The Hidden Agenda Behind 20mph Zones: Car-Free Cities?
Proponents of 20mph speed limits in the UK are raising eyebrows with their broader vision of “car-free cities.”
While the recent enforcement of 20mph zones in London and Wales has sparked controversy, some campaigners see it as just the first step towards a more ambitious goal.
Controversial 20mph Speed Limits Raise Questions
Last week, the Welsh Labour government, led by Mark Drakeford, imposed a uniform 20mph speed limit in all residential areas, drawing the ire of residents who claim it has doubled their travel time and fuel consumption.
Meanwhile, London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan announced plans to expand 20mph zones by an additional 40 miles by the end of 2023.
These developments, coupled with frustrations over Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and increased cycle lanes, have fueled concerns of a “war on motorists.”
Proponents of Slower Speeds and Car-Free Cities
Among the advocates for 20mph speed limits are groups like Possible, a climate change campaign organization.
They have released a radical report, in collaboration with think tank Fare City, that promotes the concept of “car-free cities.”
Possible’s “car-free cities” project aims to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon Britain by making private cars obsolete in urban areas.
Reimagining Urban Spaces
Possible’s vision includes redesigning urban spaces to minimize the presence of cars.
Green Party spokesperson Sian Berry argues that future city planning should allocate as little space as possible for vehicles.
Academic Paul Chatterton from the University of Leeds even suggests shrinking the Highways Network by 5% annually to promote car-free living.
The report emphasizes reallocating highway space for walking, cycling, and public spaces.
Government-Backed Initiatives and Opposition
Living Streets, another group advocating for car-free cities, has designated Edinburgh, Manchester, Cardiff, and London as their “target cities.”
They propose reducing motor traffic volume and speed while allocating more space for pedestrians. Cabinet Minister Kemi Badenoch criticizes these ideas as “ludicrous” and argues that they ignore the needs of rural residents who rely on cars.
Concerns Over Impact on Town Centers
Hugh Bladon of the Alliance of British Drivers expresses concerns about these initiatives potentially harming town centers and businesses.
He believes that making it easier and more affordable for people to access city centers by car is essential for economic vitality.
Public Reaction and Government Response
While police in Wales have promised leniency in enforcing the new speed limits to allow for adjustment, over 300,000 people have signed a petition opposing the blanket 20mph policy.
The Welsh government is now considering expanding these limits further.
Cabinet Minister Badenoch challenges the assumption that everyone can manage without cars and highlights the importance of accommodating the needs of all residents.
Debate Over Speed Limits
The 20mph speed limit has faced criticism from drivers and leaders alike, with claims that it may lead to confusion, chaos, and gridlock on the roads.
The cost of implementing these changes has also been a point of contention, with some calling the scheme “anti-worker, anti-road, and anti-motorist.”
Hirra Khan Adeogun, co-director of climate charity Possible, argues that the majority of the public supports reducing traffic, especially in cities.
The goal is not to eliminate all cars but to create cities that are less reliant on private car ownership, thereby reducing pollution and emissions.
The debate continues as urban planners, policymakers, and advocacy groups clash over the future of transportation in UK towns and cities.