Public support for 20mph limits holds firm, new study reveals

Issue date: 16 October 2017

Speedometer image

Over seven in every 10 adults in Great Britain support the introduction of 20mph speed limits in busy streets, according to a major new survey.

The poll conducted by YouGov earlier this year found 72 per cent of the 3,000 respondents backed the limit in busy streets, with 21 per cent in opposition. The result mirrored findings from similar online surveys carried out as part of the same study in 2013 and 2015.

The outcomes of the surveys, funded by Bristol City Council, were analysed by academics from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

Participants - randomly-selected adults living in Great Britain – were asked for their opinions on 20mph limits and also their (claimed) driving behaviours in 20mph streets.

A majority also supported the introduction of the limits in residential roads (64 per cent, with 28 per cent in opposition).

There were signs of an improvement in driver compliance with 20mph in the survey responses. Some 29 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement 'If a 20mph speed limit is introduced, I may not stick to it' – a decrease of three percentage points on the 2013 figure - compared with 48 per cent disagreeing.

Results revealed a rise from the 2013 and 2015 surveys in respondents agreeing that 20mph limits will improve quality of life, improve traffic flow, encourage walking and cycling, and reduce congestion.

However, approximately half of those surveyed agreed 20mph speed limits will be ignored by many drivers so are of limited benefit and that limits will not be policed or enforced effectively.

Speed limits of 20mph were first introduced in the 1990s and now cover areas inhabited by approximately one third of the UK population.

Evidence suggests 20mph limits result in a decrease in average driving speeds of between one or two miles per hour, and studies of speed limit reductions across the world imply that this reduction in speed would lead to a drop in collisions of between six per cent and 12 per cent.

Professor Alan Tapp, an expert in social marketing at UWE Bristol, led the analysis working alongside public health specialist Dr Adrian Davis, a visiting professor at the university. Professor Tapp said: “20mph limits divide opinion, with some pro-motoring groups criticising their expansion in UK cities. These results suggest their opinions are not shared by the public. People are, overall, strongly in favour of 20mph limits on streets where they live, work and play.

“Our wave of surveys over the last five years shows the clear majority support for 20mph limits that we first identified in 2013 still holding steady, and actually a small but significant increase in other supporting attitudes over that time. It is also interesting that there is a slight increase in the number of drivers who indicated they will comply with the new limits - this is significant because it remains important that communities are united with both residents and drivers continuing to support slower speeds.”

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