Whole nations including Spain and Wales have chosen a default 20mph speed limit for most roads previously 30mph. Ireland has pledged 30km/h (18.5mph) on residential streets. Scotland will implement 20mph in its settlements, and in England, 61 out of 153 Local Authorities agree that 20’s Plenty, including two-thirds of London Boroughs. Ireland is pledging lower speeds on all road classes except motorways.
28 million people in the UK live in authorities where 20mph is accepted on streets where people live, work, learn and play. It is only a matter of time before 20mph is seen as normal and 30mph as an exception for side roads and on suitable arterial roads with vulnerable road users.
While most people believe the safety benefits of 20mph, fewer understand that wide area 20mph also improves fuel efficiency, air quality and health and has little impact on journey times; traffic can even flow more smoothly.
Slower speeds are massively popular – typically more than two in three people support 20mph. They raise quality of life: ‘civilising’ driving in places where people are is key to making safer, healthier, quieter, less polluted streets.
A major chapter of Britain’s 20mph story is Scotland, where the Bute Agreement committed to 20mph on suitable roads nationally by 2025.
A multi-stakeholder task group first met in December 2021. Since then, Transport Scotland has provided £1.4 million to help road authorities assess which roads would be affected and the cost of speed limit changes. Scottish Government speed reduction aims are to maximise positive impacts on perceptions of road danger while encouraging people to walk, wheel and cycle. Making streets and neighbourhoods more pleasant supports Scotland’s health, safety and active travel aims outlined in its Strategic Transport Projects Review.
In England, speed setting powers sit with Local Authorities, not central government. If you want to see change in your area, 20’s Plenty can help demonstrate why 20mph speed limits are popular to your decision-makers. Together, our 700 activist branches encourage those with power locally. Working in county teams is very effective through parish-level motions. Pooling volunteer lobbying effort has worked in rural counties like Cornwall, Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
20mph is an exciting arena. We are winning. If you want to set up a 20’s Plenty branch, please get in touch. I’ll send a campaign plan and stickers, plus offer training by Zoom. We’re free to join.
This blog was written for Road Safety Week 2023. Sign up now to join the national conversation about speed.
20’s Plenty will hold its 2023 conference in Edinburgh on 7 December 2023. Hear the latest on 20mph and behaviour change from prominent speakers, including Scottish and Welsh cabinet members Fiona Hyslop MSP and Lee Waters MS, Will Norman from Transport for London and Ellen Townsend on the EU perspective.
Transport, health, climate change or political reps are invited to learn and celebrate progress on 7 December in Edinburgh.
National campaign manager, 20's Plenty for Us
Anna Semlyen has been national campaign manager for 20’s Plenty for Us since 2010. Her first speed public meeting was in 1996. She’s a former City of York elected Councillor, Transport Scrutiny chair and authored Cutting Your Car Use traffic reduction book. Anna enthusiastically assists those lobbying for 20mph. She was seriously injured by an offending driver in 1992 and has to take care of her unstable left leg.