20 mph

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Golly's picture
20 mph


A member of a local cycling group contacted the local rag to put forward the perfectly sensible suggestion of 20mph zones in residential areas, which simply prompted a full-on Daily Mail style invective from locals: http://www.maidenhead-advertiser.co.uk/News/Areas/Maidenhead/Cyclist-calls-for-20mph-speed-limit-on-residential-roads-15112012.htm.  I had to contribute a couple of positive posts just to try and restore some sanity to the 'debate'. How on earth do we make any progress when this is the response to a perfectly reasonable suggestion?

(I particularly liked the comment from the lady who said: "Make it ILLEGAL to cycle without a safety helmet, high visibility clothing or sash, lights back and front, obey the highway code. Just maybe then people might take you seriously." If you look at the photo taken for the article, they embody all of the above, thus negating her argument completely. )


I used to live in Maidenhead ... I don't expect the people who comment on the local paper site are entirely representative of the town's views as a whole. It's dispiriting but if people are really foaming at the mouth then most people reading it will recognise that too. Just make sure you keep your own tone sweetly reasonable and you'll at least maintain a position on the moral high ground!

In terms of building support, especially for 20mph zones, look to local families, health professionals, disabled groups and people like that and build alliances with people who are interested in walking as much as cycling. The evidence for 20mph is becoming very strong - 20s Plenty will help you set up a local group (if you haven't already). 

Any other suggestions from people who've managed this?

AKA TownMouse

Lovelo Bicycles
A few months ago I read about a poll that was taken in an area where they were suggesting to make a street 20mph. The residents of that street wanted it but residents of surrounding streets didn't, proving it was selfish rat runners that were against it. Unfortunately I can't find it again, but if someone can it's a useful little statistic.
Fatbob's picture

I've just read those comments and realised Maidenhead is the place Daily Mail readers go to die! Laugh! I nearly laughed myself incontinent, what lovely townsfolk - well if you like ignorant, ill informed nimbys with attitude!


I used to live in Maidenhead and while it's a bit commuter-beltish, it's got a fair few lovely green tolerant people who live there and would probably love to see a 20mph zone in the town. It's just they probably all get driven away from commenting on the website by the trolls.

AKA TownMouse


There is scientific justification behind 20 mph / 30 kmh speed-limits. I should be possible to torpedo a D-M style rant & stupidity. Of course when the red-mist has descended, all rationality and reasoning have long-vanished.

Reduced Sensitivity to Visual Looming Inflates the Risk Posed by Speeding Vehicles When Children Try to Cross the Road
  1. Catherine Purcell

+Author Affiliations

  1. Royal Holloway, University of London
  1. John P. Wann, Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX, United Kingdom E-mail: j.p.wann@rhul.ac.uk


Almost all locomotor animals respond to visual looming or to discrete changes in optical size. The need to detect and process looming remains critically important for humans in everyday life. Road traffic statistics confirm that children up to 15 years old are overrepresented in pedestrian casualties. We demonstrate that, for a given pedestrian crossing time, vehicles traveling faster loom less than slower vehicles, which creates a dangerous illusion in which faster vehicles may be perceived as not approaching. Our results from perceptual tests of looming thresholds show strong developmental trends in sensitivity, such that children may not be able to detect vehicles approaching at speeds in excess of 20 mph. This creates a risk of injudicious road crossing in urban settings when traffic speeds are higher than 20 mph. The risk is exacerbated because vehicles moving faster than this speed are more likely to result in pedestrian fatalities.


Full article: http://pss.sagepub.com/content/22/4/429.full.pdf+html

Supplementary material






Phil Rabbitt

The extract that was taken from the paper where the lady stated cyclists should obey the rules, is such a typical one-sided argument which I see used day-in day-out by the anti-cyclist movement. So does this mean licensed drivers of powered vehicles (measurable in tons instead of kilos) don't break the rules?

I've come to realise many preach their opinion based on their chosen perspective and employ baseless generalisation instead of looking at real information.


I welcome and support the introduction of 20 mph zones in general. However, in the town where I live there is a road leading through the market place which currently has advanced standing for cyclists at the traffic lights at the exit to the market place. Another street merges with the road immediately after the lights into a one way system, and the advance standing allows greater safety (and feeling of safety) for cyclists as they have to move over to the left to continue on or move to the right for a right turn, amongst quote heavy traffic in busy periods. Although the average speed of traffic is already quite low due to the length of road being quite short , very congested at busy times, and being made up of stone setts, the council is about to introduce a 20 mph zone. This will allow them to remove the advance standing for cyclists, along with other line markings, signing etc.


The council refer to this as “street clutter”, but I have made the point to them that “one person's street clutter is another person's safety feature” and removing them makes cycling feel less comfortable and potentially more dangerous. Introducing 20 mph zone on what is not by any means a fast road, and removing the ADL is not in my opinion or any local cyclists I have spoken to, a positive development.


Any thoughts on how to address this further with the council?






You'll have to convince them that the cycling infrastructure on that place is there NOT because of the speed of traffic, but because of the amount of traffic. Of course the 'even better' solution would be to change the car infrastructure of the village such that through traffic does not pass this street at all.

In general, 20 mph is not a solution on its own, just part of a more encompassing solution to traffic problems in some streets. I would prefer to see it combined with either road blocks/one way streets so that there's no point in using it for through traffic, or further traffic calming that makes exceeding 20 mph by much unpalatable anyway (or both). In through roads like the one you describe, I don't think it's a good choice most of the time - although it might be part of a program to make car drivers take care more at some busy pedestrian or cyclist crossing.


Yep, I'm already having that conversation with them. The attraction of a 20 mph for them seems to be removing what they call "street clutter" rather than safety, particularly people on bicycles. There is relatively little through traffic through the square. It's surrounded  by shops and used mainly as a town centre car park and  for a market once a week. I'm also trying to address this and other infrastructure issues with local shopkeepers whom I've given the evidence for "spend" of people on bicycles compared to people traveling by car. This seems to have raised one or two eyebrows. As always, I think it's going to be "drip by drip" and gently gently catches the worm .....  and definitely avoiding things becoming cyclists versus motorists.



My town (Andover) is just about to introduce a 20 MPH network. It's billed as a trial scheme, and will cover an area of residential roads away from the town centre.

What astounds me is that so far it seems to have received a reasonably good reception. Although the affected residents were notified/consulted months ago, it was only recently announced generally via the local Advertiser. I expected a torrent of objection letters in the next edition. But, there was very little reaction either way.

That's odd, as any mention of cyclists generally brings forth the usual familiar frothings of the DM crowd. Believe me, Andover is a town of DM worshippers.

My conclusion is that sensible road changes, presented in the right way, will get local support. But if they are presented as pro cycling initiatives the knives will be out. Not that 20 MPH schemes are solely about cycling of course.

Most cycle campaigning seems to work on the principle that campaigning positively for something, rather than against something, brings the best results. I'm not so sure, I think opposing things possibly gets more popular support. The DM don't enjoy that huge readership by being positive.

So, I aim to get involved more with opposing motor vehicles rather than specifically supporting cycling, although that of course is my aim. 20 MPH schemes seem like a good example of that. Maybe the best way to introduce a 20 MPH scheme is by not mentioning cycling at all!


I would guess (some) motorists see it as a tribal war from "cyclists" (small minority) against motorists if bikes get mentioned. Why should cyclists be dictating policy when most road users are drivers?

I think phrasing can help... something like "to help people who want to ride a bike feel safer" rather than "for cyclists".

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