The Transport Minister has commissioned research into reducing the speed limit in urban areas to 20mph.
Borough-wide 20mph limits have been already adopted by three local authorities — Southwark, Camden and Islington, while Hackney, Lambeth, Haringey, Greenwich and Waltham Forest have committed to 20mph limits. Lewisham rejected proposals but City of London will move to a 20mph limit in July. The limits will only apply to council-managed roads rather than major routes managed by Transport for London (TfL). There are increasing calls for it to be made the default lower limit across the country, but Transport Minister Robert Goodwill said:
"Local authorities are best placed to determine the speed limits for their areas, based on local knowledge and the views of the community, and have the powers to do so."
The AA and the RAC both support 20mph limits outside schools and in some residential areas, but want London councils to consult with residents before imposing reduced limits. They also caution against reducing limits on major roads, which they say could have the unintended side effect of pushing traffic onto smaller roads. AA president Edmund King said:
‘Residents want to be asked first before the speed limit is changed on their streets. It doesn’t mean they will say no to a 20mph speed limit, it means they want a say rather than being issued with a decree that ignores local democracy.
"We’d very concerned about it being imposed on arterial roads such as bus routes which could slow down the pace of a town or city."
Road safety campaigners believe a blanket 20mph speed limit should be introduced. A 2012 report from Full Fact highlights the evidence around KSI (Killed and Seriously Injured) statistics as support for 20mph zones (a different proposition to 20mph limits). Many London boroughs already have 20mph zones even if they're not borough-wide. It's also worth considering that there's more to road safety than simply reducing a speed limit and letting everyone get on with it — signage, enforcement and dedicated cycling/pedestrian provision are on the flip side of the 20mph coin.
The research will look at the impact of 20mph limits on road collisions, casualties and air quality, and is expected to take three years.
Photo by Peter H in the Londonist Flickr pool.