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20’s Plenty: The Movement for Safer Speeds in the UK

Five years ago, Streetfilms was in the UK town of Warrington to talk with the great folks behind 20's Plenty For Us, a largely volunteer group trying to get speed limits reduced to 20 mph. The first film drew broad interest in the 20's Plenty movement, and on a recent trip I caught up with them again.

Founder Rod King MBE reports some amazing statistics: More than 14 million residents of the UK now live on streets with speed limits of 20 mph or less, including 3 million in London. Despite being a very small organization, 20's Plenty has empowered 263 local campaigns across the UK asking for 20 mph streets. The film captures some of the impact of 20's Plenty in Central London, Liverpool, and Cambridge. It's amazing to see energized volunteers deploying all sorts of creativity to get the message out: stickers, banners, yarn-bombing, children's art, t-shirts. The success has been remarkable.

20's Plenty is now campaigning for "Total 20 By 2020" -- the goal of making most of the streets in the entire country 20 mph. For viewers in the United States, this film is like a road map for building public support and getting your community energized around lower speed limits.

Clarence Eckerson Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • Rod King

    Many thanks to Clarence for all the interest in our campaign and for filming and editing.

  • neroden

    It's worth noting that most UK streets are already *geometrically* designed for 20mph speeds or less, due to their ancient heritage as walking and horse paths. A cautious driver should be going at 20 regardless of the speed limit.

    If you lower the speed limit to 20 in the US, unfortunately, drivers will keep speeding, because our streets are designed to be straighter and wider, which causes drivers unconsciously to speed up. If you want to slow cars down int the US, it is necessary to actually redesign the street to make it "feel" slower, by making them narrower, twistier, and more "enclosed".

  • st4rchy

    Great campaign and great slogan. It took me a minute to figure out that "twenty" and "plenty" rhyme in the UK. In New York, we say "twunny" in casual speech, so the rhyme doesn't work. A bit like "sharrows" which for a lot of Americans has the word "share" in it, but not in this region. That one took me forever to work out.

  • Anandakos

    Why would a country which has adopted the metric system and posts its speed limits in kph choose "20 is plenty" and mean "20 miles per hour"? They haven't used "English" measures since the 1970's. Does anybody still know how far a mile is?

  • http://www.streetfilms.org/ Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Uhhh...because the speed limit signs are in mph? I don't get what you are saying. UK uses mph.

    Seriously look it up before making a comment like that.

  • Anandakos

    Well, apologies then. I just did read an article discussing the crazy mixture of metric and English measures in their road system. You are right, though, speed limits are posted in miles per hour while roadway distances are listed in kilometers.

    So unless a person is familiar with the ratio it's not immediately easy to calculate the elapsed time to get to a certain city. Weird.

    I must say, for the author of an article on a public blog, you have a pretty thin skin. Maybe you need to seek other employment? Like writing user manuals for software maybe? There's always a need for a whiff of "We know best" in those.

  • Aron

    >It's worth noting that most UK streets are already *geometrically* designed for 20mph speeds or less, due to their ancient heritage as walking and horse paths.

    Well that's bullshit. Old town center streets ? most streets. Most streets in the UK are still car dominated hellholes for foot, bike or ped traffic. The 1950s, 60s and 70s happened, remember. Roadways got widened, sidewalks narrowed, and ridiculous urban design has prevailed ever since.

  • Andrew

    A bit like "sharrows" which for a lot of Americans has the word "share" in it, but not in this region. That one took me forever to work out.

    AHA! Thanks. I had no idea.

  • neroden

    Having driven in large portions of England and the US, I can say that what I wrote is 100% true.

    Your streets, even outside the town centers (and by the way, the town centers are practically every mile), are geometrically MUCH curvier than US roads, and it DOES slow the drivers down.

    Try driving in the Midwest of the US sometime. The "design speed" for many city streets geometrically is something like 55 mph, and the "design speed" of many of the newer rural roads geometrically is upwards of 80 mph. This is a problem.

    Your *motorways* are narrower and curvier than some of our "city streets" in the US.

  • Martin

    The UK has slowly been going metric for at least 40 years. Mostly we are metric. But we still use mph on our roads, and I reckon that will continue for at least another decade.

  • ADD-ian

    You have to remember though, that in Birmingham UK, those residential streets that were initially excluded from the 20mph scheme, had to work very hard to justify inclusion by the Council because of say, being part of a "Showcase" bus route . That meant efforts such as petitions, pounding the street requesting residents get involved by writing letters to transport.policy@birmingham.gov.uk and so on. Recent and serious bus accidents where we live, have vindicated those residents in my street, who successfully campaigned to be included in the Council's 20mph pilot scheme. Under no circumstances should residential streets be excluded from 20mph schemes just because timetabled buses use them. On the contrary, even at low speeds, we've seen the effects that collisions can have when 17 tonne buses crash into each other and other vehicles.