Support for a default 20mph limit on all urban roads rises.

A new survey from IAM RoadSmart suggests that more people support a reduction from 30mph. 

Nearly half (44%) of respondents agreed all current 30mph limits should be replaced with a 20mph limit. This is a 13% increase from the same representative sample surveyed in 2014.

Areas around schools are seen as a high priority; 89% of respondents would like to see the limits cut here.

Warmer reception

Most respondents feel that blanket reductions will ‘make the roads safer’ (49%) and ‘reduce accidents/saving lives’ (24%).

Meanwhile, those against argue that 20mph is too slow. Instead, individual roads should be considered as and when appropriate instead of a blanket ban.

Interestingly, just over half of respondents (54%) would like the road outside their home to have a 20mph limit. This was actually just 44% when the survey was last conducted seven years ago. It seems that the benefits of 20mph limits are beginning to overtake the negative perception of longer journey times.

Unlocking safety

“Improving road safety is key,” says Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research. However he adds that “a blanket ban on reducing 30mph speed limits to 20mph speed limits isn’t necessarily the best route.

“Each situation needs to be decided on a case-by-case basis, with local considerations and consultation playing an important role.”

Further findings from the study indicate strong support for a ‘soft touch’ for drivers caught speeding up to 30mph in a 20mph zone. Tailored driver education courses rather than a fines for offenders are preferred by 64%.

Art present, the police do not generally enforce 20mph zones. This would require a change in the law which British government is not keen to pursue. Therefore a “key requirement for any 20mph zone must be that it is self-enforcing and self-explaining through signposting and road markings” states Neil.

Wales leads the way

Meanwhile, the Welsh Government has made plans to reduce the national default speed limit from 30mph to 20mph. This will affect  residential roads and busy pedestrian streets. It has stated this is a legislative priority for this year.

Ministers in Wales have advocated the change for some time. In February 2021 it announced trails in eight pilot schemes beginning this summer, with a planned national roll out by April 2023.

The Welsh Government has launched a consultation for people to have their say on the change before the necessary legislation is laid. It will run for 12 weeks and come to an end on 30 September.

More than speed

The administration believe the change will play an ‘instrumental role’ in helping to save lives, protect communities and improve quality of life for everyone.

Lee Waters, deputy minister for climate change, describes it as “a bold step that brings about significant benefits”.

“Not only does it save lives, but it also helps to make our streets a safer and more welcoming place for cyclists and pedestrians, ” he adds. He also points out the positives for “physical and mental wellbeing” and the “positive impact on the environment”.

“We know this move won’t be easy – it’s as much about changing hearts and minds as it is about hard enforcement. Over time 20mph will become the norm just like the restrictions we’ve introduced before on carrier bag change, smoking inside businesses and organ donation.”