Portsmouth and Hackney local councils have recently taken important steps towards their stated aim of default 20mph speed limits in their areas – which they believe would greatly help reduce the number of serious injuries and deaths to cyclists and pedestrians.
Last month Portsmouth City Council proclaimed itself the ‘first city in Britain to have a 20mph safety limit on almost all residential roads’. Over in east London, Hackney Council has just voted to continue the expansion of its programme that so far has seen 55% of its roads get 20mph limits.
Alex Bentley, Portsmouth City Councillor with responsibility for transportation outlined the reasons for the scheme’s introduction, ‘This scheme has won Portsmouth lots of attention for its boldness in improving safety for our residents. I’m sure it could save lives, particularly those of children and elderly people, and get more people cycling. We believe the scheme will be mainly self-policing. If the new limit isn’t respected on some roads, we will look at other measures or get police involved. We want to change the culture in the city so that speeding in residential areas is seen to be what it is – dangerous and anti-social.”
The bulk of existing research on reducing 30mph limits to 20mph has shown impressive reductions in serious casualties and deaths, but the process for local councils wanting to introduce widespread 20mph limits remains a time consuming and potentially expensive one.
Many cycling groups back the idea of national default speed limit of 20mph as a way of avoiding the current difficulties of introducing 20mph limits at a local level. Bikeradar has previously outlined plans for a London-wide 20mph limit. In 2006 the government came under pressure from a broad coalition of groups, including the Cyclists Touring Club, to introduce a national blanket default 20mph limit during the passage of the Road Safety Act. The campaign was known as ‘20’s Plenty’ but the government failed to introduce the measure.