Birmingham prepares to introduce lower speed limits in the city (UK)

By Lewis Macdonald / Updated: 01 Aug 2014
Plans to reduce the speed limit on the majority of the city’s roads will save lives and cut emissions.
Birmingham’s (UK) city council is considering a proposal to implement a maximum speed limit of 20 miles per hour (32km/h) on 90 percent of the city’s roads. Major roads would keep existing limits of 30mph and 40mph, except near shopping centres, schools and hospitals. This follows the example of several other British cities, such as Manchester and Bristol, who have also instituted a 20mph limit.

Fewer collisions and casualties on the city’s roads are an expected outcome of the new policy, but so too are a reduction in noise, emissions, and traffic waiting times. Potential reaction against the new maximum speed limit may be mitigated by research from the University of Madrid (Spain), which demonstrates that decreasing maximum speed limits from 50km/h to 30km/h does not necessarily result in longer journey times. The same study showed that fuel consumption and emissions of NOx, CO and particulate matter were sharply reduced.

Evidence suggests that implementing lower speed limits would save lives and cut emissions, making it a smart policy that serves a range of outcomes. It can also indirectly encourage people to walk and cycle, as traffic moving at a gentler pace would help people to feel generally safer. A collision between a pedestrian and a vehicle travelling at 30km/h results in a fatality only five percent of the time. At 50km/h this increases to 50 percent.

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Photo: freefotouk, Flickr
United Kingdom
Traffic and demand management