UK: 20mph Urban Speed Limit

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
uk 20mph urban speed limit
Did you know that sprinter Michael Duane Johnson could (can?) run 27 miles per hour? Obviously, he could only maintain that pace long enough to catch a bus or win an Olympic medal, and he'd have a hard time doing either whilst talking on the cell and carrying a child in one of those humongous child seats. But the point remains: 20mph is a very, very slow for a car. And a more important question also persists: is 20mph safer than say, 25mph? Or 30mph? In absolute terms, if we're talking about car – pedestrian contact, ipso facto. The faster the car at the moment of impact, the more energy involved. But driving safety's a slippery customer, where the primary variables are the driver's level of attentiveness, personal reaction times and a wide variety of road conditions. So, will the UK's decision to lower speed limits in town centers to 20mph help the Government reduce road deaths from 3,000 to 2,000 a year? To make that analysis, you'd have to know how many of those fatalities involved pedestrians in town centers, what speed the contact occurred, if a reduced speed would have prevented the fatality, and what other, perhaps more crucial variables were in play. From a public policy standpoint, you'd have to also analyze the expense of changing the signs and time lost vs. any other, perhaps more effective measures. But two things are for sure: that's a debate the UK isn't having, and no other measure would collect so much– if any– revenue for the government. And remember: it's all for the children.
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4 of 12 comments
  • Jl1280 Jl1280 on May 16, 2008

    20mph is fine as it fits in very nicely with bicycles in town centres. And it makes it easier for pedestrians to cross high street for shopping, and its safer too when one accidentaly stumbles on exiting a pub.

  • Martin Schwoerer Martin Schwoerer on May 16, 2008

    I don't understand this blogpost -- honest. In Europe, 20mph is normal in residential areas. Quote Wikipedia: "From 1980 regulations for 30 km/h zones were enacted and have been widely applied. New urban policies have been defined with a view to encouraging a switch from car use to public transport and non-motorised modes (cycling, walking), with the additional condition of lower speeds to improve safety of vulnerable road users, for example national policies such as "Sustainable Safety" in the Netherlands or "Vision Zero" in Sweden." A thing I regularly like about the U.S. is how everybody drives real slow in residential areas -- 15mph is not so unusual, if I remember it correctly. (And a thing I regularly dislike is the arbitrary and nutty enforcement of low highway speed limits, but that's off topic). Why worry about the UK all the time?

  • Incitatus Incitatus on May 16, 2008

    The speed limit around schools in US is 20 mph. Is that too slow too? Or is the life of an american kid more precious than the life of an english hag? It has to be about UK, otherwise nobody would pay no attention to this article.

  • 50merc 50merc on May 16, 2008

    mennosaid, "rarely do you see morning temperatures in excess of 60 degrees anywhere in the UK. In fact, over 70 by noon time is considered a 'very sunny and hot day'." London's average August 1st high, 74; low, 57. And because the U.S. inherited Savile Row men's fashion standards, suits and ties are requisite even in Phoenix, Houston or New Orleans, where Saudi robes would be more appropriate for the climate.