20mph speed limits?

So according to the Bristol Evening Post, the council are considering a 20mph speed limit on the entire city.

Why don’t you just ban drivers entirely? If you want to encourage cycling and walking that much, just ban all the cars. But you can’t, obviously. How would people get things from one place to another? Have you ever tried getting a wardrobe on a bicycle? Or 8 bags of shopping? Or a desktop computer? (No, I haven’t either.)

“The ruling Liberal Democrats are committed to a citywide 20mph speed limit and set aside £150,000 towards the project in this year’s budget, despite the worst cuts in the council’s history.”

Does this sound like the maddest thing in the world to anyone else?

These limits aren’t policed in any additional manner. There’s no additional cameras, and no extra people paid to ensure people keep to these limits. So you’re essentially spending £150,000 on new signs (which could go to a million other things) that warn of a 20mph speed limit?
(Maybe some job creation might be needed, in the deepest recession in recent history? There are probably community groups that could make good use of it? Perhaps employ additional staff so Horfield Library doesn’t have to close on Wednesdays? There are loads of areas this money could be better spent.)

“The council is keen to go ahead with the new limit following positive results from two pilot 20mph zones in the east and south of the city.
They covered a total of 500 roads and 30,000 homes and although they relied mostly on 20mph signs and no police enforcement or expensive traffic-calming measures, the council says there is evidence to show that drivers have been slowing down.”

Evidence? Positive results?

“It goes on to say that during the first 12-month period of the trial zones, the number of road casualties went down by five in Bristol East but actually went up by eight in Bristol South.”

If you take that as an average, in 12 months of reduced speed limits, the road casualties went up by three. Congratulations. It works brilliantly! Get the champagne and let’s go celebrate over these figures!

And if you think I’m just being an idiot there, and choose not to take it as an average, then surely those figures would suggest that a 20mph speed limit works to improve road safety in some areas, but doesn’t work so well in other areas, and thus a blanket limit is not what is needed?

However, conveniently for Bristol City Council:

“The council’s highway experts say it was too early to draw any conclusions about the impact on casualty figures.”

And yet despite that, you should still consider a blanket 20mph limit across the city? Despite the fact that it’s too early to draw any conclusions? Really? Remind me why you’re lowering speed limits again?

“But according to national research, the chances of a pedestrian being killed in a road accident drop four-fold if they are hit by a vehicle travelling at 20mph, compared to one at 40mph.”

This is one of the things that most frustrates me about speed awareness/safety groups (in fairness, environmental groups do it too). You’re not comparing like for like. They drop four-fold at 20mph, compared to 40mph. Great. But NONE of the roads you’ve lowered to 20mph were 40mph limits before. So if you want to compare road deaths at different speeds, go ahead – but why don’t you compare 20mph with 30mph, for a more realistic look at the actual changes made? Especially as what the residents are apparently in favour of is lower speeds in residential areas – that would never have been a 40mph limit in the first place.

“A citywide ban would mean that many main roads would be exempt because it would be impractical to enforce a 20mph speed restriction on the likes of the A4 Bath Road or the M32.”

Just imagine that! A 20mph speed limit on a motorway. Jesus.

“Some busy roads such as West Street in Bedminster and Whiteladies Road are already so jammed with traffic at peak times that drivers could not travel at more than 20mph even if they wanted to.”

And so, absolutely no point in lowering the speed limit in the first place? What you’re doing there is putting up signs that are meaningless during peak times, but at 6am when nobody is there and there aren’t any pedestrians, you’re still forced to drive at 20mph.


I have contacted the Evening Post before regarding speed limit changes, as proven by this correction from September 2009.


Interestingly that day they had two pieces about cutting speed. The first claimed 50:50 Survival:Death, the page after had a story which claimed 80:20 Survival:Death, and was backed up by statistics. When trying to put your case for a reduction in speed, using the accurate figures would have helped significantly, whereas plucking figures from the air made me go “What? But your other expert says different…”

2 thoughts on “20mph speed limits?”

  1. “at 6am when nobody is there and there aren’t any pedestrians, you’re still forced to drive at 20mph.”

    It would have been more honest if you had said 11pm – that’s when the pissheads in their ludicrous “hot hatches” drive up Whiteladies at 60mph after a night out.

    I agree about the lack of enforcement, though. There’s a real problem with speed cameras in Bristol – there aren’t nearly enough.

    1. Didn’t they dissolve the speedcamera partnership? It’s less a 20mph “limit”, and more an expensive game of putting up 20mph signs.
      I actually don’t have a problem with speed cameras. Put them wherever you like for all I care. At least you can drive up to the speed limit then, unlike with speed bumps that knacker up your suspension and force you to keep speeding up and slowing down.

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