Brexit opportunities and government efficiency minister, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has branded 20 mph speed limits “ridiculous”.  He believes that they “simply obstruct the flow of traffic” according to an interview in The Sunday Times Magazine.

Diminishing popularity

His comments come amid plans to introduce 20mph speed limits in a number of villages, including West Harptree, where he lives.

“People are in favour of them when they are proposed, and later realise how annoying they are,” he told the magazine.

“It’s a microcosm of politics generally: opinion polls suggest something would be popular and once you put it into practice it isn’t.”

Rees-Mogg’s comments could come back to haunt him. Brexit, ‘levelling up’, ‘party gate’ and the current administration in general failing. All got the public backing initially, but the reality is proving less appealing and successful. However, 20 mph speed limits seem to buck the trend according to the research.

Reducing death and serious injury

Transport for London’s announced in February an expansion of 20mph speed limits. At present, 50 miles of road in London are under a 20mph limit, according to TfL. This will expand to 137 by 2024.

“Ensuring the safety of Londoners and visitors is paramount, which is why we are working to lower speed limits on our road network in inner and outer London,” said Lilli Matson, chief health, safety and environment officer at TfL.

“Millions of walking and cycling journeys are made across London every day and people are much more likely to be killed or seriously injured if hit at 30mph than if a vehicle is travelling at 20mph or less.

“We’re committed to eliminating unsafe speeds and dangerous driving across our network and are working closely with our Metropolitan Police partners to ensure the new speed limits are robustly enforced.”

Capital conviction

London is not alone in introducing 20mph speed limits. New routes and zones being introduced (and enforced) all across the UK in cities, towns and villages.

The new limits have proven controversial. However, statistics are creating an ever clearer picture. If speed limits are enforced, then flow of traffic is improved, pollution and road casualties are reduced. A pedestrian being hit by a car at 20mph stands much less of a chance of being killed or seriously injured than if they had been hit at 30mph — a 2.5% risk at 20mph versus a 20% chance at 30mph, according to some studies.

According to a paper by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), there are clear benefits to 20 mph limits.

The damage

Opposition to 20mph speed limits and zones is there. Damage to vehicle suspension from speed bumps, delayed emergency service response times and slower journeys. Closer analysis by RoSPA has revealed these not to be particularly well founded. Not least that increasingly 20 mph limits do not involve speed bumps.

Appropriate use

RoSPA believes 20mph limits should be targeted at roads that are primarily residential in nature. Town or city streets where pedestrian and cyclist movements are high are prime sites.

Less suitable are major through routes, and public consultation is important.

“Local communities should have input into the scheme’s development. Emergency services must be consulted when implementing 20mph zones to ensure that their requirement to use the roads quickly is balanced with the considerable benefit of a 20mph zone.”

The group stressed the need to lay out the facts. Evidence of improved the quality of life and reduced risk of accidents important.

RoSPA believes in the schemes, where appropriate, on many levels. Is states that it is “the best compromise between mobility and risk”.


Rees Mogg’s criticism seem to be anecdotal and lacking factual basis. Instead of viewing the bigger picture, and the longer term benefits, they seem restricted by ideology and, perhaps, self-interested populism. But why let facts get in the way.

When it comes to 20 mph limits, perhaps would all benefit from a greater provision of research evidence for a clearer picture of the benefits and drawbacks.