to slow traffic. ACPO guidelines include thresholds for enforcement across all speed limits to underpin a consistent policing approach. However it is for local police forces to apply a proportionate approach to enforcement of 20mph limits based on risk to individuals, property and the seriousness of any breach. Where drivers are exceeding the speed limit through wilful offending, we would expect that officers will enforce the limit and prosecute offenders."

That statement appears to contradict the sweeping statement made by Assistant Commissioner Milson, although it’s not clear what the definition of “wilful offending” is – a vehicle is either being driven above 20mph, and therefore breaking the speed limit, or it isn’t.

ACPO’s reference to traffic calming measures and for local police forces to take local factors into consideration does underline issues associated with 20mph zones that have previously been underlined by the charity, 20s Plenty for Us.

Last year, Rod King, founder of 20s Plenty for Us, met with representatives of ACPO to discuss enforcement of 20mph areas, with a report of their meeting outlining “the need to bring in a wide range of agencies, including traffic, health, education, sustainability, police and other services and that having identified the community benefits of lower speeds then all needed to provide and pool input and resources towards maximising community ownership, understanding and compliance.”

What wouldn’t work, they agreed, was simply erecting “signs on sticks,” and both ACPO and 20s Plenty for Us identified a number of “agreed principles” resulting from the meeting:

• That 20mph speed limits for residential streets and those with high levels of vulnerable road users across an authority (Total 20) were beneficial to communities and the police.

• That Total 20 should include local Traffic Authority decisions to make appropriate exceptions.

• That Total 20 needed wide agency support, commitment and involvement for it to be transformed into a community commitment to lower speeds and to maximise compliance

• That the police should take supportive and proactive role in Total 20 implementations which have those necessary wide agency involvements with suitable warning to visiting motorists and should be prepared to provide appropriate enforcement in support of maximising compliance levels.

• On particular streets where levels of compliance may turn out to below acceptable levels then all agencies should work together at additional work which may increase that compliance. This may include extra signage, education, road markings as well as police enforcement.

• That 20mph speed limits need to be clearly signed with suitable engineering, which could amount from anything from a roundel painted on the road to traffic calming measure depending on the appropriate level of intervention.

• That ACPO recognise that the vast majority of the public will not wish to break the law and therefore clear road signs and measures should be in place to give the public every chance to comply.

During Road Safety Week last November, Brake and Sustrans launched the Go 20 campaign in which they called for 20mph to be made the default speed limit in residential areas.


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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