20mph speed limits

Slow down and consult on 20mph zones, AA members tell councils

Slow down and consult on 20mph zones, AA members tell councils

Slow down and consult on 20mph zones, AA members tell councils

A headlong rush towards blanket 20mph zones in many UK towns and cities needs to slow down and take into account the views of residents. More than two-thirds of AA members want a say before a 20mph speed limit is imposed along their street.

More than half (55%) also want to give their opinion on the setting of 20mph zones that may affect their travel through their local area.

An AA-Populus survey of 24,351* AA members shows that, if a 20mph speed limit is set along a road, support for speed camera enforcement is evenly split between those who agree (41%) and those who disagree (38%). Targeted speed camera enforcement, when and where a specific problem emerges, receives much greater support (61%).

Survey response

20mph speed limits across residential neighbourhoods offer such a great road safety benefit that residents’ views need not be taken into account

  • 32% agree
  • 47% disagree
  • Most agree – Wales 36%
  • Most disagree – East Midlands, East Anglia and South East 49%

Residents should be consulted before a 20mph speed limit is set on their road

  • 69% agree
  • 18% disagree
  • Most agree – South East 71%
  • Most disagree - Scotland 22%

Residents in a wide area should be consulted before a 20mph zone is set up

  • 55% agree
  • 25% disagree
  • Most agree – North West, West Midlands and London 57%
  • Most disagree – Scotland 28%

20mph zones should not include any roads where there are no houses, shops or schools

  • 75% agree
  • 12% disagree
  • Most agree – Northern Ireland 79%
  • Most disagree - London 15%

It is OK for 20mph speed limits on local neighbourhoods to be enforced by a speed camera system

  • 41% agree
  • 38% disagree
  • Most agree – Northern Ireland 47%
  • Most disagree – London 42%

Speed camera enforcement should only be used in 20mph speed limit zones when a specific problem emerges

  • 61% agree
  • 21% disagree
  • Most agree – North East 64%
  • Most disagree – London 24%

I would support police-approved speed checks carried out by local residents along a 20mph speed limit in my neighbourhood

  • 44% agree
  • 38% disagree
  • Most agree – East Anglia and the South West 46%
  • Most disagree – London 44%

The need for local democratic approval, at street level, is clearly affirmed by this AA Populus panel survey

Edmund King, AA president

Democratic approval

"The AA supports the setting up of 20mph speed limits where residents along those roads want them. The need for local democratic approval, at street level, is clearly affirmed by this AA Populus panel survey," says Edmund King, the AA's president.

"Neighbourhoods face differing challenges from traffic: some may need to slow down their own residents and reduce the risk of accidents, others have a 'rat-running' problem that a 20mph speed limit on its own won’t address.

King adds: "If a blanket 20mph zone sets main roads at the lower speed, the incentive to stick to main routes and not take a short cut along residential streets is lost. That is one of the reasons why, not only do 69% of AA members want a say on lower speed limits along their own streets, but 55% of them want to give an opinion on local zones restricted to 20mph."

Vulnerable locations

The case for lowering speed outside vulnerable locations, such as schools and hospitals, is generally accepted. However, sweeping 20mph restrictions that slow down commuters, business deliveries and services, and the pace of a town or city in general are not. It’s little wonder that the loudest calls for consultation on 20mph zones are in the North West, West Midlands and London – in other words, Manchester and Liverpool, Birmingham and London - all at 57%.

A role for cameras

The AA notes that AA members see a role for speed cameras in helping to make 20mph speed limits meaningful. Those for and against their use in this context are fairly evenly balanced at around 40%. This compares with September’s AA Populus panel survey of 25,064 AA members which found a 79% acceptance of speed cameras in general.

However, a 61% approval of speed cameras where a specific problem emerges on a 20mph road, such as a serious or series of accidents, shows a significant shift of approval towards the general acceptance level. Speed checks, though, by police-approved groups of residents along 20mph roads moves the approval rating back towards the 40% mark.

There is a lot of fear among drivers that, with 20mph being a relatively unfamiliar speed, widespread speed camera use will make them look more at their speedometers than at what is happening on populated streets in front of them.

Speed indicating signs

Use of speed-indicating signs may help to educate and familiarise drivers with the lower speeds, while proven urban road engineering features may also influence behaviour - while deterring rat-running.

Where a specific speed-related threat occurs, more than three out of every five AA members say send in a mobile speed camera until errant drivers get the message and the danger goes away.


(16 May 2014)

*Between 21 February and 3 March 2014, the AA Populus panel was asked to what extent they agree or disagree with a series of statements related to the setting and enforcement of 20mph zones

In March, Birmingham City Council voted to set up 20mph speed limits in the city. Consultation included a survey in which 58% voted against and 39% in favour. The 20mph pilot scheme will cover areas with greater support.