NOT all disabilities are clearly visible. Drivers can’t always tell if someone at a roadside has mental health problems, sight or hearing issues, or limited physical abilities.

So would 20mph limits help to make our roads safer for people with unseen disabilities?

Not-for-profit organisation 20’s Plenty for Us is aiming for more “live-able street environments” by setting a mandatory 20mph limit for most roads.

The organisation, which is supported by motorists, cyclists pedestrians and horse riders, says a 20mph limit is safest wherever people mix with road traffic.

Rod King, campaign director of 20’s Plenty for Us, said: “The Equalities Act enshrines in law that we must not discriminate against the vulnerable. On roads it is best to assume that everyone is disabled, as drivers can’t work out who is and who isn’t at distance.

“If elected representatives are taking duty of care seriously, then wide area 20mph limits are essential in built-up areas. Fast traffic is scary. Speed becomes greed when it stops the vulnerable from being able to get around.”

Mr King added: “At first sight we can’t tell if someone has a mental health problem - such as anxiety, dementia, stress or sleep disorder. Yet sufferers of these conditions are vulnerable and often fearful.

“Those who are partially sighted, hearing impaired, people who have a prosthetic leg, cancer, the elderly or pregnant have characteristics which are not obvious at a distance from a driver’s seat behind a windscreen. These affect judgements and reaction times and can lead to crossing roads slowly.

“You are disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on normal daily activities.

“Most of us are imperfect - either due to health or tiredness. We make mistakes. Children are impulsive and don’t have the visual or physical mastery to cope with crossings with traffic over 20mph until 12 years old. Vision scientists show mistakes in children’s judging of approach speeds.

“If drivers don’t allow for mistakes, casualties will result. Many road accidents could be prevented if drivers went slower to give everyone time to react and avoid hazards.

“Road users, traffic planners, vehicle designers and elected representatives making transport decisions must all assume that everyone is vulnerable.”

The organisation says that if responsibility is shared among motorists and pedestrians, the onus would be on creating a safe system where errors that are fatal or life-changing are less likely to take place.

“Health and safety regulations apply to this fail-safe concept widely,” said Mr King. “On roads it is known as Vision Zero or ‘safe systems’, a policy adopted by Transport for London, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Brighton, Birmingham and Blackpool.

“Wide 20mph limits mean people are the top feature of a forgiving road environment - one which fully upholds the Equalities Act 2010 and Local Authority’s Duty of Care to public health. Civilised speeds especially reduce risk to the vulnerable, disabled or those with protected characteristics. Vulnerable road users are non-motorised road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists as well as motorcyclists and people with disabilities or reduced mobility and orientation.

Department for Transport national guidance says: ‘Fear of traffic affects…quality of life… needs of vulnerable road users must be fully taken into account in order to further encourage these modes of travel and improve their safety’.”

Emmerson Walgrove, chair of Bradford & District Disabled People’s Forum, said: “We at the BDPF support the idea of a 20mph speed limit in Bradford city centre, although it would be much better and safer for the city centre to be made a managed pedestrianised area with some access for public transport.

“This would enable disabled people to move around without the danger of vehicles other than public transport, which could be managed by ensuring that buses enter the city centre only via Market Street and Bridge Street and leave via Bridge Street and Sunbridge Road.

“All other vehicles could and should use the ring road, meaning that not only would there be an improved transport system, but everyone, including disabled people, would be able to enter the city centre safety without fear of the possibility of injury.”

Adele Hodges, a gardener based in Shipley, says 20mph limits would have a detrimental effect on people who drive for a living.

“I spend a lot of my working life driving my van on mostly local and residential roads. I am a responsible driver and always adhere to speed limits,” she said. “I appreciate that not all disabilities or mental health conditions can be visible for drivers, but surely any responsible driver should be observant towards all pedestrians.

“Yes, there should probably be more 20mph limits in some areas, such as where there are schools and sheltered housing complexes, and maybe in city centres which I think should be more pedestrianised. But not on “most roads”, as this organisation is calling for. That just isn’t practical.

“If I could only drive at 20mph on the kind of roads I use for my job, I wouldn’t be able to make a living.”

l For more about the 20mph campaign go to