Save lives in Oxford with 20 mph
By Alison Hill
Alison is Chair of Cyclox
20 mph saves lives.
- The likelihood of severe or fatal injury to a pedestrian struck by a driver is 17% at 20 mph, 30% at 25 mph and 47% at 30 mph.
- There are 7–10 times fewer fatalities if a collision occurs at 20 mph compared to 30 mph.
Inevitably, people make errors of judgement on roads, but those errors are less serious at slower speeds.
As well as reducing the number of fatal and serious injuries, 20 mph limits create safer streets for walking, wheeling and cycling, bring better community connections, reduce noise and improve air quality.
A 30 mph limit is no longer fit for purpose in cities, towns and villages, and we know that communities overwhelmingly support 20 mph as the suitable limit for residential streets. There is global support for 20 mph from the World Health Organization and the United Nations General Assembly.
20’s Plenty in Oxford
The 20 mph limit is a major campaigning topic for Cyclox. So we were delighted that the national campaign group 20’s Plenty for Us held a conference on 20 October at Oxfordshire County Hall. 20’s Plenty has been campaigning for the last 15 years to make a 20 mph speed limit normal on streets where people and motor vehicles mix. It has been influential, working with local groups and local authorities across the country.
20’s Plenty chose Oxford for the venue because Oxfordshire is taking a proactive approach in introducing 20mph in residential areas across the county. Oxfordshire was well represented at the conference. A number of active travel campaigners attended as did several County Council cabinet members, councillors and officers.
In the Oxfordshire Local Transport and Connectivity Plan approved in July 2022, policy 16a states:
We will promote 20 mph as the default limit for roads through residential, villages and retail areas to ensure speeds are appropriate for the nature, environment and location.
The County Council is expecting to make 20 mph the norm in residential and retail areas, and there is a programme to roll out 20 mph over the next three years for towns and villages.
So what is missing?
There is a yawning gap in the Central Oxfordshire Travel Plan, which is being considered by Cabinet on 29 November: there is no mention of creating a 20 mph city. Some main roads already have 20 mph as part of the Quickways implementation, notably Abingdon Road out to Weirs Lane, Iffley Road out to Church Cowley Road, Cowley Road out to Between Towns Road, Donnington Bridge Road, Church Cowley Road and Marston Road. Many of our members have commented on how much better these roads are for cycling as a result of the speed reduction. But several main roads do not have 20 mph speed limits, despite being residential.
Retaining the 30 mph limit on main roads makes those roads feel unsafe for people who walk, wheel and cycle. The argument for maintaining higher speed limits is weak. Motor traffic speeds are limited by traffic itself to 12–16 mph across all times of day. For buses, the average is even lower, 8–10 mph, as letting passengers on and off takes time, as well as stopping at junctions and pedestrian crossings. It seems unlikely that the introduction of city wide 20 mph limit will slow bus journey times.
If main roads continue to be 30 mph to protect bus journey times, then that means that other motor vehicles will travel at 30 mph and over, as many drivers do not stick to the speed limit. Remember there are 7–10 times fewer fatalities if a collision occurs at 20 mph compared to 30 mph.
If the County Council is serious about eliminating all deaths and serious injuries on our roads – the Vision Zero policy agreed in July – we must have 20 mph across the city.