A trial scheme by Wandsworth council in London to enforce 20mph speed limits has been blocked by the Department for Transport (DfT), which has described the way the authority was using its powers as ‘unlawful’.
The council installed speed cameras to catch law-breaking drivers on two roads in the borough where residents had long complained about speeding. Traffic studies at the sites had revealed one in four drivers were breaking the speed limit.
However, the DfT asked the DVLA to stop sharing details of drivers caught speeding under the enforcement scheme , saying: “Wandsworth Council is carrying out this experimental speed enforcement trial using powers in a way that is unlawful. We have therefore taken immediate action and asked DVLA to stop sharing registered keeper details with Wandsworth Council for the purpose of enforcing this scheme.”
The number of vehicles travelling over 25mph at the two sites halved during the enforcement scheme – despite no fines having been issued. The council is currently in discussion with the DfT over the future of the trial.
Twenty is plenty
While the benefits of 20 mph limits are indisputable, enforcement remains a challenge. The Metropolitan Police oversees roads that see 5.5 million car trips every single day. Given that according to research by TfL, 87% of drivers break a 20 mph speed limit when they have an opportunity to do so, and that one third of London’s streets are now subject to a 20mph limit, take a guess at how many drivers in London are penalised for breaking a 20 mph limit on a typical day. The answer is 117 – a figure so low as to be statistically insignificant. Read more
In the absence of town planning that places the needs of people above those of cars, widespread 20mph speed limits are a must. We can dream about the widespread dedicated cycle infrastructure, interconnected public transport and pedestrianised zones that have become standard practice in the Netherlands, but given we’re already 50 years behind the Dutch, pragmatism demands we push for the second best offered by 20 mph limits.
Here at the ETA, we’re proud to have helped coin the phrase “Twenty’s plenty” and thrilled that over the years it evolved into 20’s Plenty for Us, a campaign group we continue to support.
Given the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads, there is no justification for 30 mph as the national speed limit. According to 20’s Plenty for Us, “The 30mph limit that was plucked out of the air in 1934 as being better than no limit, is no longer fit for purpose. It is unjust, unjustifiable and needs to be consigned to history.“
There is no doubt that 20mph limits have numerous benefits. The introduction of 20mph speed limits in areas of London has contributed towards a 50 per cent reduction in the number of children killed or seriously injured on the roads (see British Medical Journal) – these zones not only reduce casualty figures, they improve quality of life by transforming streets into areas where people are happy to cycle and children are able to play.
The ethical choice
The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Over 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance , breakdown cover and mobility scooter insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.
The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be the UK’s most ethical provider.