Furious drivers across the country have blasted the government’s move to stealthily turn England’s biggest cities into 20mph zones through the gradual introduction of speed limits and low traffic neighbourhoods (LTN’s).
In London, five boroughs this year have seen their key arterial roads become 20mph almost overnight as part of a wider commitment to road safety which residents say makes their neighborhoods impossible to navigate.
Meanwhile cities like Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool have all seen much of their transport networks follow the capital’s lead and move towards blanket 20mph zones.
The creeping trend towards a more sedentary pace on England’s roads was also highlighted this year by a leaked Department of Transport draft plan that suggested future roads should ‘work to a design speed limit of 20mph in urban environments.’
A spokesman for the Department of Transport pushed back on this, saying: ‘There are no plans to introduce default or national 20 mph speed limits in urban environments.’
Residents say new 20mph speed limits through main roads are making their areas feel busier
20mph speed limits have been introduced on several key roads across London to improve safety
Elsewhere in the country major cities like Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool have also seen the introduction of low speed zones
The safety benefits of lower speeds on the road is based on lower fatality rates from collisions but on the ground where people have to use their new safer roads as part of their daily routines – the picture is less rosy.
As part of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s ‘vision zero’ aim of reducing road deaths to zero by 2041, several more key roads in in Greenwich, Kensington and Chelsea, Lewisham, Southwark, Wandsworth, Merton, Bromley and Lambeth will be 20mph by October.
And by May next year, TfL hopes that 140 miles of London main roads – 37.9 per cent of its Red Route network will fall below the limit.
At the end of March across 17 miles of roads within the boroughs of Camden, Islington, Hackney, Haringey and Tower Hamlets were made 20mph.
The new limits aim to improve the safety of the area but locals who use the roads are fed up as the new measures have slowed down traffic.
One taxi driver from Shadwell, Ali Haydar, claims that his normal trips are taking over triple the amount of time thanks to the new speed limit on a busy main road in Tower Hamlets, east London.
He said: ‘It now can take three hours instead of one to get anywhere with this change. It is so slow now.’
He has also found that the new measures have caused more congestion and more pollution.
Mr Haydar added: ‘There is a load more petrol, more congestion, more traffic – it is very frustrating. I don’t think it is good.’
Taxi driver Ali Haydar says the new speed limits mean his journeys through Wapping now take three times longer
TfL says the move towards 20mph areas is to make London safer
In Swiss Cottage, Teresa Mlynarz thinks the new speed limit is pointless
Londoners have said that the new speed limit makes their living areas look busier
Another regular driver is frustrated by the change.
Teresa Mlynarz is a nanny and lives by Finchley Road near Hampstead in north London. The busy main road is one of those that has been affected.
The 51-year-old said: ‘It’s silly. I drive down here every day to take the kids to school and it’s so frustrating when the road is clear because you can’t drive faster than 20mph even when there are no cars.
‘It is so slow and it just means it takes so much longer to get anywhere.’
She added: ‘I don’t think there is any point to it. From what I have seen and know there aren’t many accidents here so I think it’s pointless.’
The change has been made with the hope to make London’s roads safer for drivers and pedestrians.
According to TfL data, 20mph speed limits have improved the safety of London’s roads and have caused a 25 per cent drop in deaths and serious injuries in central London Congestion Charging Zone.
But many people do not believe the change has made the roads less dangerous.
David Horn-Marquez lives in Camden and is still nervous around the roads.
The 45-year-old said: ‘It’s a pain in the bum. You still have people speeding but then you also have people who don’t know how to drive going really slowly, so it’s so much more dangerous now because drivers are all over the place.
‘It is so awful and unsafe.’
He also worries that the speed change has led to more pollution thanks to a rise in traffic.
He added: ‘There is so much more traffic because people are going slower so it isn’t good for the environment. People are just wasting exhaust fumes – you can smell it.’
Sue Smith (left) and Janice Collins worry that the new speed limits haven’t tackled the real dangers on the roads
According to TfL data, 20mph speed limits have improved the safety of London’s roads and have caused a 25 per cent drop in deaths in the congestion zone
Naser Kamali says the Swiss Cottage traffic is now so bad the area feels more polluted
Sue Smith, 75, also doesn’t believe the change in speed limit is making a difference and worries about the safety of children.
She often has to walk over The Highway, a main road in Wapping, east London, which has now got a 20mph speed limit and hasn’t noticed any change.
She said: ‘The speed limit doesn’t make any difference because there’s nothing to stop them. They are still whizzing past carelessly.
‘So many kids have been killed because of that road as they go to the secondary school on the other side and so many children have been hit.
‘It is so dangerous.’
Her friend Janice Collins, who is also from Wapping, claims that the bikes can be even worse than the cars.
The 77-year-old said: ‘The bikes are the worst. They never stop at pedestrian crossings and go speeding past. It is horrendous.’
Naser Kamali works in a coffee kiosk along Finchley Road and has noticed a rise in congestion.
The 68-year-old from Camden said: ‘As a driver I’m not happy because it is much slower to drive places, especially in the morning as there are so many cars.
‘Between 7am and 9am and 3pm and 5pm the traffic is so bad and it is more polluted. It is easy to smell.
‘It can be so loud then too. I sometimes use headphones to block the noise.’
However, Mr Kamali can see how the change may benefit pedestrians.
He added: ‘Obviously for the drivers it is not good but for the people crossing the road it is better.
They can cross the roads easier and safer so that is a good thing.’
The road is by a school and a leisure, which has led a few people to welcome the drop in speed limit as they hope it will keep children safe.
Some Londoners like Andrea Chambers have defended the changes and said its made them feel safer
Andrea says since the changes have come in the roads feel less chaotic
Andrea Chambers, 61, said: ‘I think it’s good idea because there is a school and the leisure centre just around the corner so there are always kids around.
‘I have noticed people are much less zoomy than they used to be so it’s obviously making a positive difference.’
The supermarket worker added: ‘I live close by and it isn’t any noisier or polluted or anything. Not any more polluted than the rest of London anyway.’
Another road affected is Seven Sisters Road in Finsbury Park, north London.
Baki Duzgun works in a kebab shop along the road and has noticed a rise in traffic.
The 75-year-old from Finsbury Park said: ‘There is more traffic yes. And more bicycles too from what I see.
‘The traffic does make more pollution and there is lots of noise from the road all day.’
Despite the increase in cars on the road, Mr Duzgan does believe it has made the roads safer.
He added: ‘I have seen a few crashes here and some accidents because sometimes people do drive quickly so I think it is a good idea to make everyone slow down. It must make it safer.’
Others long the road in Finsbury Park agree and welcome the change.
Ruth Lee is from Upper Clapton, Hackney, and gets the bus along the road to do her weekly shop and is happy to see that measures are being made to make the area safer.
The housewife said: ‘It definitely feels safer since they changed it. It is a really good idea.
‘I think there is more congestion and you get some impatient drivers who aren’t happy but I think it is worth it for the safety of the roads.
‘I get the bus down here and it doesn’t take any longer or anything.’
Kim Humphrey’s (left) and Ruth Lee say the changes mean more congestion and impatient drivers
Rachel Shaw cycles from her home in Finsbury Park and feels safer
Tfl have said they are ‘determined to eliminate deaths and serious injuries from London’s roads’
Rachel Shaw is a doctor and cycles from her home in Finsbury Park to the Royal Free hospital in Hampstead each day.
The 28-year-old said: ‘I haven’t noticed the difference really since it’s changed.
‘It’s pretty busy and congested all the time, but it was before they changed the speed limit, so most cars are going around ten anyway.
‘There’s always road works just before the bridge so that causes more of the congestion and pollution I think than the changing of the speed limit.’
She believes that other measures should be introduced to help cyclists feel safer on the roads.
She added: ‘As a cyclist it doesn’t feel safe. You always get cars rushing to go through the traffic lights and speeding past.
‘Dedicated cycle lanes are what would make a difference for us I think more than changing the speed limit.’
But Rod King – the founder and campaign director of pro-speed limit organisation 20’s Plenty For Us – said the move would mean ‘everybody wins’.
He said: ‘We’ve had 20 mile an hour limits in the UK for over 15 years and it is widely recognised that in today’s crowded road network the speed you go at between stoppages for lights or congestion or for hazards or for crossings or for junctions, it is not going to make much difference between journey times.
‘And it makes far more sense to actually keep the maximum speed of the vehicles down to one which preserves life, preserves options for people to feel that they can walk and cycle.
‘It reduces noise, reduces emissions because the driving is much smoother – everybody wins.
‘Of course some people will get angry about it but this won’t make much difference to their journey times and is very positively beneficial to the whole community.’
MailOnline approached TfL for a response to residents’ grievances.
Penny Rees, TfL’s Head of Healthy Streets Investment, said: ‘We are determined to eliminate deaths and serious injuries from London’s roads in line with our Vision Zero goal.
‘Speed continues to be a factor in almost half of fatal collisions in London and this is unacceptable.
‘It’s clear that 20mph speed limits not only save lives, but also make it easier and safer for people to walk, cycle and use public transport, creating a safer, greener London for everyone.’
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