Saturday, 28 April 2012

20 mph speed limits for Brighton and Hove

Friday's Argus reports that the Green council plans to introduce a maximum speed limit of 20 mph in all residential areas of the city.

This is accurate - but hardly news! The local election manifesto, published before the last local election and setting out the Greens' programme for the city should we be elected, was quite clear that we would follow the lead of Portsmouth, Leicester and other cities by introducing the 20 mph limit.

Perhaps accurate AND timely is too much to expect from any media organisation.


There are loads of reasons why a 20 mph speed limit is a good idea: it will (ironically) speed up traffic flows, by reducing the need for so many stops and starts, it will improve safety (there will be fewer accidents, and those that still occur will be far less likely to be fatal), it will improve air quality (already at dangerously poor levels in many areas of the city - and this, in turn, is likely to save money in fines payable if EU safety limits are breached), and it will reduce the constant noise of traffic many of us endure almost 24 hours a day. I'll stop there - you get the point.

But what seems remarkable to me is that most people who are against the idea seem to be concentrating on two completely different arguments: whether such a limit would be enforceable, and whether it would be popular.

Whether or not it seems popular in advance is surely irrelevant. The Green Party has a clear electoral mandate to introduce the limits, and, if voters don't like the impact of Green policies they will, I imagine, vote for someone else next time. Personally, I don't see that happening though: most people I have spoken to are delighted at the proposal. Indeed, our 20 mph speed limit policy was one of the most popular with voters I canvassed ahead of last year's elections.

And as for its enforceability - well that's all about police priorities. Of course the police COULD enforce the limit, everywhere, if it wanted. It would mean diverting resources away from their efforts to tackle other crimes of course (they could, for example, stop wasting cash pursuing users and suppliers of soft drugs) - but that's a matter for them. Picking and choosing which laws of the land to enforce is happening all the time - that's why we're only now seeing the first prosecution in Sussex for a breach of the Hunting Act - eight years after it entered the statute books, and despite countless reported breaches.

If it really was impossible to enforce a 20 mph speed limit, why have them at all? And they already exist in many areas.

I look forward to their implenentation: it will make our city a safer, cleaner, quieter, place for everyone.


  1. As a car owner I welcome the introduction of a 20 MPH limit, but why restrict it to residential areas, the advantage of faster traffic flows will be negligible.

    Though, as you point out, will it be enforced (and how)? Also expect numerous arrests for 'curb crawling'.

    To summarize, not far enough and probably unenforceable, like using the phone whilst driving. This country has an appalling record when it comes to enforcement.

    Looking forward to seeing you lurking behind lamp posts with your home made speed detector.