How 20mph zones are part of a far bigger plot to ban cars from UK

The slow death of driving: How 20mph zones are part of a far bigger plot to ban cars from UK towns and cities and restrict private ownership of vehicles

  • EXCLUSIVE: Pro-slow campaigners calling for 20mph zones won’t stop there 
  • Pressure groups are also pushing for  ‘car-free cities’ across the nation

Pro-slow campaigners who have been defending controversial new 20mph speed limits enforced in London and Wales last week actually want ‘car free cities’ and an end to private vehicle ownership, plans suggest. 

Last week, Mark Drakeford’s Welsh Labour government imposed a blanket 20mph across all built up residential areas – sparking outrage from residents who say their journeys now take twice as long and use twice as much fuel. 

Meanwhile in London, Mayor Sadiq Khan announced a further 40 miles (65km) worth of roads in the capital are set to become 20mph zones by the end of 2023. 

This is on top of rising frustrations with costly and cumbersome Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and the fact that 62 miles of cycle lanes were installed in the capital during the pandemic has led some to believe there is a ‘war on motorists.’   

Currently 28million drivers live under local authorities where 20mph speed limits are in place or set to come in to the dismay of the Alliance of British Drivers who claim the ultimate goal of such policies are to ‘make all driver’s pariahs.’

LONDON: Tooting Broadway would be utterly transformed under Possible’s plans 

BIRMINGHAM: Grove Lane would become a car free-Green Zone under the plans 

Many British towns and cities have found themselves consumed by the slow creep of 20mph zones 

Defenders of controversial schemes like the ones rolled out in London and Wales include the climate change campaign group Possible – who earlier this year published a radical report in conjunction with think tank Fare City arguing for ‘car-free cities.’

On Good Morning Britain earlier this week, Possible spokesman Hirra Khan Adeogun said that the new 20mph policy would be ‘good for drivers’ arguing that it would save them costs on fuel and contribute towards ‘more efficient cities.’

Mrs Adeogun is the head of Possible’s ‘car-free cities’ project, which the group describes as a ‘landmark programme to kickstart the process of making private cars obsolete in our cities, accelerating the move to a zero carbon Britain.’ 

The study includes comments from Green Party spokesman Sian Berry who argues that in planning future cities, authorities should make ‘as little space as possible for cars.’ 

Other experts cited in the report include University of Leeds academic Paul Chatterton who argues that Britain’s Highways Network should be shrunk by 5 per cent each year in order to move towards car-free ways of living. 

The report argued that future policy should look to ‘reduce highway space for private vehicles and actively reclaim this space for alternative uses.’

It argued: ‘Highway space should be reallocated for walking, wheeling and cycling, bus lanes and the public realm for people to enjoy – more space for an improved place.

‘It should also accommodate parking for sustainable modes, for example private cycle storage, shared e-cycle, and e-scooter bays. Parklets and other reuses should also be prioritised.’ 

Another propagator of the idea that cities and towns must ditch cars in order to thrive is government-backed campaign group Living Streets. 

Like Possible, which targeted Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds and London in its research – Living Streets has named Edinburgh, Manchester, Cardiff and the capital as its ‘target cities.’

Car Free Cities argues argues that in planning future cities authorities should make ‘as little space as possible for cars

Fellow campaigners Walking Cities claim the UK should make ‘healthy streets’ by ‘reducing the volume and speed of motor traffic and reallocate space to people on foot’

In their ambitious blueprint for change, the group claims that it is key to design ‘healthy streets’ by ‘reducing the volume and speed of motor traffic and reallocate space to people on foot.’

Eventually, they claim, it would be preferable to ‘develop a long-term strategy to reduce the number of motor vehicles in town and city centres’ to ‘free up space for walking and cycling.’

In order to make walking safer, the group stresses it would be be key to ‘restrain excessive vehicle speeds by enforcement.’ 

Such policies have been blasted by Cabinet Minister and Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch as ‘ludicrous.’ 

Challenging a Sky News presenter who said that the ‘poorest in society do not have cars’, Ms Badenoch shot back: ‘That is a ludicrous statement. 

‘If you step outside of London and come to my constituency you will find the poorest people drive as they live in a rural area.’   

Speaking to MailOnline, Hugh Bladon of the Alliance of British Drivers also slammed the schemes and suggested that the ultimate goal would be to make it impossible for normal motorists to get around. 

READ MORE: Now Welsh government consider dropping MORE speed limits despite furious backlash against 20mph rollout – as opponents slam ‘anti-drive mentality’ and petition to reverse the lower limit passes 340,000 signatures

He said: ‘The assumption is that people can manage without a car. And of course there are many many people that cannot. 

‘If you drive people away from the town centres and city centres, you might make them a lovely place for cyclists but the the other side of the coin is that you’re quite likely to kill off the high street.

‘Shops will close and businesses will move out and gradually town centers will become no go areas.’

Instead of vilifying drivers, Mr Bladon says councils should instead be pandering to them.

He continued: ‘The solution is to make it as easy as possible for people to get into towns and cities and park up and then do go about their business. 

‘The more you make it more difficult and more expensive for people to do that, the less likely business is all going to thrive and and expand.

‘It seems to me that the people that live in London don’t understand what it’s like living in other places.’ 

In Wales, where a new blanket 20mph policy has been adopted, police have promised to be lenient on the new speed limits while people get used to complying. 

However over 300,000 people have signed a petition calling for Mark Drakeford’s Welsh Labour government to reverse its blanket adoption of new 20mph speed limits in all built up areas. 

But despite the backlash, the Welsh government is now considering dropping even more speed limits.

Deputy climate change minister Lee Waters told a BBC Wales podcast: ‘We are going to look at speeds on other roads because we need to review them in line with the Wales transport strategy.’

A petition to reverse the lower limit reached 344,000 signatures – around ten per cent of the total population

Drivers have been vandalising the new road signs, including one pictured here covered in spray paint in Cardiff

He continued: ‘I already have people coming to me saying ‘we live in a village and we have a trunk road going through it, why is it 40 it’s not safe.’

READ MORE: Wales’ 20mph speed limit ‘will cause chaos, confusion, gridlock and mayhem’

‘Let’s just drop the speed limit. It won’t cost us anything and we can do that next week and it will save lives.’

However, he reassured listeners that there is no ‘secret plan’ for another nationwide change. 

The 20mph speed limit has been branded an ‘absolute nightmare’ by furious drivers, with signs vandalised with spray paint and cars travelling at 20mph in a 40mph zone. 

It has recently been blasted as ‘insane’ by the leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt, who said the Welsh Government had ‘ignored businesses’ and ‘ignored the public’. She claimed the scheme was ‘punishing’ drivers.

The scheme, which meant altering 30,000 road signs at a cost of £32million, has been described as ‘anti-worker, anti-road and anti-motorist’ by Welsh Conservatives, who have vowed to repeal it. 

A 30mph sign just a few feet away from a 20mph, posted to a social media group opposed to the lower limit

The 20mph speed limit was branded an ‘absolute nightmare’ by furious drivers, with many signs vandalised

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford (pictured) has claimed the new speed limits will save £92million a year for the NHS

Motorists have started fighting back against the speed restrictions by spraying over road signs

Earlier this week a top driving instructor warned that the new limit would cause ‘confusion, chaos, gridlock and mayhem’ on the country’s roads. 

Stuart Walker, who has been training drivers since 1987, warned of widespread anger over Wales’s decision to cut the speed limit.

He said: ‘Angry drivers do not make safe drivers.

‘If we go up a steep hill and we can only approach at 20mph the gearbox is going to change gear up and down, up and down, and we are going to lose a lot of speed and we’re going to cause chaos, confusion, gridlock and mayhem.’ 

Experienced driving instructor Stuart Walker (pictured) said Wales’ new 20mph speed limit will cause ‘confusion, chaos, gridlock, and mayhem’ on the country’s roads

The Conservatives have called the Labour-run Welsh government’s ULEZ-style clampdown ‘ludicrous’ 

Andrew RT Davies (pictured), the leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd, called the new speed limits ‘ludicrous’

Newly-erected signs marking the start of a 20mph zone in Cardiff 

He added that the Welsh Government’s plans also lacked public support, and drivers needed to believe they would work for them to have an impact on safety.

‘The 20mph speed limit now has been devalued. It’s got to be seen as justified for it to work effectively,’ Mr Walker added.

READ MORE: Low Traffic Nonsense: Ministers have wasted billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on ‘active travel’ schemes, says watchdog

The driving instructor said he fully supported lower speed limits outside Welsh schools, but said he did  not believe every 30mph zone should have a speed limit of 20mph. 

Hirra Khan Adeogun, co-director of climate charity Possible, said: ‘Polls consistently show that a large majority of the public would like to cut traffic, especially in towns and cities, so we worked with communities in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds and London to free people from the burdens of car ownership; and co-design and deliver practical grassroots solutions to cut car use and make neighbourhoods safer, cleaner, greener and more pleasant places to live.

‘A ”car free city” is a city which is free of the dangers, pollution, and emissions caused by mass car ownership – it’s not a city with no cars at all. There are many people – such as emergency vehicle drivers, carers, and some disabled people – who cannot get around without driving, and our campaign to reduce the number of cars in cities will make their lives easier too.

‘Ms. Badenoch is right that many low-income people across the country are forced to drive as they live in rural areas without public transport infrastructure, but it is also true that the poorest in our cities do not own cars and certainly drive less than richer people.

‘A mountain of evidence shows that 20mph limits lead to safer streets that will save many lives, while having virtually no effect on overall journey times – and can actually increase average speeds on congested city streets.’

MailOnline has contacted Living Streets for comment. 

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