Brake welcomes 20mph limits across Edinburgh

Thursday 8 January 2015

Brake, the road safety charity 

Plans to turn Edinburgh into Scotland’s first 20mph city have been revealed this week. Swathes of the city’s streets are set to adopt the new limit, following a public consultation last autumn, which saw significant backing for the proposals.

Brake, the road safety charity, in partnership with numerous other organisations, has long campaigned for 20, not 30mph, to be the urban default speed limit across the UK through its GO 20 campaign. See

Welcoming the change, Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: “This is an enlightened move by Edinburgh Council. They recognise that 20mph limits can enable people to get around their neighbourhoods, towns and city centres more safely, sustainably and healthily. Plus it’s clear this is what the people of Edinburgh want. With an estimated 13 million people across the UK now living in areas implementing or committed to widespread 20mph limits, we think it’s time for governments in Holyrood and Westminster to adopt 20mph as the default national urban limit, to save councils money and help create safe, active, happy communities nationwide.

“As well as calling on national government to change the default urban limit to 20mph, Brake continues to encourage and support local authorities to GO 20 through implementing widespread 20 limits across cities, towns and villages. Drivers can also help protect people on foot and bike right away wherever they are, by slowing down to 20mph around homes, schools and shops, even where the limit is still 30mph.

Brake’s advice

Brake appeals to all drivers to make a difference by slowing down to 20mph or below around homes, schools and shops, even where the limit is still 30mph. This gives you much more time to react in an emergency and avoid hitting someone, with stopping distances at 20mph about half those at 30mph. It can also make your journeys smoother, with less speeding up and slowing down, so you’ll barely notice a difference in journey times, and will probably use less petrol and have less vehicle wear.


20mph limits lead to:

  • Fewer casualties: drivers have more time to react in an emergency and avoid hitting someone: stopping distances at 20mph are about half those at 30mph [1]. Children benefit especially, since they struggle to judge the speed of vehicles over 20mph [2]. Areas where 20mph limits have replaced 30mph limits have seen significant reductions in casualties [3] [4], such as 22% in Portsmouth [5], and Camden where crashes dropped by 54% in trial areas [6].
  • Healthy, active lifestyles: less fast traffic makes people feel safer, which encourages more walking and cycling. Where widespread 20mph limits have been introduced, walking and cycling has increased, including by 20% in Bristol [7]. This means better health and prevention of illnesses like heart disease and diabetes [8], and less strain on the NHS.
  • Sociable communities: 20mph limits help turn our streets from soulless thoroughfares for traffic to enjoyable social spaces where people live. Lower traffic speeds (and traffic volumes) have been shown to improve the 'sociability' of streets: people get out more and are more likely to know their neighbours [9] [10].
  • Less pollution: more people walking and cycling means less traffic and more carbon-free journeys. 20mph limits also reduce pollution by causing vehicles to travel at a more consistent speed, with less of the speeding up and slowing down that produces most vehicle emissions [11]. For the same reason, journey times are barely affected; in fact, they may be smoother and use less petrol.
  • Lower costs: every road death in the UK is estimated to cost £1.7 million [12]. Fewer casualties mean less strain on the NHS and emergency services as well as preventing families suffering emotional and financial devastation. Add the public health benefits of more walking and cycling, and introducing 20mph limits ultimately pays for itself many times over [13].

Find out more about Brake’s GO 20 campaign for safe, active, happy communities.


Brake is a national road safety charity that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaignscommunity education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Brake was founded in the UK in 1995, and now has domestic operations in the UK and New Zealand, and works globally to promote action on road safety.

Follow Brake on Twitter or Facebook. Follow Julie Townsend on Twitter.

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] The Highway Code, Driving Standards Agency, 2007
[2] Reduced sensitivity to visual looming inflates the risk posed by speeding vehicles when children try to cross the road, University of London, 2011
[3 20mph speed reduction initiative, Scottish Executive Central Research Unit, 2001
[4] 20mph Speed Limit Pilots Evaluation Report, Warrington Borough Council, 2010

[5] Interim Evaluation of the Implementation of 20 mph Speed Limits in Portsmouth, Department for Transport, 2010
[6] Borough-wide 20mph speed limit, Camden Council, 2013,
[7] Where widespread 20mph limits have been introduced levels of walking and cycling increased by 20%. Citywide Rollout of 20mph speed limits, Bristol City Council Cabinet, 2012

[8] 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
[9] The contribution of good public spaces to social integration in urban neighbourhoods, Daniel Sauter & Marco Hüttenmoser, Swiss National Science Foundation, 2006
[10] Driven to excess, Joshua Hart, University of the West of England, 2008
[11] 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
[12] Reported road casualties Great Britain 2011, Department for Transport, 2012
[13] In Bristol, 20mph resulted in a massive return on investment because of the 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 cost to health as a result of 20mph. They found for every £1 spent they saw a return of £24.72 through increased walking and £7.47 through increased cycling. Citywide Rollout of 20mph speed limits, Bristol City Council Cabinet, 2012

Tags: 20mph speed scotland