20 is Plenty Update

Update:- I see that the Shottisham Village Association is posting on Facebook about speed limit related matters so I though it would be good to republish this blog which was originally posted in 2019.

I finally got a chance to look into 20 mph speed limits and there is a wealth, no mass, of data on the internet. I say mass because I have not had a chance to cross reference its validity so you will have to accept, or not, the information in this article. The things that are clear and true is that there is a worldwide organisation which promotes 20 mph speed limits, ’20’s Plenty for Us’, and some important documents published by the Government. There is an European directive which we have not implemented, or I doubt if we will be given where we are with Brexit.

So is a 20 mph limit a real ‘no-no’ or just a ‘no no’ for those people who see it as an infringement to their liberty. I have extracted information from a number of websites. The extracts may seem a little disconnected but they do give a flavour of some of the information which supports 20 mph limits. If I can find time I will build a more detailed paper which I will publish on this blog, but this information suggests that a 20 mph limit for this village should not be dismissed out of hand. I will add my opinion where appropriate and I will say it is my opinion if I remember to. I also apologise for the bullet points. I have had to use alpha points because bullet points provided by this editor do not appear correctly on mobile devices.

In my opinion by far the most informative document on traffic calming appears to be that published by the Government in 2007. The document is the Department for Transport’s note on Local Transport 1/07 entitled ‘Traffic Calming’.  Admittedly this was published in 2007 so in the fast moving world of politics (ha ha) this document is almost antique.

I will paraphrase some extracts which I think are salient. I will not précis the whole document which is over a hundred pages. If you want to read the whole document then use the keywords above and your browser will find it. The document is about traffic calming of which the 20 mph speed limit is one of the tools that can be used.

My initial extract talks about the need for local authorities to accept wider life quality issues. It purports that highways are areas of public space and all the uses of that space need to be considered. Areas designated as ‘Home Zones’ may include children’s play areas, community green space, or areas where people can stop and chat. So this can happen traffic calming and space reallocation techniques are required to reduce the speed and dominance of traffic.

It goes on to say that traffic calming was introduced into the UK after some schemes had success in mainland Europe. Apparently although road safety in the UK is very good, compared to Europe, we have high accident rates for vulnerable road users in towns and cities. Measures to calm traffic reduce speed and improves safety.

Quite a statement and one I think that has purpose in this village. OK a Home Zone is really not applicable, but on busy days it can take up to 20 minutes to walk from one end of the village to the other because of the number of people who will stop and talk to you. With dog or without dog you will rarely get to walk the street without being stopped. Very community. I often see children using cycles in The Street and Church Road and these guys need to be protected from speeding vehicles.

The lack of road width and pavements does, I believe, make this a quaint village, but it does make the road not a safe place for ‘vulnerable’ road users with a speed limit of 30 mph.

Webster and Mackie in 1996 showed that accidents involving pedestrians were reduced by 63% in areas where 20 mph zones were introduced in the UK. Some research in the Netherlands also indicated that area-wide traffic calming can have positive effect on pedestrian safety. The introduction of road narrowings and median islands have been found to be less effective in terms of severity and numbers of pedestrian injuries.

I think that road narrowing in the village is not really an option. The road is narrow enough and there is not much space for islands so the only real option is to reduce the speed to a lower speed limit or road humps. Road humps are not good for emergency vehicles and I think that humps along the 0.80 km stretch of The Street within the village are really not necessary but happy to be corrected on that.

Under the 20 mph review section, and reference is once again made to Webster and Mackie, it went on to say that a review of 230 zones in the mainland UK indicated that average speeds fell by 9 mph and

a. annual accident rate frequency fell by 60%

b. overall reduction in child accidents was 70%

c. cyclists involved accidents fell by 29%

Very key and important considerations I think. I hope that this village will continue to attract horse riders and cyclists but I doubt if we will ever get to the point where children will play in the street. I really like the thought that our children and others can traverse the village safely and I think that it is a minimum requirement for us. I found a couple of articles on the internet that had headlines which were similar to ’20 mph Zones Do Not Reduce Accidents’. When you read further you find that drivers were not heeding the speed limits and in the other it said that because of the 20 mph limit pedestrians were no taking the same care that they would in a 30 mph zone. Mmm good reasons for not having a lower speed limit or a need for education!!!

The document ‘20 mph Research Study’ was another government publication on research into the effectiveness of ‘signed only’ 20 mph speed limits. Once again paraphrased extracts.

The research was commissioned to:

a. reinforce the evidence with regard to the effectiveness of 20 mph limits

b. inform on policy development in the future at national and local levels

c. collate information on lessons learned on the implementation and monitoring of 20 mph ‘signed only’ speeds limits and to guide local authorities who intend to introduce 20 mph limits.

The research was primarily interested in ‘signed only’ 20 mph areas. I am not suggesting that the village could do with humps to regulate speed because that would increase the cost.

It is understood that the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 was amended to allow local authorities to designate 20mph speed limits without the prior approval of the Secretary of State. I see that certain publications still suggest that the designation of a 20 mph zones still require a TRO (Traffic Regulation Order), and I don’t doubt that, but the removal of the requirement for approval from the Secretary of State must surely have reduced the cost.

The research goes on to say that the Department of Transport revised the guidelines on the setting of speed limits (DofT Circular 01/2013). It states that local authorities can introduce 20 mph speed limits where needs and conditions indicate that speed limits are too high. It encourages consideration of more 20 mph limits and zones over time. It states that where there is expected to be a positive effect on road safety and a general favourable reception from local residents then authorities are able to use their powers to introduce 20 mph speed limits on:

a. major streets where there could be a large number of journeys on foot and cyclists are also a consideration and where the increased journey time for motorist is outweighed by the benefits.

b.residential streets where there are walkers and cyclists, where the street is suitable and where there is support from the community.

It goes on to state (para 85) that where 20 mph zones are succesful then they are generally self-enforcing. In explanation they are self-enforcing where the road conditions together with the measures such as traffic calming or signing, publicity and information as part of the scheme lead to the traffic complying with the speed limit. In achieving compliance there should be no additional enforcement by the police over and above their normal enforcement unless this has been agreed.

I have yet to see any monitoring of this village’s streets by the police, either by a safety camera van or policeman with a hand held radar device, in recent history.

From another section it goes on to say that drivers and focus groups identified the main reasons for non-compliance as the lack of enforcement and lack of concern about the consequences of speeding. Drivers want to reach their destination quickly and drive faster than 20 mph for the reasons in the bulleted points below. Lack of visible enforcement activity means there is not much to deter them from speeding. Other common themes which were identified by the focus groups and drivers include:

a. The pressure of time and pace of life. Drivers want to get to their destinations quickly.

b. 20 mph seems very low.

c. The speed limit appears inappropriate and unnecessary. Drivers believe that they can safely drive at higher speeds .

d. Road environment and time of day. Higher speeds are more likely on roads which are straight and without parked cars and with less traffic.

All of those reasons I doubt would hold sway in a magistrate’s court or in an objection against a fixed penalty ticket.

I do find that there is contrary information on the internet regarding 20 mph speed limits as you may expect with any subject. I have found that some contrary information may be as a result of different investigations with probably different objectives. I see that in one area a local authority said that 20 mph limits do not improve traffic accidents and they would remove the traffic calming if it had the money to do so. Well it is fortunate that is does not have that funding because that appears contrary to the Government’s own information

From the website ’20 is plenty for us’

The professor John Whitelegg presented to PACTS (Parliamentary Advisory Committee on Transport Safety) on the need for PACTS to update its policy to adopt the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) policy on urban and village streets with regard to adopting 20 mph limits (30 km per hour) .

He gave six points in his presentation

a. PACTS provided evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee in 2007-08 and stated that ‘PACTS recommends 20 mph as the default speed limit in all built up areas’. The evidence was published by the House of Commons with the title ‘Ending the scandal of complacency: road safety beyond 2010’

b. Prof John went on to say that ‘complacency’ is even more relevant in 2019. A lot has been done in the UK to improve the safety of those in cars (e.g. seatbelts) but there has been little done in respect of the protection of pedestrians and cyclists. As it has been seen above, the Netherlands has extensive 20 mph limits but the UK does not. Pedestrian deaths are 25% of all deaths in the UK and only 8% in the Netherlands. Child pedestrian deaths are 2.8 per million in the UK and 0.7 in Holland. The Netherlands is reported to be 4 times safer than the UK for children.

e. He then goes on to say that the there is a serious policy issue if we compare seat belt wearing to the 20 mph limits. If we applied the same 20 mph policy to seatbelts then you could have different councils applying the seat belt rule differently, e.g. seat belt wearing could be compulsory in the West Midlands but optional in Shropshire. He says this is nonsense but it is the policy applied to 20 mph speed limits.

c. He went on to say that support of the 20 mph limit is overwhelming e.g. the 80 references in the report of the Director of Public Health for Wales and it is unconvincing for any organisation to rely on ‘there is no evidence’ as a reason for not supporting 20 mph limits.

d. He said that there is a serious problem with any public policy area that applies a fortiori in road safety if the balance of opinion, evidence and recommendation is in favour of an intervention as in the case of 20 mph limits. The WHO, BMA, FPH, a Royal College, NICE, PHER, ETSC and others support 20 mph limits and he makes the point, in the face of this support, it is not credible for any organisation to say ‘you are wrong’.

f. He goes on to say that it is time for PACTS to step up to the plate and adopt the policy of the European Transport Safety Council

I am going to paraphrase an extract of some detail from our County Council website in relation to speed limits.

The council says that speed limits across Suffolk are largely appropriate and that a request for a speed limit change will not meet requirements for consideration.

Well quite a statement. They are confident that a request for speed limit changes will not meet the requirements for reconsideration. What and who’s requirement, theirs or any of the organisations that appear to recommend an expansion of the 20 mph limit.

Finally a note on policing 20 mph limits from the 20’s Plenty for Us website. Once again paraphrased.

It states that many police authorities are taking action against speeding in 20 mph limits.

It goes on to say that there is an issue with enforcement on short stretches of road and road lengths of as little as 100m can not be enforced. There are no such difficulties on longer stretches of road with 20 mph limits.

They state that they have heard that some police officers complain that their equipment is not approved for speeds of 20 mph, but the modern laser type equipment is approved for speeds between 0 to 200+ mph.

They also say that 20 mph speed limits and very much community led and endorsed by the establishment. There is a strong support from communities for lower speeds. They purport that with the increased police focus on community policing then with proper engagement and education of the public 20 mph limits can be enforced with a ‘light touch’ which works with the British principle of ‘policing by consent’

You can see that there is a problem with a short road lengths and 20 mph limits. I do not see that problem in The Street. It is about 0.80 km.

In my view and that of this blog a 20 mph has a place in this village. This blog is written by just a few people and we do believe that it needs to be community led and not just by the few. It can be safer, it can be self policing and whilst it needs funding I do not see why this should be outside the ability of the County Council to fund.