No Need for Speed: 20’s Plenty for Us
Earlier this month, the New York City Department of Transportation announced plans to experiment with 20 mph zones -- replacing the city's default 30 mph speed limit in one pilot neighborhood. Whoever gets the first 20 mph treatment will see benefits that residents of British cities and towns have become increasingly familiar with in recent years.
In the UK, some 3 million people live in areas with 20 mph speed limits. The experience there shows that not only do slower speeds save lives, but lowering the limit to 20 mph improves the way local streets function in more ways than one. According to the 20's Plenty for Us campaign, the change has produced wide-ranging benefits, including less traffic, increased walking and biking, greater independence for children, the elderly and infirm, better health, and calmer driving conditions for motorists.
The mission of 20's Plenty For Us is to establish 20 mph as the default speed limit on all residential roads in the UK. I recently met up with the campaign's founder, Rod King, as well as other advocates in the towns of Warrington and York, to understand how the idea of slowing down traffic has spread so fast throughout the country.
Rod King: [00:02] How do we share the spaces which we have on our streets equitably amongst pedestrians, cyclists and motorists?
Anna Semlyen: [00:10] 20’s Plenty where people live, safer, greener, cheaper, it will increase the value of our homes, it will increase the number of people walking and cycling. It’s safer, it’s better quality of life. It doesn’t have major affects on anybody’s journey times.
Rod King: [00:27] 20’s Plenty For Us, it’s a language we chose quite specifically. It’s about really saying that within towns and streets where people live that 20 mile an hour is plenty if there are any motor vehicles.
Rod King: [00:43] People tell me that they go fast but they haven’t hurt anybody. But speed really becomes greed when it stops people from walking or cycling on the streets where they call home.
Rod King: [00:58] What we’ve been campaigning for is the idea of rather than having isolated speed limits which really benefit very few people, what we should do is make the 20 mile an hour speed limit for all residential roads.
Clir. Andy D’Agorne: [01:10] Instead of someone driving into a next street which says 20, they think well, this looks like my street, why are these people any different from me? If it’s a common policy within a whole city, then everyone knows the benefits and their own perception of their own street being a lower speed limit.
Rod King: [01:30] Because you live in a 20 mile an hour street yourself now, you’re getting the advantage of lower noise, lower speeds of traffic. You’re getting the advantage of your child being able to walk to school or cycle to school. So suddenly this becomes a big and good idea for us all. We’ve changed the mindset.
Rod King: [01:51] When it comes to reducing speeds, we have to engage with the community, because it’s them who have to modify their behaviour.
John Perry: [01:59] Over the past number of weeks there’s been a trial run of the 20 miles an hour in our particular street, and myself and many of the residents have noticed a dramatic reduction in the speed of cars travelling. As a result of that obviously we’re feeling a lot safer on the streets.
Speaker: [02:13] And it’s really fun to ride our bike because a lot of cars don’t come past.
Rod King: [02:19] What we’ve found when we were talking to people was around about 80 odd percent are in favour of it.
Anna Semlyen: [02:25] There have been many petitions put in now to the Council for 20 mile an hour streets, I’m talking like 70/80 petitions, and it’s the single most petitioned issue in my town.
Chris Mayes: [02:35] Warrington Cycle Campaign is about trying to get everybody to use their bikes when they want to do it. And the way that you’ve got to do that is to remove the fear. If you talk to all the kids, an awful lot of them are driven into school and we’ve realised that cycle campaign, it’s not just about cycling, this is about how we’re living our lives, and that’s where going on to a 20’s Plenty For Us campaign just gets the whole thing together.
Rod King: [03:01] There are some good adverts which will actually show the differences in your ability to slow down and then stop, right, and also the severity of impact if you’re driving at, say, 20 mile an hour and sort of 40 miles an hour. In fact at 40 miles an hour you hit somebody, there’s an 85% chance of killing them. Whereas if you hit somebody at 20 miles an hour, then there’s a 5% chance of that happening. So there’s a huge trade-off there between the motor vehicle speed and the risk.
Rod King: [03:36] Currently we have about three million people who are living in Local Authorities, have either adopted a 20 mile an hour policy for all their residential streets, or in the process. And that really is growing all the time and we’d expect it to accelerate with the new government guidelines and encouragement for such an initiatives.
Clir. Andy D’Agorne: [03:55] The government guidance on the 20 mile an hour zones in the country changed. They could only be introduced specifically if there were humps, chicanes and other physical measures, which obviously are very expensive to do. In 2006 that guidance was relaxed a little bit, so Local Authorities were able where they felt it appropriate to go for what’s called the 20 mile an hour area.
Rod King: [04:21]
And 20’s Plenty For Us, we know it works, it reduces traffic speeds
and it reduces collisions. It results in a better quality of life.
It’s an argument which we’re winning and also, it’s something
which is actually coming up with really great results in our towns and