Need for new speed limits

Two thirds of road deaths happen on rural roads and the Campaign to Protect Rural England is calling for cuts to rural road speed limits.

New Government guidance for local authorities on how to set speed limits is widely expected to be published shortly.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has highlighted the guidance as a key opportunity to improve conditions for rural road users and the natural environment. In particular, CPRE is calling on the Department for Transport (DfT) 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 tragically 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.

If we want to have an enviable safety record in our countryside, it’s time for 40 mph zones to become the norm on minor rural roads.

CPRE says it will be important for the new guidance to:

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.

CPRE believes that 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, releasing suppressed demand for physically active travel.

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 .

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fights for a better future for the English countryside.

We work locally and nationally to protect, shape and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy.

Our members are united in their love for England’s landscapes and rural communities, and stand up for the countryside, so it can continue to sustain, enchant and inspire future generations.


Senior transport campaigner for CPRE, 5-11 Lavington Street, London SE1 0NZ