A coalition of charities including Brake, Sustrans and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England are launching a GO 20 campaign on Monday.
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of Brake, said: “Everyone should be able to walk and cycle in their community without fear or threat: it’s a basic right, and GO 20 is about defending that. The 2012 Games helped us all realise the importance of being able to live active lifestyles. Critical to this is making our streets and communities safe places we can use and enjoy.”
The number of pedestrian deaths and serious injuries in Britain rose in 2011 for the first time in 17 years, to 466 people killed and 5,654 seriously injured. Almost a third of those seriously injured were children.
Robert Gifford of Pacts, the parliamentary advisory council for transport safety, said: “There’s certainly evidence that 20mph limits in the right places will save lives. There’s also evidence that it will encourage people to walk and cycle, so you get the double benefit for health and for the environment.”
But he warned: “Just putting up a number on a pole will not change people’s behaviour. You need to be quite astute and strategic.”
Responsibility for deciding speed limits in built-up areas below the maximum 30mph rests with local authorities, following guidance issued by the Department for Transport. Ministers are reviewing that guidance and may suggest a new 20mph limit for residential areas or streets where pedestrians take priority.
Edmund King, president of the AA, gave qualified support: “We support targeted 20mph limits but you need some roads for movement. If it’s a residential street that isn’t a through road and local people support it that’s fine. The problem comes when there’s a blanket ban: then people disrespect the limit on the through road and likely will do on the residential streets too.”