Cut rural road speed limit

10th Jul 2012

Two thirds of road deaths happen on rural roads, and we are calling nationally for cuts to rural road speed limit.     
New Government guidance for local authorities on how to set speed limits is widely expected to be published later this week. Our CPRE national office has highlighted the guidance as a key opportunity to improve conditions for rural road users and the natural environment. In particular, we are calling on the Department for Transport to ensure the forthcoming consultation facilitates the greater use of 40 mph zones on minor rural roads.
Since the last speed limit guidance was published, deaths on rural roads have increased from half of all road deaths, to over two thirds. While the UK has made urban areas safer through introducing 20 mph zones, we have failed unlike other countries to do anything similar in the countryside. The Dutch have found that widespread adoption of rural 60km/h (37 mph) zones has been even more cost effective in saving lives than their urban 30km/h (19 mph) zones. So we believe it’s time for 40 mph zones to become the norm on minor rural roads.
We want to see the new guidance:

  • Make it easier to introduce 40mph zones on networks of minor rural roads. Currently these require the permission of the Secretary of State for Transport and only exist in some National Parks. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, areas of tranquillity and Nature Improvement Areas should be prioritised for trialling of lower speed limits.
  • Support local authorities that wish to reduce speed limits to make people feel safe enough to walk or cycle. Current guidance leads to a ‘chicken or egg’ situation where, perversely, it is hard to lower speed limits where there are not already high numbers of people walking and cycling until there have been sufficient road deaths and injuries.
  • Encourage the use of natural and psychological traffic calming. Examples include visual narrowing through road surface changes or installing trees, hedges and flower planters - rather than ugly humps and signs. 
  • Promote Community Speed Watch schemes. Such schemes involve local people in monitoring speeding rather than seeing enforcement by increasingly-stretched police as the only option. 
  • Commit to making 20 mph the standard speed limit on streets in built up areas. Communities should however, be able to choose which roads would keep speed limits at 30 mph – combined with the rolling out of Home Zones where appropriate.