20mph in rural villages

Place-making and local landscape used to slow traffic in rural villages in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty


Frequently asked questions

Why is 20mph important?

Reducing traffic speed to 20 miles per hour reduces the likelihood of an accident. And if there is an accident it will not be so severe.

How do we get a 20mph zone?

Only the local highway authority – usually the county council – has the power to put in place a lawful speed limit. Normally there will already be a 30mph speed limit that can be altered to a 20mph speed limit or 20 mph zone.

Does it take long?

There will be a time delay while the highway authority goes through a legal process.

What can we do immediately?

Local communities can start to consider the problems and how they will be tackled by setting up a local working group.

Who should be involved in a local 20mph zone working group?

A local working group could initially consist of three or four people. A broad base of background helps as well as someone interested in design.

It is helpful to hold regular progress meetings and invite the chairman of the parish/town council as well as the local district and county councillors to attend or at least be involved. This gives the process a degree of authenticity and allows people to flag up concerns at an early stage. Also, at the outset it is useful to inform the highways portfolio member of the county council that the group has been set up.

What are the first steps to take, once we have formed a working group?

The first task is to become familiar with the relevant technical data such as existing traffic flows and speed, any correspondence with the highway authority on road safety over the last five years and any specific concerns expressed by residents.

If any traffic calming work is needed, it should be sensitively designed to fit in with the distinct character of the village, so a feel for its unique character is helpful. There may be a neighbourhood plan or village conservation area appraisal that has a plan showing important landmarks, listed buildings and conservation areas.

Traffic speed affects the way people move about a village on foot or by cycle. An understanding of the specific places where people gather such as a school, shops, church or hall and where people will need to cross a main road.

What is sensitive traffic calming?

As our short video explains, conventional traffic calming that involves road humps and lots of intrusive traffic signs, are not necessary. By making some subtle changes to the nature and feel of the road as experienced by drivers, possibly by extending a grass verge or placing some well-designed local landscape that is sensitive to the special character of the village as a whole, encourages drivers to take more care. This is sometimes also referred to as psychological traffic calming.

Is it lawful to do this subtle traffic calming work on the road and immediately adjacent to the road?

Yes, all the work that is needed is within the specifications of the national Traffic Calming Regulations 1999. This secondary legislation has been in existence for more than twenty years. For example, it includes work that would fit in with the green nature of a village such as rural style planters, walls, rails and fences as well as landscape work such as trees, shrubs and other plants.

Where has it already been done?

Our video shows a number of villages in the Surrey Hills Area of Natural Beauty, notably the much-visited village of Shere. Similar individual projects have been carried out across the country.

Are there any other things that can be done immediately?

Yes, most villages have more traffic sign clutter than is necessary. Government policy is to reduce the number of traffic signs as they tend to accumulate and have doubled in the last twenty years. Typically, redundant signs are those that warn of a danger that can easily be seen. Drivers are required by law to take the road as they find it and drive safely. Redundant signs are a danger as they reduce the impact of the few signs that drivers really do need to notice. Local working groups can therefore make their own assessment and request that redundant signs are removed.

How do we build planters?

Planters need to be robust to withstand the rigours of the road environment. They may be driven into. Yet they need to be light enough to be moved about when necessary. 

This example is made of previously used railway sleepers, or timber of similar dimensions. The timber is cut to lengths then assembled on-site before being filled with earth and planted up.

Will drivers keep to 20mph?

Unlike on motorways, speed limits on local roads cannot be continually enforced
In a 20mph zone speed is reduced by a combination of:
-Formal speed limits
-Some people will obey the law and reduce speed
-Intelligent Speed Assistance 2022. Drivers need to override the cruise control
Other drivers behind in a queue will also reduce speed
-Adjusting the design of the road to encourage drivers to slow and take more care
-Road characteristics can be used to create a different look and feel
-These should enhance the individual local quality of the village