Nationwide 20mph speed limits save lives and create better places to live

By Alexander Quayle,
Photo of woman pushing a pram across a residential road with a child on a children push bike.

There is overwhelming evidence to show that 20mph streets save lives and prevent injuries

In the next couple of months, the Scottish Parliament will debate making 20mph the default speed limit on residential roads. ​

This is a simple change, but one that can help make our streets places for people to live safer, happier lives.

Why 20mph?

There is overwhelming evidence to show that 20mph streets save lives and prevent injuries. Findings from the South Edinburgh pilot area points to a reduction in casualties of 20%. 

For many, the thought of fewer accidents and less serious accidents is enough to end the debate, and in fact, there is major public backing for slower streets with 66% supporting the measure. But there are many additional reasons why 20mph is better for people and places.

Firstly, traffic speed is one of the most commonly cited reasons why parents don’t let their children walk or cycle to school. Lowering speeds to 20mph encourages people to walk and cycle

Slower streets also encourage people to spend time on their street. Children are more likely to play outside and people interact more with neighbours. Noise levels also reduce when traffic speeds are lower and the dominance of vehicles decreases. 

The benefits of a national approach

The bill intends to swap the default 30mph speed limit on ‘restricted roads’ with a 20mph default. These restricted roads, more or less, correspond to residential streets, the type of places that people live and spend their time.

Whilst many of these streets are 20mph already, there are lots of people living on 30mph streets across Scotland who would benefit from slower traffic. 

People living in disadvantaged communities are more likely to be involved in road collisions and more likely to be hospitalised as a result. When you consider that people living in these areas are also least likely to have access to a car it becomes clear that this is also an issue of social justice. We need to make sure that all communities benefit from slower streets, and a national approach is the best way to do this fairly.

That’s why it is time for a national approach.

How a national approach would be more successful

It will avoid confusion. One of the barriers to implementing new 20mph areas in cities is that it is claimed that motorists find it confusing to chop and change between different speeds. A national approach, accompanied by a national awareness campaign, should make sure as many people as possible know about the change.

All of this means it is more likely that people will know they should drive more slowly on residential streets. There will always be a need for enforcement and sometimes physical traffic-calming measures too, but this gives slower streets the best chance of success.

So what next?

With all the known benefits of 20mph, the only question left is whether we keep going with the current, local, bit-by-bit approach or take the plunge with a national programme.

We think a national bill is the right approach for Scotland for public safety, for social equality and to make better communities. It will make, safer, fairer, better places, and why wouldn’t we want that in as many parts of Scotland as possible?

Tell your MSP that you support the bill for safer streets

Read our consultation response