20 mph – the right speed for Gosforth’s children

If we want the High Street to thrive as a family destination and the businesses to prosper, then we need to make the High Street a safe environment where parents are happy to window shop with their children.  A 20 mph limit from Salters Road to the Town Moor would be the first step in making Gosforth High Street as family friendly as its businesses.

The sheer quantity and quality of destinations for children on and around Gosforth High Street is amazing.

There are places children regularly want to go to:

  • the open spaces of Gosforth Central Park, the Little Moor and Dukes Moor
  • Captain Ted’s softplay and after-school club and the Playstation softplay
  • Trinity Church with Olivia’s café and a wide variety of children’s clubs and classes
  • shops specifically for children such as Pikku the clothes shop and Jump the shoe shop and other shops children like to visit from Thorpes Ironmongers to see Thomas the Tank Engine on the ceiling or Yum Lush to buy stationery.
  • cafes such as Rosie’s, Melanie’sSimplicity and Adriano’s for cake and ice-cream, restaurants for pizza (Basilico, Adriano’s or Allard’s Lounge), curry (the Ahad) and of course the Gosforth Chippy.

Then there are the hairdressers and barbers, doctors’ practices and dentists’ surgeries.

In fact there are too many to list so we plotted them on the map below.

If you are a parent though, walking up and down the High Street with your children can be a nerve-wracking experience.  There’s a high volume of traffic, vehicle fumes and so much noise that even shouting at the top of your voice, your children do not hear you.

Research has found that children are less aware of traffic and the danger it poses. Adults can accurately estimate speed for vehicles travelling up to 50 mph, whilst children of primary school age cannot accurately judge the speed of vehicles travelling faster than 20 mph (1).

Studies on data for adults show speed is the key factor both in the likelihood of impact and the consequences if the worst does happen.  The table below gives figures for the probability of an adult being killed or seriously injured (KSI) if hit by a car moving at 20 mph, 30 mph and 40 mph, and the same probability if that adult was 70 years old (2).  We are not aware of  equivalent figures for children, if you know of any research on this please get in touch, but we would expect the percentages will be no less than those for an adult and possibly worse than those for a 70 year old.

Car Speed All adults KSI% 70 year old KSI% Stopping distance
20 mph 17% 30% 3 car lengths (12m)
30 mph 40% 70% 6 car lengths (23m)
40 mph 80% 90% 9 car lengths (36m)

Impacts by larger vehicles will further increase the likelihood of being killed or seriously injured.  The same research (2) estimates that the KSI% for a pedestrian hit by a light truck would be the same as if that pedestrian was struck by a car travelling approximately 6 mph faster.  For impacts by larger vehicles such as buses, vans or lorries the risk would be worse still.

The table also gives minimum stopping distances as provided by Rule 126 of the Highway Code(3), and shows that the stopping distance for 30 mph is almost double the stopping distance for 20 mph.  At 40 mph (which we have included due to concerns about cars speeding throughout Gosforth) the stopping distance increases again by a further 13m, that is a further increase of more than the total stopping distance for 20 mph.

Brake, the road safety charity, notes that these are minimum distances as they assume the driver is alert, concentrating and not impaired.  If the driver is tired after a long day at work, distracted by parked cars, the radio or their mobile phone, or is otherwise impaired, then the stopping distance will inevitably be longer (4), and if an impact does occur the speed of that impact will be greater.

There is also evidence that reducing the speed limit also reduces pollution.  20’s Plenty for us, the not-for-profit organization campaigning for a 20 mph speed limit, cite evidence from Germany that when 30km/h (18.6 mph) zones were introduced car drivers:

  • changed gear 12% less often
  • braked 14% less often and
  • required 12% less fuel.

20’s Plenty for us also note that the distances drivers can travel at 30 mph are limited by factors including traffic lights, crossings and congestion, which lead to a ‘stop-start’ style of driving.  Introducing 20 mph limits unnecessary acceleration and braking and improves traffic flow (5).

The High Street is a key route for children to move around Gosforth and visit the shops and other the services. So let’s think about it as another type of transport corridor – one filled with walking, running, scooting and pram pushing.



(1) A study by researchers at Royal Holloway, University of London reveals that primary school children cannot accurately judge the speed of vehicles travelling faster than 20 m.p.h.  https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/aboutus/newsandevents/news/newsarticles/speedchildren.aspx

(2)  Research: Impact Speed and a Pedestrian’s Risk of Severe Injury of Death (Sept 2011) https://www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/2011PedestrianRiskVsSpeed.pdf

(3) Rule 126 Highway Code https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code/general-rules-techniques-and-advice-for-all-drivers-and-riders-103-to-158#rule126

(4) Brake  on stopping distances and collisions: http://www.brake.org.uk/info-and-resources/facts-advice-research/road-safety-facts/15-facts-a-resources/facts/1255-speed

(5) Twenty’s Plenty for us  on pollution: http://www.20splentyforus.org.uk/BriefingSheets/pollutionbriefing.pdf

4 thoughts on “20 mph – the right speed for Gosforth’s children

  1. Pingback: SPACE for Gosforth: A look back at 2015 - SPACE for Gosforth

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  3. SPACE for Gosforth

    Research from Skyrad: Understanding the effect of speed on emissions in an urban environment.

    “Skyrad used an innovative approach to model the effect of maximum vehicle speeds in typical urban traffic. We found that higher peak vehicle speeds (the maximum speed reached by vehicles in between junctions) adversely affected CO2 and NOx emissions, while having only a small effect on total journey times.

    “The effect of maximum speed on CO2 and NOx emissions were substantial. The emissions were dominated by the energy required to accelerate the vehicle in stop-start traffic. This contrasts to many of the accepted models in the literature, which exclude the effect of stop-start traffic and consider only the ‘cruise’ portion of the journey.”


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