UK Government

Department for Transport (National): Government to allow wider use of 20 mph schemes without speed humps

Press Release   •   Dec 16, 2009 11:59 GMT

New proposals to allow councils to put in place 20 mph schemes over groups of streets without the need for traffic calming measures such as speed humps were announced today by Road Safety Minister Paul Clark.

The Government is encouraging local councils to introduce 20 mph schemes into residential streets and other roads where cycle and pedestrian traffic is high, such as around schools, shops and parks.

In the past, councils wanting to implement 20 mph schemes on groups of roads  have had to do so in ‘zones’ which require traffic calming measures such as speed humps. 20 mph limits without traffic calming were only recommended on individual roads.

However, following a successful city-wide trial in Portsmouth which suggested it is possible to significantly reduce speeds on residential streets without speed humps or other traffic calming measures, the Department for Transport plans to allow 20mph limits to be used across more streets where traffic speeds are already low without the need for such measures.

Paul Clark said:

"The number of people killed and seriously injured on Britain's roads has fallen by 40% since the mid-1990s and Britain now has the joint safest roads in the world.  But too many pedestrians and cyclists – including many children – are still being killed or hurt on the roads around their homes and schools.

“We have seen that 20 mph zones with traffic calming measures can make a real difference to the safety of local roads. But we’ve also looked at the latest research and listened to councils and residents who want to introduce 20mph limits on a series of roads where physical traffic calming measures aren’t possible or practical.

“Allowing councils to put in place 20 mph speed limits on more streets without speed humps or chicanes will mean that they can introduce them at a lower cost and with less inconvenience to local residents.”

Last week a report published in the British Medical Journal found that 20 mph zones in London had led to a dramatic reduction in the number of accidents in those areas and called for more 20 mph zones and limits to be put in place.

The Government is also reiterating its call for councils to carry out speed limit reviews of their rural roads by 2011, focussing on National Speed Limit single carriageway ‘A’ and ‘B’ roads where 41% of fatalities occur. Local authorities should consider reducing the limit on the most dangerous roads where this will have a significant impact on casualties. These decisions remain entirely for local authorities to make based on their knowledge of local roads.

The Department for Transport is seeking the views of local councils on these proposals in order to allow new guidance to be published at the earliest available opportunity.

1.  The letter sent to councils today can be found here: http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roadsafety/

2.  There are two ways of introducing 20 mph schemes: 20 mph zones, which require traffic calming measures at regular intervals as well as specific terminal signs at the start and end of the zone; and 20 mph limits which are signed with terminal and regular repeater signs, but which do not require traffic calming measures. Under current Department for Transport guidance 20 mph limits without traffic calming are only recommended for individual streets. The proposed amended guidance published today would remove this restriction so that 20mph limits – without traffic calming measures - could be used across more streets.

3.  Portsmouth City Council has installed signed-only 20 mph limits on 410km (94%) of its 438km road network.  Portsmouth is a densely built-up urban area and many of the roads treated had average speeds of about 20 mph when the limits were installed.   On the minority of roads where average speeds were more than 24 mph, reductions in speed averaging 7 mph have occurred.   Early indications are that casualties are 15% less than before the speed limits were introduced, and appear to indicate likely casualty benefits above the national trend. The Interim Evaluation of the Implementation of 20 mph speed limits in Portsmouth is available here:http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roadsafety/research/rsrr/theme4/interimeval20mphspeedlimits.pdf

4.  The British Medical Journal published research into the effect of introducing 20 mph zones on casualties within those zones and in adjacent areas. This research was based on police data on road casualties between 1986 and 2006 and adjusted for the underlying downward trend in traffic casualties. The introduction of 20 mph zones was associated with a 41.9% reduction in road casualties, after adjustment for underlying time trends. There was no evidence of casualty migration to areas adjacent to 20 mph zones, where casualties also fell slightly by an average of 8.0%. This research is available here:  http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/339/dec10_3/b4469.

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