By on May 16, 2008

float.jpgDid 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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12 Comments on “UK: 20mph Urban Speed Limit...”

  • avatar

    Just watch how much effort goes into enforcing this law and the revenue will be substantial.

  • avatar

    WTF is that truck in the picture???

    FWIW 20 mph is not a very comfortable speed in either of our 5-speed vehicles. Throttle tip-in, shift points, etc. Guess a CVT would be the better choice for vehicles that need to crawl around the neighborhood.

    We have a 25 mph neighborhood speed limit but some of our neighbors don’t live by that now. One neighbor came blasting out of the ‘hood this morning at 50 mph with his cold Hyundai making some unhappy sounds.

    One good benefit to the high fuel prices is that the lead foots in traffic have been restraining themselves. Big trucks, vans and V-8 cars are launching a little more gently around here more often.

  • avatar

    That truck in the picture is an electric milk float. They (almost silently) glide around town from about 5am to about oh, 8am or so, and a man actually steps out at every house on his rounds, and yep, actually delivers milk in pints (in glass milk bottles) to the doorstep. On a daily basis. Except you’ll want a double order on Saturday; no Sunday deliveries.

    (I lived in the UK for 9 years out of my life, and returned home to Michigan 15 years ago, so probably by now, the pints of milk are now called whatever the metric equivalent is).

    Generally speaking, the milk is fine because 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”. If you get 70 degrees for more than about 10 days, then the government decrees a water shortage, bans watering your lawn/washing your cars, and after about 15 days, if it is dry/no rain, some places put stand pipes in the street and turns off the water to all the houses.

    You can’t make this stuff up. It’s all true.

  • avatar

    FWIW, 20 mph is TOO SLOW. Even my Prius gets better MPG at 30 mph than 20. It’s TOO SLOW.

    Given the braking systems on modern cars, even with British pedestrians being so very close to the cars (tiny roads, sidewalks “paths” right next to roads) 20 mph is TOO SLOW.

    It’s a revenue generating scheme. And I use “scheme” in the American sense (as in, the BAD connotation of the word “plot”) not the British sense (as in “plan or design”).

  • avatar

    Pretty soon, most brits will have lost their licenses, and it will become much easier for the rest of them to drive in that overcrowded country

  • avatar

    First, Kudos to Menno for his english to english translation.

    Now to my point. I think I have mentioned it before here, but this is an excellent example of the problem of safety enforcement by government. There is no cost to them for lowering the speed limit, but much value. They get revenues, can claim to have saved lives, and can campaign on the fact that they “care”.

    The problem is that no one did the math on all the TIME wasted. Just being alive HAS NO VALUE. What difference is it to you that you are kept alive in a coma for 60 years vs. being dead? Time spent in a car going 20 mph isn’t much better than being in a coma. It’s a tiny little jail sentence. Certainly, I am overstating the case, but I have to or no one will get it.

    At some ratio, the time lost by millions in an attempt to save a single life will become a losing proposition. We all make this calculation everyday (in reverse) when we don’t give all our money to food charities for starving people.

    Government bodies have learned they can tax everyone just a little, and get away with it. Mostly, they do this because they have failed to educate the populations they serve on the true values of freedom. The 20mph limit is nothing more than a tax on freedom instead of a tax on money.

    Just wait until they figure out how to tax your soul – or have they already?

  • avatar

    Speed limits should be set as fast as possible without signficantly compromising safety. In almost all situations, 20 MPH is too slow.

  • avatar

    Another nice little earner for out beloved government – thieving so-and-sos.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    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?

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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