20s Plenty For Us | DfT CWIS: Demand Default 20mph

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DfT Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy: Demand Default 20mph

A 20mph national speed limit is the single most cost-effective change possible to boost cycling and walking.  20mph limits can treble cycling to school. Localism on setting safer speed limits isn’t enough; the Government must lead with a 20mph default for built up areas.  

The Department for Transport’s Draft Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS)[1] states
“The use of 20mph zones and limits can make a difference to both actual and perceived levels of safety in our cities, towns and villages. We believe that local bodies are best placed to determine the speed limits for their areas, based on local knowledge and the views of the community.”

20’s Plenty for Us agrees that 20mph limits reduce danger and the perception of danger. The City of Edinburgh recorded a trebling of cycling to school and doubling of permission for children to play out[2].  However, we disagree on who is best to set 20mph speed limits.  Our call is for the Government to agree a plan for Total 20 by 2020[3] which sets a 20mph default for restricted roads but allows local authorities to make exceptions where justified.  Most forward thinking authorities have already funded wide area signs and lines 20mph as best practice and to avoid litigation.  It’s time that the Government recognised that 20mph is the foundation of active travel. 20mph limits are a popular, cost effective way to raise public health and exercise levels on the 90% of the urban public realm that is streets and pavements.

Most of the largest 40 UK authorities have decided the ‘national speed limit’ of 30mph is not fit for purpose.  15.5m people now live where the default speed limit is 20mph.  Everyone needs protection near their home.

The Government doesn’t allow local authorities to set local rules on health safety at work for instance, or other spheres where people engage in dangerous activities that might affect another’s wellbeing. We have national air quality rules and a smoking ban for adults in cars with children.

Changing the national default to 20mph whilst letting local authorities sign the small number (perhaps up to 10%) of urban roads that might warrant a higher speed limit also makes more sense economically than suggesting that cash-strapped local authorities pay to sign 90% of roads 20mph.  Indeed the Government is making local authorities pay over the odds to for road safety when 20mph could become the default national speed limit much more quickly and for less money if change came centrally.

Rod King MBE, Founder of 20’s Plenty for Us commented:-  The Government must wake up, urgently change the National limit to 20mph and let authorities choose roads where other limits are warranted. Otherwise they are simplyusing “localism” as a fig-leaf for not taking responsibility for the adverse effect of vehicle speed on public health, community life and road danger”.

Comment on the DfT’s consultation by 23 May via https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/draft-cycling-and-walking-investment-strategy – online form or to walking.cycling@dft.gsi.gov.uk. Ask for default Total 20mph.


2 thoughts on “20s Plenty For Us | DfT CWIS: Demand Default 20mph

  1. Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy needs Vision

    Last night I attended the DfT Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy briefing in Manchester. This is part of their consultation process on their “ambition” for walking and cycling in England. See https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/draft-cycling-and-walking-investment-strategy

    I came away underwhelmed at what they called a “strategy to create a walking and cycling nation”. Whilst there was a collection of funds and packages that will support the encouragement of walking and cycling in some places and in some ways, there was no symbolic national gesture that the government really meant to create a “walking and cycling nation”.

    Those who are supporters of walking and cycling should respond to this consultation and make it very clear that the policy strategy lacks ambition and unless radically changed will make little difference to the promotion and development of walking and cycling in England.

    The flaw in the strategy is perhaps best exampled by the “ambition” that is first expressed in the strategy. Para 2.3 starts off with the comment :-

    “We want to see a transformative change through our ambition: change which will tackle congestion………” etc

    If you ask any cyclist or walker whether congestion on our roads is a barrier to walking and cycling then they will agree that it is not. In fact they would say that it is congestion which is the greatest factor that supports cycling and walking as being more effective at getting around our communities than being part of that congestion in a motor vehicle. They will confirm that congestion is NOT a cycling or walking issue and is only of concern as an inconvenience and disincentive to motor vehicle use.

    Hence if the primary ambition that the government has in its cycling and walking strategy is to remove the disincentive to motor vehicle use then it creates a feedback loop that ensures that as cycling and walking becomes more popular then travelling by motor vehicle becomes easier. How can such a strategy ever be successful if its success is measured by how effective it reduces congestion.

    With UK having one of the lowest usages of cycles in Europe the ambition to take the next 9 years to double the very low 0.8 billion cycle trips to 1.6 billion is very cautious and reflects a lack of real vision as to how a real commitment to walking and cycling could transform our cities and communities.

    In so many cities in Europe levels of 20+% of trips being made by bicycle are common and are driven by governments (both local and national) that recognize that as well as incentives to cycle, disincentives to use motor cars are important and necessary. The fact that the DfT fails to acknowledge this simple truth has meant that the strategy and its targets are totally incompatible with the stated vision of “creating a walking and cycling nation”.

    It is not sufficient to be pro-active travel, pro-healthy travel, pro-environmentally friendly travel. If the vast benefits in terms of public health, accessibility, mobility are to be gained by society then we must start to discourage the inactive and obesity inducing travel, the travel that pollutes our streets creates the environmental problems that so suppresses walking and cycling. If the strategy fails to do this then it has little chance of meeting even its own mediocre targets.

    What is also needed is a clear, conspicuous and symbolic national change that will clearly show that people that are moving by foot or by cycle on the roads are prioritized in both their safety and convenience. This can be done cheaply and cost effectively.

    One clear way that this could be done is a change in the national speed limit for restricted roads which currently stands at 30mph. This blanket limit has already been declared “unfit for purpose” by most of our iconic cities in England ans several counties. In fact 15m people in the UK live in places where a 20mph limit has been set for most roads with exceptions only where they can be justified. A 20mph limit has clear advantages for vulnerable road users who walk and cycle and the reversal of the current need to justify 20mph limits for local traffic authorities would transform the cost and effectiveness of implementations at a cost of less than £2 per head of population. Instead of having to justify and sign 20mph limits then the few streets remaining at 30mph would require the traffic regulation order and signage to set them at 30mph. Instead of 30mph being the norm and only slowing down in some places, 20mph would be the norm and we would only go faster where appropriate. This would be in line with successive British Social Attitude Surveys which have shown 70+% of people agreeing that 20mph is the correct limit for residential roads.

    We are therefore asking anyone responding to the consultation to include the demand for a national 20mph limit. Our case for this may be seen at our recent Press Release at http://www.20splenty.org/cyclewalk20

    Please remind the government the government that it needs greater vision, greater commitment and wider initiatives.

    The consultation ends on 23rd May 2016, so please make your contribution to the consultation and tell the government that its strategy is flawed.

    Rod King MBE
    Founder and Campaign Director
    20’s Plenty for Us


  2. DfT Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy – Not a lot of vision or ambition!

    I also attended the Manchester DfT CWIS Roadshow on Monday (but the afternoon session) and would echo Rod’s comments.

    When pressed, the officials more or less privately admitted that
    – the published draft “Strategy” will not achieve the declared ambition
    – officials and ministers know this
    – the political decisions are still to give priority to motor vehicles
    – the biggest problem is the Treasury not committing any money.

    There was no real interest in people’s views – my comment about 20mph speed limits being made the default urban limit was labelled “controversial” by the official chairing our group – but it’s the norm in the Netherlands which they say they are trying to emulate, and there has been 70% support for it in the general population for over a decade.

    So it seems that the document is a sham – that it has been decided that active travel will not be supported for a whole generation – but they are trying to pretend otherwise.

    I think that as many people as possible should respond saying that major changes to the document are needed – including making 20mph the default urban speed limit.

    Newcastle Cycling Campaign has constructed a good response at http://newcycling.org/our-response-to-dfts-cwis/
    and my response is at http://www.pedestriansafety.org.uk/dft_cwis.html

    Ian Campbell


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