Once, zipping around London by car was an easy way to explore the city. But it’s not the ‘90s anymore, and the only thing speedy about inner city driving is its rapid slide towards obsolescence. Soon, it’ll go the way of helmet-less cycling, smoking inside pubs, and snacking on jellied eels – a relic of a simpler but not necessarily better time.
The latest anti-car move in a pretty much never-ending stream of new rules and restrictions (from the congestion charge to Ulez to LTNs) comes from east London’s Newham Council. It’s bringing in a new 20mph speed limit on all roads across the borough. Just a few major arteries are exempt – the A13 Newham Way, the A406 North Circular, and the Lower Lea Crossing – along with private roads.
The scheme will be implemented over the next two years, with new speed limit signs and markings gradually rolled out across the borough. The aim is to reduce Newham’s levels of road casualties: according to figures from Transport for London, Newham has seen 5,200 road accident casualties over the past five years, including 16 people who died and 598 people who were seriously injured. Many of the most serious incidents took place on roads with 30mph speed limits.
A 20mph speed limit might seem unnecessary given that most London traffic already moves pretty slowly. But campaigners reckon it makes all the difference: lobbying group 20’s Plenty reckons that 20mph speed limits reduce road casualties by 20 percent. They also make it easier for cyclists to share the road with cars and make it safer for older people and children to cross the road.
Speed surveys will see if the strategy’s working in Newham, by seeing how each area performs. If you don’t live in Newham and would like similar rules in your area, you’re in luck. Mayor Sadiq Khan has just announced that 20mph speed limits are about to be rolled out across London, in boroughs including Greenwich, Kensington and Chelsea, Lewisham, Southwark, Wandsworth, Merton, Bromley and Lambeth. It’s all part of Vision Zero, a plan to cut London’s transport deaths to nil by 2041.
So if you want to get around London in a hurry, you know what to do: whip out your lycra and cycle, brave the tube, or take your life into your own hands and hire a rickshaw, safe in the knowledge that this city’s getting safer (and slower) every year.
Listen to Time Out’s brilliant new podcast ‘Love Thy Neighbourhood’: episode six with Sophie Duker in Dalston is out now.
Stay in the loop: sign up for our free Time Out London newsletter for the best of the city, straight to your inbox.