The Heart of London Adopts 20 MPH Speed Limit

Image: ## in the City##

The City of London, the square mile in the heart of Greater London that is home to the city’s finance sector, is resetting the speed limit to 20 miles per hour on all streets.

In New York, this would be the equivalent of, say, lowering the speed limit in Manhattan south of the Brooklyn Bridge — not exactly earth-shattering, but noteworthy for a number of reasons.

Cyclists accounted for 47 percent of all road fatalities in the City of London in 2011. Other 20 mph zones in London have seen injuries and fatalities drop by nearly half. A person struck by a vehicle traveling at 20 mph has a 95 percent chance of surviving the collision.

All other surrounding boroughs (the equivalent of City Council districts) have already adopted a 20 mph limit — eight of Greater London’s 32 boroughs have lowered speeds or are considering doing so, according to the 20’s Plenty for Us campaign, suggesting a domino effect. Finally, police support the change, and have called for additional speed cameras and other resources as needed.

“The City of London joins Paris and Tokyo in recognizing that 20 mph limits are better for business and health,” said Jeremy Leach, 20’s Plenty for Us London coordinator, in a statement.

There is high demand for 20 mph “slow zones” in NYC neighborhoods where locals live in fear of reckless drivers. Speeding was the leading cause of traffic deaths last year, and speed enforcement is virtually non-existent.

Bill de Blasio has called for more slow zones, and says he wants to dramatically reduce traffic deaths and injuries. Neither Bill Thompson nor Joe Lhota has a detailed traffic safety platform. No candidate has suggested lowering the speed limit to 20 mph on a broad scale, though City Council transportation chair James Vacca has endorsed the idea.

  • Stephen Bauman

    UK went metric on all their traffic signs in the early 1970’s. That’s 20 km/hr or 16 mph.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    It’s mph.

  • Brad Aaron

    It’s mph.

  • Anonymous

    If I remember correctly, when I visited Ireland (not the UK, but they might be similar in this regard), they measured distance in km but speed in mph!

  • kevd

    no it isn’t.

  • chandru

    What is really required in London is respect for peds (and bikes, but they seem to co-exist ok). Except at marked crossings, cars *never* stop or even seem to slow down for crossing peds, say at a minor road junction with a mahor one. There are of course no stop signs so the cars just have to yield to other cars, not crossers. I banged a couple of boots (trunks) as they whizzed past me…

    I suppose the 20 rule will make it a *little* easier…

  • Larry Littlefield

    This is why I ask, why does NYC need the state’s permission to install speed and red light cameras? Is it just for permission to collect fines?

    Because if the city were willing to spend money, it could install a few thousand and produce data on what the speeds were on different kinds of streets at different times of day. And the license plate numbers of those caught speeding many times.

  • Anonymous

    I think this post misstated in saying that cyclists accounted for 47% of road fatalities in London’s City district in 2011. The report seems to be clear at pp. 5 and 10 that the 47% is cyclists’ share of “KSI” (Killed & Seriously Injured); that there were 49 KSI’s in 2011, which would mean cyclists, at 47%, had 23 such incidents; and that all were SI since there were zero K (zero fatal). Please have a look.

  • Miles Bader

    At some point it becomes practical for pedestrians to just force the issue by walking out in front of cars, which have no alternative but to stop (you can’t do this blindly, obviously, but with some care, and slow speeds, it works very well in practice, even if it infuriates the drivers who must stop).

    20mph probably isn’t that point though…. TT

    [Banning flashy cars would also help, because those drivers often seem to drive at excessive speeds as an ego thing….]

  • Mark Walker

    One pedestrian walking out in front of cars is roadkill. All pedestrians doing it would be a revolution. I hope I live to see a revolution.


How London Is Saving Lives With 20 MPH Zones

One of London’s 20 mph zones, with physical traffic calming measures and the speed limit prominently displayed. Image: ITDP-Europe via Flickr. When Mayor Bloomberg announced that the new pedestrian spaces in Midtown are here to stay, he made special note of the safety improvements on Broadway, which he called "reason enough to make this permanent." […]