20mph speed limit on all residential streets in Wandsworth: more detail


The Council decision on 5 July 2016

On 5 July, Conservative and Labour Councillors joined hands on the Community Services Committee to decide unanimously that all local residential streets throughout our borough will henceforth have a speed limit of 20mph (currently only a quarter to a third of them are 20mph; the remaining streets having a 30mph limit). This decision followed the Council’s borough-wide consultation earlier this year in which 3,382 residents responded, with three out of every five (59%) wanting to make the streets where we live safer, quieter, and less polluted.

When will the new borough-wide 20mph speed limit take effect?

The money – £725,000 – is already available in this year’s Local Implementation Plan (LIP) which the Council has voted for Transport in 2016-17. It will be spent on the necessary signage, including painting 20mph roundels on the carriageway. And we can look forward to the full implementation roundabout Spring next year (2017).

Exceptions to the new speed limit?

Yes, there will be. Unlike several other Inner London boroughs, Wandsworth has decided for the time being to retain a 30mph speed limit on 38 bigger roads. These so-called A and B roads are:

  • Putney: the east-west route Lower Richmond Road and Putney Bridge Road, and north-south route Putney High Street and Putney Hill.
  • Wandsworth/Southfields: The following routes running north-south – Merton and Buckhold Roads, and Garratt Lane.
  • Battersea: Lombard Road, Vicarage Crescent and Westbridge Road running east-west; and Albert Bridge Road and Falcon Road running north-south.
  • Queenstown: Queenstown Road.
  • Clapham Junction: St John’s Hill and Lavender Hill running east; Bolingbroke Grove and Northcote Road, both routes running southwards; and, running southwest-northeast, Spencer Park and Earlsfield Road.
  • Balham: The east-west axis: Burntwood Lane, Bellevue Road and Nightingale Lane, as well as St. James Drive.
  • Tooting: Mitcham Road, Mitcham Lane, and Rectory and Church Lane.

Transport for London’s Red routes will also stay 30mph

Wandsworth Council does not control the speed limit on these roads. They are the trunk roads running through the borough, including – the A3 from Roehampton Vale eastwards all the way to Clapham Common North Side; the other west-east route on Upper Richmond Road through Putney and Wandsworth town centres and along York Road and Battersea Park Road; Trinity Road running southwards; and the whole of Tooting High Street, Upper Tooting Road, Balham High Road and Balham Hill.

A transformation of our streets?

Despite these exceptions, this decision by Wandsworth residents, and endorsed by the Council, is potentially the harbinger of the biggest single change our streets will have seen in two generations. It will help transform them into public space that will be safer, quieter, and more attractive. It recognises that there is a diversity of people who make use of our streets – local shoppers on foot, commuters and pedestrians accessing public transport (buses and trains), cyclists, people wanting to use local markets, cafes, bars and so on, and even children playing on quiet residential streets. It also recognises that streets are not just to facilitate movement, but often have a place function. They are so often the places where we live and where we want to be shopping and enjoying local facilities.

Challenges ahead

Of course, just changing the speed limit is only a first step in this transformation. Compliance by motorists requires drivers to accept the logic of lower speeds in built up, heavily populated urban environments. In addition to this change in attitudes, enforcement will be necessary to cope with the minority of drivers who may seek to break the law and not obey the new 20mph speed limit.

Wandsworth Living Streets is urging the Council to make a real effort to raise public awareness of the benefits of the lower speed limit and the reasons why compliance will benefit everyone, including drivers.

What’s more, there is a strong case for some stretches of the Council’s A and B roads also to get a 20mph speed limit. Many local people live on these roads. Seventeen of Wandsworth’s approximately 86 schools are located on them (children at St Anne’s C of E, High View and St Mary’s Roman Catholic schools have been singled out as suffering from particularly bad air quality). And the A and B roads are also where most shops and eating and socialising facilities are concentrated. As a result, these roads have much higher numbers of pedestrians than purely residential streets. Little wonder that in recent years (2011-14) 45% of all casualties in road accidents occur on these A and B streets, including over half (53%) of those Killed or Seriously Injured in the borough. This is why some 36% of residents who responded to the Council’s consultation in February-May wanted a 20mph speed limit on some stretches, or the whole length, of these busy roads.

More will need to be done to make these bigger roads, as well as the Red Routes, safer, less polluted, and more attractive places whose facilities shoppers and others will want to patronise.

But let us be in no doubt. Our borough has made a significant step forward to the benefit of us all. We have joined the rest of Inner London (the solitary exceptions now being Westminster, and Kensington & Chelsea) in transforming our public realm into a city we can be proud of.

Robert Molteno, Wandsworth Living Streets