Powered vehicles of almost any kind may be a thing of the past in the City of London.  Not because they will be banned, but because it will be nearly impossible to use them efficiently.

In light of the City’s desire to implement a scheme they call Vision Zero, the City is taking steps to limit speeds to 15 mph in London’s center.  According to a recent report, “The City Corporation has committed to eliminating death and serious injuries on the City’s streets by 2040.”

City of London Vision Zero

And they intend to do this by implementing four separate “themes,” including:


  • Streets – redesigning streets to reduce the likelihood and severity of collisions;
  • Speeds – reducing the speed of vehicles to decreases the likelihood of a collision and the severity of injury in the event of one;
  • Vehicles – promoting and championing measures to encourage the use of safer motor vehicles;
  • Behaviours – encouraging all users of the City’s streets to travel safely

I don’t think that many people would argue that making things safer is a terrible idea.  But you have to wonder about the way that the City of London is going about the development of that safety.

Redesigning streets to reduce the likelihood and severity of collisions seems like a good idea.  Better intersections, road markings, and visibility for road users all seem to be things that could help reduce the number of collisions and potentially their severity.  Good job, London.

“Safer speeds”

But in a single paragraph of their report, the City outlines what “safer speeds” really mean.

15 mph speed limit: A request for in principle support for a 15mph speed limit will shortly be submitted to the Secretary of State for Transport. If this is agreed, we will begin work on an experimental traffic order (ETO) to introduce a City-wide 15mph limit, with the aim of having this in place before the end of 2022.

Well, that’s a bit concerning, isn’t it?  A 15 mph speed limit?  For everything moving through the City?  Well, I guess that means Usain Bolt better not train in the City of London.  His 23.4 mph 100-meter sprint and top speed of 27.5 mph would be illegal.

But seriously, is a 15 mph speed limit practical or efficient?  If the proposed speed limit applies to all vehicles in the City of London, it’s going to be slow going on public transport.  If their public transport is limited to a 15 mph top speed, will they be able to move the millions of people they carry annually efficiently?

15 mph speed limit

Image credit: Home Depot

With increases in user fees, the City has been trying to reduce the number of vehicles that enter the city center.  This, along with the report’s cited roadway improvements, would seem to indicate that road speeds could be increased without increasing danger based on the safer roadways.

Efficient means?

Particularly in this era of COVID, does packing people into closed spaces for a longer period of time make sense?  At these slower rates of speed, will people even want to get onto public transport?

And if they don’t want to, all this plan will do is increase the number of road users that are the potential causes of collisions and injury.  If anything, this plan would seem destined to increase congestion, not reduce it.

City of London limit coming soon

And if you think that the potential 15 mph speed limit is far off, you’d be wrong.  Based on the report’s wording, it’s clear that the City of London wants the regulation to be in place by the end of 2022.

The report clearly states:

If this is agreed, we will begin work on an experimental traffic order (ETO) to introduce a City-wide 15mph limit, with the aim of having this in place before the end of 2022.

So you can now see that the City is “dead serious” about implementing this new speed measure.  And while slower speeds can potentially reduce serious and slight injuries, the new measure can’t do much more for the number of fatalities in the City.

That’s because according to their data, in 2020, there were zero traffic fatalities in the City of London.  Now some of that may be attributable to reduced traffic in the City due to COVID.  But the previous years’ data shows a relatively low amount of fatal accidents and serious injuries.  See the table below from the City’s report:


According to the City of London’s report, the number of fatal accidents and serious injuries has been relatively steady since 2016.

Note: The City of London Police changed their reporting methodology in 2018, and the report says that this is the reason for the spike in serious injuries in 2018.

Not all bad?

Still, if you are the loved one of someone who dies in a traffic accident, these low figures won’t bring your loved one back.  There’s no disputing that.  But the question remains as to whether reducing London’s speed limit to 15 mph is the best way to save those lives.  And from my perspective, that’s quite debatable.

And you have to ask, how will London enforce the new law? For example, will they have traffic police pulling over people who are going 20 mph?  At that low speed, the opportunity to accidentally “speed” is quite significant.

Expanding the safer speed zone

Although this law will only apply to a portion of London, what’s to stop the government from expanding the zone in the name of safety?  It’s not difficult to imagine the government enlarging the area in the not too distant future.

So what do you think about London’s proposed 15 mph speed limit?  Is it a good idea whose time has come, or is it something else?  Let us know in the comments below.








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