Tweeting about twenty: An analysis of interest, public sentiments and opinion about 20mph speed restrictions in two UK cities

Tushar Semwal, Karen Milton*, Ruth Jepson, Michael P. Kelly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: Twenty miles per hour (20mph) speed limits (equivalent to roughly 30kmh) have become part of public health policies to reduce urban road collisions and casualties, especially in Western countries. Public opinion plays a crucial role in opposition to and acceptance of policies that are advocated for improving public health. Twenty miles per hour speed limit policies were implemented in Edinburgh and Belfast from 2016 to 2018. In this paper, we extract public opinion and sentiments expressed about the new 20mph speed limits in those cities using publicly available Twitter data. 

Methods: We analysed public sentiments from Twitter data and classified the public comments in plain English into the categories ‘positive’, ‘neutral’, and ‘negative’. We also explored the frequency and sources of the tweets. 

Results: The total volume of tweets was higher for Edinburgh than for Belfast, but the volume of tweets followed a similar pattern, peaking around 2016, which is when the schemes were implemented. Overall, the tone of the tweets was positive or neutral towards the implementation of the speed limit policies. This finding was surprising as there is a perception among policymakers that there would have been public backlash against these sorts of policy changes. The commonly used hashtags focused largely on road safety and other potential benefits, for example to air pollution. 

Conclusions: Overall, public attitudes towards the policies were positive, thus policymakers should be less anxious about potential public backlash when considering the scale-up of 20mph speed restrictions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2016
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • intervention
  • policy
  • public health
  • sentiment analysis
  • social media
  • speed restrictions
  • Twitter mining


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