Why Sheffield’s 20mph speed limit strategy hinges on a willing public

20mph zone sign
20mph zone sign

In common with many other local authorities throughout the country, Sheffield Council is attempting to change the driving culture and redefine what is considered to be the appropriate speed to drive at in residential areas through the introduction of 20mph speed limits.

The long-term goal is to reduce the intimidatory impact of traffic on our neighbourhoods and make the streets of Sheffield a more pleasant place to be. Whilst the accident record of each area plays a part in the process of prioritising the introduction of 20mph areas, the council’s policy is to eventually introduce 20mph speed limits in all suitable residential areas by 2025, subject to available funding, irrespective of the accident record.

Research has shown that for every 1mph average speed reduction in an urban area a six per cent reduction in collision frequency can be expected. On average a signed-only 20mph limit leads to small reductions in driver speeds of one to 2mph. For example, speeds in the Stradbroke 20mph speed limit area have reduced by 1.8mph on average (but by as much as 4mph on some faster roads). 

The success of the 20mph strategy hinges on the willingness of the Sheffield public to alter their own behaviour. There will be some, a minority, who pay little heed to the current limit, never mind a new one.  But it is hoped the majority will be supportive, take responsibility for their own actions, and help redefine what is and isn’t an acceptable way to drive in residential areas.

Police understandably target the vast majority of their enforcement efforts on major roads as those are the roads where most accidents, and the most severe accidents, occur.  Police have indicated that 20mph limit areas will therefore not be subject to routine pre-planned enforcement. Community concerns should be reported by calling the 101 number.

The 20mph speed limit programme is funded from an allocation from the Local Transport Plan - funding central government provides to local authorities for new transport-related projects. Unfortunately the level of funding councils receive from Government for this type of work has reduced by more than half in recent years and the number of schemes we can deliver is now much reduced.