Studies show that humans react differently when they are moving below 20mph as opposed to when they are moving above that speed. It is all to do with our own maximum sprinting speed. For obvious reasons, evolution did not equip us to react to situations when we were travelling faster than we could sprint. So when travelling below 20mph we can deal with other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists in a far more convivial manner than when we are travelling above that speed. This is why 20 mph speed limits are so important on our streets and why I began the national campaign to introduce 20mph on all our streets nearly 20 years ago.
Having talked to a number of Surrey’s councillors I am aware that they what is a lack of knowledge on this matter. They think, as do many people, that the 20mph limit is about reducing the damage done to pedestrians on impact. This is, of course, true but it is not the main reason.
As other countries are doing, we need, over time – because it cannot be done overnight, to divide our highways into two: those that are for people – streets; and, those that are for cars – roads. Streets (include country lanes here too) would have a speed limit of 20mph and roads would be designed for high speeds and no pedestrians or cyclists.
Introducing a 20mph limit on all our streets is probably the most important way of improving our health and quality of life. Even more cost effective than spending more on NHS England! The reason is simple. If speeds on the streets are less than 20mph cycling and walking increases and as more people cycle and walk their life expectancy improves – by six years on average. Not only do people live longer but their quality of life improves too. All this can be done by a simple change in the speed limit law.