I’ve been learning about Behavioural Economics recently and one area – defaults – really caught my attention. People tend towards the default option in many choices because it’s easier not to act than it is to act.
Take the beautiful example of whether to donate your organs after you die. In countries such as the UK where the default option is not to donate, fewer than 20% act in order to opt in to the scheme. In countries such as the Netherlands where the default option is to donate, over 90% donate. (In other words, fewer than 10% act in order to opt out of the scheme.)
The same reasoning might apply for 20 mph limits in residential areas. If you expect the residents of a street to make a fuss only if they are desperately in favour of them, I suspect most people will stay quiet. And if residents will have to form a neighbourhood coalition to fight not to have a 20 mph limit on their street, I suspect the majority of people will again stay quiet.
UPDATE: Residential streets and shopping areas in Oxford will go down to 20mph from July. A public consultation found 69% of residents in favour. With 19% of commuters cycling and loads of tourists on foot, it’s easy to see how this will make the streets safer.