At present, the default speed limit on urban roads, across the UK is 30mph. However, there is consensus from road safety professionals that 20mph is the maximum safe speed limit for places where motorised traffic is in close proximity to people walking and cycling.
Local authorities are permitted to introduce 20mph limits on their roads, however, the current default of 30mph means it can be prohibitively costly to do so, with rules requiring infrastructure, such as 20mph repeater signs, to be put in place.
Changing the national default would make 20mph the norm, saving lives and creating happier and healthier communities.
How close are we to default 20mph limits?
Speed limits are a devolved policy area and there is a difference in approach from the various national governments in the UK.
Default 20mph limits received initial backing by the Senedd (the Welsh parliament) in July 2020. The Welsh Government will now consult on its plans, which will require a further vote in the Senedd before they can be implemented. The Welsh Government Task Force report on default 20mph can be viewed here.
A parliamentary bill to introduce a default 20mph limit was introduced in 2019 but fell at the first stage
In 2020, Transport Minister George Freeman responded to a parliamentary question on implementing default 20mph by stating:
"The Government has no plans to consider making 20mph the default speed limit on urban and restricted roads in England.
In November 2018, the Department published its comprehensive three-year study of the effect of 20 mph limits.
Some of the key findings from the research include that 20mph limits are supported by most residents and drivers, and that introducing a 20mph limit may reduce traffic speed by around 1 mph. Encouragingly, vehicles travelling at higher speeds before the introduction of the 20mph limit have reduced their speed more than those already travelling at lower speeds. However, there is not enough evidence to conclude that that there has been a significant change in collisions and casualties following the introduction of 20mph limits in residential areas."