Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Vicious or virtuous circles? Exploring the vulnerability of drivers to break low urban speed limits

Tapp, Alan; Nancarrow, Clive; Davis, Adrian; Jones, Simon


Profile Image

Adrian Davis
SRF Behaviour Chge and Transitional Res

Simon Jones
Senior Lecturer in Marketing


© 2016 Elsevier Ltd Levels of support for 20mph limits in Great Britain are consistently high. However, these positive attitudes are not translating into similarly positive behaviour changes in terms of complying with these new speed limits. Recent research from the authors studied the complex relationship between support and compliance, with qualitative findings suggesting that copycat driving could create a ‘vicious circle effect’ that leads to increased levels of non-compliance. However it is also possible that an alternative ‘virtuous circle’ effect may emerge from the high levels of societal support for 20mph limits pressurising drivers to comply with speed limits. In this work the authors investigated these issues and we report on data and analysis of a large scale survey of drivers and residents undertaken in Great Britain. We explain the origins of vicious and virtuous circles in driver behaviour and study the data from the survey, offering an analysis of attitudes and claimed behaviours that has implications for policy-makers and professionals working with low urban speed limits. We discuss the issues for speed limit enforcement, making reference to the public relations ‘battle’ for public opinion. It is concluded that normative compliance, triggered by community and other campaigning, may be the most realistic mechanism for countering the difficulties of government funding in promoting compliance.


Tapp, A., Nancarrow, C., Davis, A., & Jones, S. (2016). Vicious or virtuous circles? Exploring the vulnerability of drivers to break low urban speed limits. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 91,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 14, 2016
Online Publication Date Jul 11, 2016
Publication Date 2016-09
Journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice
Print ISSN 0965-8564
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 91
Keywords drivers, speed limits, urban areas
Public URL
Publisher URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations