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Anna Semlyen is a former city councillor and the author of Cutting Your Car Use. In this post, she summarises how to overcome the political block in the way of effective traffic reduction.

Semlyen has campaigned for 20mph speed limits across York

Traffic reduction’s like dieting – drive less and exercise more.

Simple… Or is it?

No, it’s harder, as travel structures and norms don’t fully support greener choices. Yet climate issues are pressing and we’re afraid of injuries and dirty air.

Individuals cannot fix the traffic ‘estate’ we’re in.  Solutions can’t be engineered either – there isn’t the engineers or time!  Wide-reaching, population level public health changes are needed now.  We know what to do. The block is political! Politicians must tax motoring, prioritise road safety and ecological travel.

Let’s look at this in the context of carrots and sticks.

Default 20mph limits (trip time is not much affected)
Reallocate space to green modes
Full/partial road blocks and partial bridge closures
Fuel duty escalator
Congestion charging/tolls
Low emission zones
Low traffic neighbourhoods
Workplace parking levy
Fierce parking restrictions
Pay per mile driving
Huge offence fines
Strict liability (heaviest vehicle is to blame)
Educate on driving’s cons and end road building!

Carrots (ideally free/subsidised):
Renationalise public transport and cycle/hire
Cycle training
Personal alarms
Traffic free infrastructure
Home zones
Pool cars and car clubs
Lift share and hitch promotion
Cross tickets
Travel plan perks
Green travel allowances
Job adverts praising eco-transport and park & ride
Home working/video conferencing
Home delivery
Education on the pros of non car modes and carrying equipment like trailers, shopping trolleys
Parklets and benches etc. for a better public realm
And… Wider pavements, more crossings, longer light phases, and street lighting. 

Enforced 20mph limits work ideally with a Vision Zero policy (no deaths or serious injuries). Key to this are strong enforcement on speeders and drunk, high or tired drivers, and those who engage in phone texting, cat calling, and street assault. Free dash cams help. 

When speed drops, even a bit, risks hugely reduce – 1mph less in towns is 6% fewer injured. If hit at 30mph, half of 60+ year olds die.  In-car speed limiters should become law for new cars in 2022.

What can you do?
Go green, learn to cut your car use
If driving, drive slower
Set the pace behind
Ask your Police Commissioner to enforce
Speed watch and report speeders, ideally with videos
Register to vote
Use your voice – ask for change
Vote for politicians who promise sticks and carrots for green transport change
Join 20’s Plenty for Us and campaign for 20mph. 

To find out more, visit ,, or tweet Anna at @AnnaSemlyen1.


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