Why is ‘20’ the New ‘30’ on so many Residential Streets?
2nd August 2023
20mph speed limits are increasingly being introduced in both urban and rural areas. We look at why 20mph speed limits are now so common and what can be done to help encourage compliance.
It has been more than 30 years since the first 20mph speed limit zone was introduced in the UK. Since then, they have become commonplace in cities, towns and villages as a way to improve road safety.
The next few years will undoubtedly see speed limits reduced from 30mph to 20mph on many more roads across the UK. Wales, Scotland and many English council areas have already committed to making 20mph the default speed on ‘restricted roads’, which are generally those in built-up areas. From 17th September 2023, it will be the default speed limit on all restricted roads in Wales, with all Scottish Councils following suit by 2025.
While there are currently no plans for the same to be implemented across England as a whole, a growing number of councils have independently introduced or committed to introduce 20mph limits in built-up areas. In the London boroughs of Camden, Islington, Hackney, Haringey and Tower Hamlets, almost all the roads now have a 20mph limit following a wave of changes introduced in March this year. Also in March, Cornwall Council announced that it would be rolling out 20mph limits in all built-up areas across the county in phases up to 2026. This is in addition to dozens of councils that are working to implement 20mph limits in collaboration with local communities.
Evidence shows that reducing the speed limit from 30mph to 20mph saves lives and reduces injuries as well as encouraging more walking and cycling. Studies also show that vehicle emissions could be reduced and that a lowered speed has minimal impact on journey times.
Transport for London recently released data on the impact of introducing 20mph limits. The figures show that lowering the speed limit to 20mph resulted in a 25% reduction in collisions that result in death or serious injury, a 36% drop in collisions with vulnerable road users and a 63% reduction in collisions involving pedestrians.
How to make 20mph zones as effective as possible
While it may sound obvious, displaying the 20mph speed limit clearly is essential to ensure drivers are aware of the legal speed. While conventional static speed signs are the primary type of signage, there are also benefits to supplementing these with digital versions, particularly Vehicle Activated Speed (VAS) signs. The flashing signal attracts the drivers’ attention effectively and reminds them of the speed limit. Our work with the Welsh Government on implementing 20mph limits around schools demonstrates the benefits of these signs in practice. Read the case study here.
In addition, electronic signs such as our Urban Speed Limit Repeater Sign, that display either ‘30’ or ‘20’ depending on the requirement, are ideal for use on roads that currently have a 30mph limit that may change to 20mph in the future. This eliminates the need to replace signage and therefore cuts down on waste and negates further spending.
It is clear that the number of areas with 20mph speed limits will only increase in the coming years as councils and governments across the UK push to improve road safety and encourage more active travel. Effective signage is a central part of influencing compliance with these lowered speed limits.