20 mph speed limits

One of the UK’s most eminent human geographers, Professor Dorling, has this January (2014) presented a powerful case that the implementation of 20mph speed limits is the most effective method for improving public health.[1] He highlights that slowing-down vehicles would reduce inequalities within cities because it tends to be in the poorer parts of cities that people are at most risk of being hurt or killed by vehicles. Also, in urban areas the majority of people killed or seriously injured are pedestrians and cyclists. By grouped cause of death, the biggest killer in Britain of children between 11-16 years old (and anyone between the ages of 5 and 25) is road traffic crashes. This includes a vehicle hitting a pedestrian, a pedal cyclist being hit by a vehicle, or the death of a passenger or driver in a vehicle during a crash. For children, the risk of injury is higher in faster traffic environments because their eyes are not developed enough yet to be able to judge speeds over 20mph.[2] He also cites 10 other benefits, including for drivers, older people fearful of leaving their homes, those who’d like to cycle more, and improved social connectivity as additional reasons to adopt 20mph speed limits. This corresponds with a Local Government Information Unit policy briefing which is strongly in favour of 20mph because of a myriad of ‘win-win’ outcomes.[3]


[1] Dorling, D. 2014 20mph Speed Limits for Cars in Residential Areas, by Shops and Schools, in British Academy, If you could do one thing…” Nine local actions to reduce health inequalities. London: BA. http://www.britac.ac.uk/policy/Health_Inequalities.cfm 

[2] Wang, J., Poulter, D., Purcell, C. 2011 Reduced Sensitivity to Visual Looming Inflates the Risk Posed by Speeding Vehicles When Children Try to Cross the Road, Psychological Science, 22, 4, 429-434.

[3] LGIU Policy Briefing 2012 Area-wide 20mph neighbourhoods: a win, win, win for local authorities http://www.lgiu.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Area-wide-20mph-neighbourhoods-a-win-win-win-for-local-authorities.pdf accessed 13th January 2014.

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