Why all our communities should GO 20

GO 20 goes live today, at the start of Road Safety Week, launched by Brake alongside a coalition of national charities: Living Streets, Sustrans, 20’s Plenty for Us, the National Heart Forum, Campaign to Protect Rural England and Ramblers. We are highlighting the vital importance of people being able to walk and cycle without being or feeling endangered, and that slower speeds in villages, towns and cities are critical to enabling people to enjoy active lifestyles.

Demand for safer streets for walking and cycling is sweeping across the UK, bolstered by the enthusiasm brought about by the Olympics. At the same time, more and more authorities are realising that to bring about more active, healthy, happy communities, reducing traffic speeds is critical. To name a few, Portsmouth, Islington, Warrington, Leicester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Wigan, York, Colchester, Bodmin, Lancashire, Brighton & Hove, Middlesbrough, Bristol and Oxford have made the switch to 20mph limits across most of their urban roads, or are in the process of doing so.

But while some cities, towns and villages are starting to reap the rewards of widespread 20mph limits – an estimated 8.4 million of us now live in these 20mph conurbations [1] – many more are still waiting, as politicians get up to speed. We’re calling for all our communities to GO 20, to help ensure everyone can walk and cycle – for their health and enjoyment, and for cheap and sustainable travel – without fear or threat.

20mph is much safer for people walking and cycling because drivers have far more chance to react in an emergency and avoid hitting someone: your stopping distance at 30 is nearly double than at 20 [2]. Where 20 limits have replaced 30 limits, it’s resulted in fewer devastating and costly casualties [3].

Lower speeds are particularly good for children. Research shows children struggle to judge speed when vehicles are doing more than 20mph [4], yet some drivers expect them to keep out of the way or pay the price. We think kids – and everyone else! – should be able to walk and cycle without their lives being endangered.

20mph encourages more walking and cycling as people feel safer. Few people like dicing with death on their way to work, and no parent wants their child to walk or cycle to school or the park if they fear they could be hurt on the way. Surveys show traffic danger is a major barrier to getting more people walking and cycling [5]. And where town- and city-wide 20mph limits have been introduced, walking and cycling has increased [6]. Aside from the obvious freedom and enjoyment this gives people, it’s also great for public health.

In short, GOing 20 is about happy, active communities: people who care about each other, get out and enjoy their local area, and say hello when they pass in the street. Lower traffic speeds improve the ‘sociability’ of streets: people get out more and are more likely to know their neighbours [7]. In 2012 the UK celebrated a royal wedding, jubilee and Olympic and Paralympic Games. People got together to celebrate and realised they liked it. GOing 20 can help us keep that community spirit ball rolling.

GO 20 calls for more local authorities to switch to 20mph, so more people can enjoy the benefits. But ultimately, we don’t think safe walking and cycling should be a postcode lottery. We want all our communities to GO 20, and that means the government lowering our default to 20mph, to make this the norm across all our communities.

GO 20 also appeals to drivers everywhere to make a difference now, by making a simple pledge: stay well within limits, and slow down to 20 around homes, schools and shops, even where the limit is still 30. You’ll be helping to protect people around you, and you’ll hardly notice the difference to your journey time. In fact, you may find journeys smoother, less stressful, and less costly. GOing 20 really is good for everyone.

Help achieve safer streets for walking and cycling in your area and across the UK by taking a few minutes to back the campaign at www.go20.org.

Read more on the case for GOing 20, why the GO 20 partners are on board, and how you can help your community GO 20: all at www.go20.org.

End notes:
[1] Estimated by 20’s Plenty for Us, www.20splentyforus.org.uk
[2] The Highway Code, Driving Standards Agency, 2007
[3] For example,  20mph speed reduction initiative, Scottish Executive Central Research Unit, 2001; 20mph Speed Limit Pilots Evaluation Report, Warrington Borough Council, 2010
[4] Reduced sensitivity to visual looming inflates the risk posed by speeding vehicles when children try to cross the road, University of London, 2011
[5] For example, Brake and Bolt Burdon Kemp surveys of commuters and parents on cycling, 2012 and Brake and Churchill survey of parents on walking, 2012
[6] Where widespread 20 limits have been introduced, walking and cycling levels increased by 20%, Citywide Rollout of 20mph speed limits, Bristol City Council Cabinet, 2012
[7] The contribution of good public spaces to social integration in urban neighbourhoods, Daniel Sauter & Marco Hüttenmoser, Swiss National Science Foundation, 2006; Driven to excess, Joshua Hart, University of the West of England, 2008

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About stopthecarnage

Julie Townsend is campaigns director of Brake, a charity working to stop deaths and reduce carbon emissions on roads, and also working to support families bereaved by sudden deaths such as road deaths.
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6 Responses to Why all our communities should GO 20

  1. Malcolm Bass says:

    Lower speeds and their enforcement are required. However, it is also important that the planning and engineering from the Department of Transport and local councils stops treating pedestrians and cyclists with contempt, The Alternative Department of Transport shows clearly the difference between England and countries such as the Netherlands or Denmark. Look how much better the priorities for pedestrians and cyclists are in the engineering at side roads in those countries compared with here. Is it possible to change the mentality of our civil srvants and council officers?

    • Matt Day says:

      That is the goal Malcolm, but it isn’t easy, esp at the moment. In cash-strapped Local Authorities, filling potholes sadly comes much higher up the list than the kind of improvements we would like to see. Even when towns have the funding (from s106/CIL) its a ridiculously long and difficult process to get any changes to the highway through, even minor ones. For large new housing developments, there is some progress with layouts that mean lower speeds and more cycle paths, but its piecemeal – the cycle paths stop when the new estate stops…and you wouldn’t think we also have an obesity epidemic!
      We have an event with Living Streets in Axbridge, Somerset, next Tuesday 12th March see link for more details. Keep up the good work!

      • Malcolm Bass says:

        Hello Matt
        I’m not convinced that better design and working practices are so expensive. It is more one of priority and mentality. If you continue footpaths and cyclepaths at the same height across side roads then there is no need for dropped kerbs. I’m amazed at the discrimination here against less mobile pedestrians by assuming a minimum walking speed. Those responsible speed up mini-roundabouts but give minimal assistance for pedestrians to cross a road. Nottinghamshire Council Officers have agreed that their only real concern is the fast throughput of motorized vehicles. Count the number of ‘cyclists dismount’ signs and you obtain some idea of the lazy engineering employed.
        Kind regards
        Malcolm Bass

  2. It’s great to see people supporting Road Safety Week!

    To coincide with Brakes GO 20 campaign we have put together some useful advice for both cyclists and motorists which will hopefully help make our roads a safer place to travel.

    Take a look – http://www.aequitaslegal.co.uk/archives/road-safety-for-cyclists

  3. As the saying goes ’20’s Plenty’.

    However, the problem would be enforcement. There’s a 20mph zone near me which was put in place at the request of the people that live there. However, the only people that drive on the road are the residents, and whenever I’m there I often see people breaking the 30mph limit, let alone the 20mph one…

  4. Kara says:

    I have signed up to the Go 20 campaign and am sticking within the speed limit when driving my car… but other drivers overtake me! Quite often they go faster than 30 in order to do so! Enforcement may not be possible due to budgets etc.. we need to encourage 40 million people to sign up to this campaign.

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