Green Party Councillor Robert Lindsay has proposed a motion for a default 20mph speed limit for roads in residential areas and communities across Suffolk’s towns and villages.

14 October 2020

Greens call for 20mph default speed limits


The Suffolk County Council Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group has today announced a motion proposing a default 20mph speed limit for roads in residential areas and communities across Suffolk’s towns and villages, with 30mph limits to be retained only in exceptional circumstances. The motion will be proposed at Full Council on 22nd October.

Councillor Robert Lindsay, Spokesperson for Highways, Transport and Rural Issues for the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group, commented:

“We want to make Suffolk’s roads safer for pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists alike.”

“Implementing a default lower speed limit in residential areas will not only save lives, it will improve lives. Lower speed limits mean smoother traffic flow, with less congestion and lower toxic emissions. Air quality will be better, and older people and children will be able to walk through their own village or neighbourhood without being intimidated by traffic.”

“At the moment the County Council take a piecemeal approach to introducing 20mph speed limits. Communities are required to jump through all sorts of hoops, and the process is very time-consuming and expensive, both for town and parishes and the County Council itself.  Introducing a lowered speed limit across towns and villages in one go will be a cost-effective way of improving air quality, reducing traffic, encouraging walking and cycling, and reducing accidents.”

The motion appears in full below:

Default speed limit of 20mph in residential areas

Proposer: Cllr Robert Lindsay

Seconder: Cllr Penny Otton

This Council recognises:

  1. Road crashes are predictable and preventable. This Council aims to protect residents and visitors from road danger, noise and air pollution. The Council also aims to encourage greater use of streets for active travel, including walking and cycling, to improve public health for people of all ages and abilities.
  2. The Government is aiming for a permanent shift from driving towards walking and cycling. Public support for healthier modes of transport is at a high after lockdown, and reducing speed limits encourages people to walk and cycle. People will be less likely to drive for short trips, and the perception of danger for pedestrians and cyclists is also reduced.
  3. Suffolk’s towns and villages should be places where people are free to travel in ways that are safe, sustainable and healthy. Effective speed management, including through low speed limits in residential areas, are key to reducing casualties and increasing active travel through walking and cycling.
  4. In 2016 there were 692 collisions on Suffolk’s urban roads with a speed limit of 40mph or less, including 105 where a person was killed or seriously injured. This is an increase of 14% from 2015. From 2012 to 2016, there were 445 accidents on Suffolk’s urban 40mph or less roads that resulted in a fatality or serious injury, meaning that one person dies or is seriously injured every four days.[1] The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents states that the risk of a fatality in a crash at 30mph is over five times higher than a collision at 20mph.[2]
  5. There is growing evidence that 30mph limits are not safe for walking and cycling, especially for children, older people, and those with disabilities. The UN has recently endorsed 20mph as the maximum default speed limit for roads where vehicles mix with vulnerable road users.[3] 
  6. Government surveys from 2006 to 2018 show that a consistent 70% of the public are in favour of 20mph speed limits in residential streets.[4]
  7. Speed limits of 30mph in towns and villages encourage more acceleration and deceleration than 20mph limits. 20mph limits enable smoother traffic flow, which generates lower toxic particulate emissions.[5]   Each year in the UK, roughly 40,000 deaths can be attributed to air pollution, and according to the WHO, 88% of people living in urban environments live in areas that do not comply with Air Quality Guidelines.[6] Suffolk has nine AQMAs that breach clean air guidelines.
  8. Wide-area 20mph zones also encourage people to leave their cars at home for short journeys and shift to walking and cycling. Taking more cars off the road will reduce carbon emissions and is a key recommendation made by consultants Ricardo in order for Suffolk County Council to meet its declared goal of zero carbon by 2030. Increasing levels of walking and cycling for shorter journeys will also have a large impact on air quality.
  9. The cost of lowering speed limits need not be high; research shows that sign-only schemes still result in lowered speeds, and this effect can be furthered by public engagement and education. Introducing a standardised Suffolk-wide approach will also be more cost-effective than the current piecemeal approach, embedding a culture of slower speeds and reducing uncertainty for drivers.  

Therefore, this Council resolves to:

  1. Consider how best, and most cost effectively, to progress wide-area 20mph limits, including seeking a range of funding sources and agencies.
  2. Implement a default 20mph speed limit for roads in residential areas and communities across Suffolk’s towns and villages, with 30mph limits to be retained only in exceptional circumstances.
  3. Encourage the use of alternate modes of transport such as walking, cycling and public transport. This will reduce air pollution, traffic, and improve health outcomes.
  4. To ensure maximum possible compliance with the new speed limits, undertake a programme of public engagement in advance and during implementation, to publicise the change and explain why it is being made.

[1] Road Casualties 2012-2016, Suffolk Roadsafe (2017).

[2] Road Safety Factsheet, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (2017); E. Rosen, ‘Literature review of pedestrian fatality risk as a function of car impact speed’, Accident Analysis and Prevention, Vol 43, pp. 25-33 (2011).

[3] Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 31-08-2020, United Nations General Assembly (2020), wherein the Stockholm Declaration (2020) is adopted and endorsed. 

[4]National Travel Attiudes Study & British Social Attitudes Study, Department for Transport, p. 10 (2019).

[5] Speed, emissions & health, Transport for London (2018); NICE Guidance on Air Pollution, NICE (2017); S Batterman, K. Zhang, Air pollution and health risks due to vehicle traffic, The Science of the Total Environment, Vol. 0, pp. 307-316.

[6] Every breathe we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution, Royal College of Physicians (2016).

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