Two people walking

As part of its recently-released Air Quality Plan, the government is proposing getting rid of speed humps to reduce overall emissions.

We don't think that's going to work at all - but why? Our Media Coordinator, Kathryn Shaw, wants to set the record straight.

Read our campaign updates

Kathryn Shaw
Walking

© Copyright Jaggery and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Just after 6am this morning, I was in bed roleplaying as John Humphrys.

Rather than that being a dark insight into my private life, I was just answering a call from my colleague who wanted to practise her lines for Radio 4’s Today programme. (Listen back to that from around the 35 minute mark.)

Today is Wednesday, the middle of the week, aka hump day. And funnily enough we’ve been talking about speed humps (and bumps - much to my colleagues’ dismay, I only learnt that there is a difference this morning) a lot, with Today just the start of a series of interviews on BBC Breakfast, BBC Wales, BBC 5 Live, ITV and London Live.

Why? The Government's Air Quality Plan for Nitrogen Dioxide came out on 26 July, and it includes proposals to remove speed humps to reduce air pollution. And as the leading charity for everyday walking, the media wanted to know what we think.

Speed humps - True or False?

Hump sign

"Speed bumps cause air pollution"

False

Air pollution hotspots arise from high volumes of traffic on major routes, not traffic-calmed neighbourhoods.

The evidence that removing speed bumps will reduce air pollution is very weak. In fact, guidelines from NICE – the National Institute For Health and Clinical Excellence – released in June this year says the evidence does not back up removing speed bumps to lower air pollution.  

Removing speed bumps would at best do little or nothing to improve air quality.

At worst it would endanger lives.

"Removing speed bumps is the best way to reduce air pollution"

False

It is a complete red herring / a drop in the ocean / the tip of the iceberg – choose your own. 

While drawing up their plans to tackle lethal air pollution, Ministers received evidence that road user charging would be the most effective way to meet their legal duties.

Yet it seems they would rather councils removed speed humps instead.

Far from cutting the 40,000 deaths annually due to pollution, this would merely increase road danger for everyone using our streets.

Rather than seeking the approval of the motor lobby and not wanting to look anti-car, the government should instead be looking at the most effective measures to reduce air pollution such as Clean Air Zones and encouraging and enabling walking and cycling.

"Slower speeds save lives"

True

If a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle at 20mph they have a 97% chance of survival. This reduces as speeds rise. Speed is the main cause of premature deaths and injuries in road casualties with older people and children being most vulnerable.  

20mph zones result in a 40% reduction in casualties and 50% for children, and according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents speed humps are the most effective way to enforce 20mph speed limits.

Hump updates

Since Kath's blog post was published on 1 August, we combined efforts with Campaign for Better Transport and other allies to remind the government of the importance of addressing road safety - and we just received a very promising reply from the Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

In a letter to CBT's executive director, Stephen Joseph, Mr Gove writes:

"Any measures to improve air quality must not be at the expense of road safety. We recognise that road humps are one of the most effective means of reducing traffic speed, which can in turn reduce the number and severity of road accidents."

We welcome Mr Gove's reply - a win for people walking of all generations.

Meanwhile, in Wales...

In a consultation on air quality in Wales, the Senedd has proposed that local authorities should consider removing speed bumps to improve traffic flow. We strongly oppose this, and want your help to make this known.

We fought this fight and won in the UK last year, so we know that if enough of us speak out we can protect speed bumps in Wales.

The consultation closes on Tuesday, 19 June, so be sure to get your response in quickly.

Respond to the consultation

Download Living Streets' response to Wales Clean Air Zone Framework consultation - PDF

So what do we need?

Fewer motor vehicles

Motor vehicles are the biggest cause of air pollution. The focus should be on reducing our reliance on cars and making it possible for more people to switch short journeys to walking or cycling.

Cleaner public transport

Retrofit buses and taxis with cleaner engines

Clean Air Zones

Introduce clean air zones with charges in the danger zones like the London T charge.

What is Living Streets doing about it?

Looking further down the line, we have worked with Sadiq Khan in London and will be working with metro Mayors, including Andy Street in Birmingham and Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester to make sure they’re introducing a clean air zones that discourage unnecessary car trips, investing in walking, cycling and public transport and creating Walking Cities.

Walking Cities