Photo Gallery - 30 mph Limits

The Highway Code states that, unless signs indicate otherwise, a 30 mph speed limit applies in built-up areas. However, "built-up area" is defined not by the presence of houses, but by the presence of street lights. This is being exploited by local authorities whp are increasingly cutting the speed limit on lit rural roads adjoining built-up areas to 30 mph, by the simple expedient of removing the previous 40 mph or NSL repeater signs. This can be extremely confusing to drivers, who do not expect to encounter 30 limits on rural roads. It is not reasonable that drivers should have to count street lights to work out what the speed limit is. On non built-up roads with 30 limits, repeater signs should be mandatory.

Here's a pleasant rural scene near Runcorn in Cheshire. Open fields, woods, horses grazing, no pavements and the only building a pretty estate lodge. Yet those street lights, without any repeaters, mean that the speed limit is 30 mph. This picture clearly illustrates the problem.

Another view further along the same road. This is NOT a built-up area, and the average driver would not realise that a 30 limit still applied.

However, in this example, between Charlesworth and Broadbottom in the Peak District, the highway authority (Derbyshire CC) have addressed the problem by painting 30 mph roundels on the road, although giving the non built-up section a 40 mph limit would be preferable and more appropriate.

Amazingly, this entirely rural road near East Bergholt, Suffolk, has a 30 mph speed limit, although it's far from obvious. This is an example of Suffolk County Council's misguided policy of extending 30 limits well outside village boundaries, which has the effect of devaluing such limits where they are appropriate.

Here's a 30 limit on a rural lane in Woodford, Cheshire (at the southern extremity of the Stockport MBC area) with only a scattering of housing, although on the fringes of an urban area. The council have no doubt succumbed to strong political pressure from well-heeled local residents, but this will make zero difference to real-world speeds on this road.

But at least they have provided a 30 repeater sign, despite the presence of street lights. Too many councils impose 30 limits on country lanes and assume drivers will know the limit is 30 from the presence of street lights, which in daylight are by no means obvious.

This is how it should be done - a clearly marked 30 mph gateway at the entrance to the village of Mellor, at the edge of the Peak District, where the limit boundary actually coincides with the start of the built-up area. Putting the name of the village on the speed limit signs can be useful in giving drivers an additional reason to slow down. "Watch Your Speed" may be a little superfluous, but there are locations in this long, straggling village where 20 is too fast. And yes, the speed limit where the photographer is standing is NSL.

Although 30 mph repeaters are offically discouraged, they are permitted in conjunction with speed camera signs, as in this example on the A6 in Stockport, and are becoming increasingly common. In this case there actually is a camera within half a mile of the sign.

A rather faded 30 mph repeater in the village of Pleasington, near Blackburn, which also has streetlights. It would appear in this case that the 30 limit was introduced before the lights were installed, and therefore at the time needed repeaters which were never removed. (Photo courtesy of LMARS).

(Last updated April 2005)

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