Charity calls for safer streets for cycling as Tour de France kicks off

28 June 2013

Brake, the road safety charity

Road safety charity Brake has today renewed calls for drivers and authorities across the UK to GO 20 as the Tour de France begins, to enable more people to enjoy cycling without fear or threat to their safety.

Brake, alongside a GO 20 campaign coalition, is calling for 20mph limits to become the norm across built-up areas, so people can cycle and walk for their health and enjoyment, and for cheap and sustainable travel, without being or feeling endangered. The campaign also appeals to drivers to GO 20 or below around homes, schools and shops to protect cyclists and pedestrians.

Government statistics released yesterday show 118 cyclists were killed and 3,222 seriously injured last year, marking the third year in a row when cyclist deaths and serious injuries have risen [1]. While this is at least partly down to a rise cycling, Brake is calling for action to enable more people to cycle without risking injury.

As world-class cyclists compete for the yellow jersey, Brake is highlighting that slower traffic speeds, alongside more segregated and traffic-free paths, would help more communities to get active – by helping to overcome a major barrier that prevents many adults and children following the example of the Tour de France riders and getting on their bikes [2].

It’s increasingly recognised that town/city/borough-wide 20mph limits are effective in reducing casualties and encouraging more walking and cycling. In April an All Party Parliamentary Group on cycling recommended government work towards 20 limits being the norm in towns, alongside more segregated cycle paths, with the aim of 10% of journeys being by bike by 2025 (currently it’s 2%).

Since the GO 20 campaign was launched in November, Westminster and the Welsh Assembly have moved to encourage more 20mph limits, while Transport for London is implementing a raft of safe cycling measures including more 20 limits. More local authorities have announced they are switching to 20mph, including Manchester, Bath and North East Somerset and Sefton in Merseyside.  

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive at Brake, says: “As excitement builds around the Tour de France, no doubt it will inspire more people to take to their bikes to commute, exercise, or enjoy the countryside. But it remains that fast traffic and inadequate safe routes have a major impact on people’s ability to choose and enjoy cycling. While good progress is being made in some areas, we have a long way to go before the UK’s streets and communities are cyclist-friendly. We believe everyone should be able to cycle or walk in their community or to get to work or school without fear or threat. Anyone who drives can help bring this about: pledge to GO 20 around homes, schools and shops, and take great care to look out for cyclists and pedestrians this summer and year-round. We’re also renewing our calls for the government, and more authorities, to bring in more safe cycling facilities and work towards 20mph being the norm across built up areas.”

About GO 20

GO 20 is a coalition campaign supported by 11 charities, calling for: more authorities to make the switch from 30 to 20mph across towns, villages and cities; the government to work towards 20mph limits being the norm in communities; and drivers to pledge to GO 20 around homes, schools and shops. This is on the basis that 20mph means:

  •       Fewer casualties: at 20, drivers have more time to react and stop in time if they need to. Studies show when 20 limits replace 30, it means fewer casualties among pedestrians and cyclists [3].
  •       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 [4].
  •       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 [5]. 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 [6]. Road casualties cost even more, due to the suffering and burden on health and emergency services [7]. Preventing casualties and improving health means GOing 20 pays for itself many times over [8]. It also helps people save money by choosing the cheapest ways to get about: foot and bike. 

Read more about the case for GO 20.

Anyone can pledge their support for safer walking and cycling at

Notes for editors

Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 63 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaignscommunity education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week (18-24 November 2013), and a Fleet Safety Forum, providing advice to companies. Brake’s support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

End notes

[1] Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2012, Department for Transport, 2013
[2] Brake and Bolt Burdon Kemp surveys of commuters and parents on cycling, 2012
[3] For example, 20mph speed reduction initiative, Scottish Executive Central Research Unit, 2001;  20mph Speed Limit Pilots Evaluation Report, Warrington Borough Council, 2010
[4] Where widespread 20 limits have been introduced levels of walking and cycling increased by 20% Citywide Rollout of 20mph speed limits, Bristol City Council Cabinet, 2012
[5] Environmental effects of 30 km/h in urban areas – with regard to exhaust emissions and noise, The Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, 1999
[6] The annual costs of physical inactivity in England are estimated at £8.2 billion. At least five a week - evidence on the impact of physical activity and its relationship to health - a report from the Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, 2004
[7]Road casualties in Britain cost an estimated £34.8billion in 2011, due to the burden on health and emergency services, criminal justice costs, insurance payouts, and human costs. Reported road casualties Great Britain annual reports 2011, Department for Transport, 2012
[8] In Bristol, 20mph resulted in a massive return on investment because of cost savings to the health service through increased physical activity. They used the World Health Organisation’s Health Economic Assessment Tool to estimate the changes in costs. They found for every £1 spent they saw a return of £24.72 through increased walking and £7.47 through increased in cycling. Citywide Rollout of 20mph speed limits, Bristol City Council Cabinet, 2012.  Reducing speeds in urban environments reduces casualties. For each 1mph speed reduction, casualties decrease by 5%, The effects of drivers’ speed on the frequency of road accidents, Transport Research Laboratory, 2000, fewer crashes reduces the burden on the NHS, emergency services and local economy.  Each death on roads costs £1.7 million and each serious injury costs £190,000, Reported road casualties Great Britain 2011, Department for Transport, 2012