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Support the 20mph speed limit

6 November 2015

Dr Suzanne Audrey, co-director of the Supporting Healthy Inclusive Neighbourhood Environments Health Integration Team (SHINE HIT), is encouraging everyone to get behind an online petition in favour of keeping and extending 20mph speed limits in Bristol.

In July 2012, following a successful pilot scheme and as part of a wider transport package, Bristol City Council voted to bring in a 20 mph speed limit in residential streets throughout Bristol. The lower speed limit has been rolled out in stages, and was completed in September this year.

It’s a good start, but there are plenty of arguments for continuing to support the scheme – and for extending it to other areas. The benefits of lower speed limits include:

  • Safer streets for all road users. There were 1,100 road casualties in Bristol in 2013; of these, 12 people were killed and 94 were seriously injured. There were 96 child and 104 elderly casualties across all injury severities. Studies show that those hit by a car at 20mph are far more likely to walk away with bruises and minor injuries than those hit at 30mph.
  • Greater incentives to walk or cycle. Lower road speeds help make walking or cycling more attractive. In particular, they allow cyclists to keep up with the main flow of traffic or, when this is not possible, make cars pass much more safely. An increase in active travel has knock-on benefits for health.
  • Calmer communities. Slower vehicle speeds, combined with increased cycling and walking, reduce anti-social road noise and help make our neighbourhoods more pleasant places to live.

In a 2015 household survey in central Bristol, 88 per cent of residents reported walking for 10 minutes or more in their local area most days since the implementation of the speed limit, compared with 78 per cent pre 20mph. The survey also found that 40 per cent of senior school-age children cycle at least once a week now compared with 24 per cent pre 20mph.

Dr Suzanne Audrey, a Senior Research Fellow in Public Health at the University of Bristol’s School of Social and Community Medicine, recently conducted a systematic review of research on the effect of changes to the urban environment on the health of children and young people. Her study concluded that measures related to improving road safety encourage active travel and may contribute to obesity prevention.

‘Until now, researchers have struggled to make the link between the changes to the built environment and public health outcomes’, explains Dr Audrey. ‘The study shows that slowing down motorised traffic is one of the best ways of getting children to cycle, walk and play outdoors, all of which have a positive impact on health. As well as increasing physical activity, these pursuits create opportunities for social interaction, thereby increasing well-being among communities.’

Sign the petition

More information on the efficacy of 20mph speed limits is available from ROSPA.

More information on Bristol’s Better at 20 campaign, including ways of getting involved with organisations that support the 20mph speed limit, is available from Bristol City Council.

SHINE aims to turn Bristol into a healthier city, with built environments that help people to be more healthy. It aims to achieve this by integrating health, well-being and social inclusion with urban development, transport and planning, to reduce health risks and promote healthier lifestyles.

Support the 20mph speed limit
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