Wales lowers speed limit

Wales has recently passed a law to lower the speed limit from 30mph to 20mph on residential roads and busy pedestrian streets. The new speed limit is now in force, making Wales the first UK nation to adopt this policy and the Welsh government claims that the 20mph speed limit will save lives, reduce collisions, improve the environment, and create safer communities.

Is everyone happy with this change though? Going from 30mph to 20mph as the maximum speed has caused some drivers have complained of more congestion, longer car journeys, and less tourism, according to Express.

speed limits in Wales lowered to 20mph speed limit in built up areas

Why has the government made this blanket change?

The reason why the government has decided to make this change and reduce the speed limit is because according to the government, the 20mph national speed limit will reduce road collisions, road deaths, noise pollution and pollution while encouraging more people to walk or cycle. The government also claims that the 20mph limit will save lives, improve the environment and air quality, and create safer communities.

The government has based its decision on evidence from around the world and from pilot schemes in Wales that showed positive impacts of lowering the speed limit. The government has also consulted with local authorities and the public to determine which roads should remain at 30mph. The change is not a ‘blanket’ change’, as some roads will still have a 30mph limit depending on the local circumstances. The government has published a map on DataMapWales that shows which roads will stay at 30mph.

Would any restricted roads not be 20mph?

There are some restricted roads in Wales that will not be 20mph, but will remain at 30mph. These are known as exceptions, and they are decided by the local highway authorities based on the Welsh government’s guidance and criteria, according to the government.

The exceptions are roads that have a low risk of collisions, a high level of segregation between vehicles and pedestrians or cyclists, and a strategic function for traffic flow. The highway authorities have consulted with their police forces and local communities and published a map on DataMapWales that shows which roads will stay at 30mph, as above, which is great. The map also shows the roads that are currently 20mph by order or by legislation, and the roads that are 30mph by order. The map is updated regularly as the highway authorities finalize their decisions and make traffic regulation orders to change the speed limit on some roads, according to DataMapWales.

built up areas speed limit - default speed limit of 20mph set by Welsh government

This is just a money-making scheme for Welsh Government, isn’t it?

According to the Welsh government, the new 20mph limit in Wales is not a money-making scheme, but a road safety scheme. The government claims that the lower speed limit will reduce road collisions among road users as well as improve health and wellbeing, and encourage more people to walk or cycle.

The government also says that the cost of introducing the 20mph limit, which is £32 million, is outweighed by the casualty prevention savings, which could be up to £92 million every year. However, some critics of the new limit have accused it of being a money-making scheme for the government and the police, who will be enforcing the 20mph limit like any other speed limit, with speeding fines, according to the BBC. They argue that the new speed limits, the lower speed limit, will cause more congestion, longer journeys, and less tourism, and that it will have little impact on reducing speeds or improving safety. They also question the validity of the government’s impact assessment, which estimated a cost to the economy of £4.5 billion over 30 years due to slightly longer travel times.

Is there a Welsh 20mph petition against the changes?

There is a petition against the new 20mph default speed limit in Wales which has received a record-breading number of signatures, over 244,000, according to the BBC. The petition entitled “We want the Welsh Government to rescind and remove the disastrous 20mph law”, and was started by a group called Save Our Streets Wales on the Senedd’s website. The petition argues that the new 20mph limit, which came into force on 17 September 2023, is a nightmare for drivers, a waste of taxpayers’ money, and a threat to the economy and tourism.

The Senedd Petitions Committee will now consider it for debate as it is well over the 10,000 signature threshold. The Welsh Conservatives have also opposed the new 20mph limit and called it a “disastrous scheme” that should be scrapped. However, the debate will not take place until the spring next year, as the petition will remain open for six months until March 2024, according to ITV.

The First Minister Mark Drakeford has rejected these calls and defended the new limit as a life-saving measure that will make Wales’ streets safer for all. He has also accused the Welsh Conservatives of spreading misinformation and not telling the truth about the policy.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you agree or disagree with the new 20mph limit in Wales or should we all stick to the Highway Code? If it means road traffic collisions will be reduced, surely that’s a good thing, right?

Welsh Government instructs road users to 20mph speed limit in built up areas

How do slower speeds increase safety?

Lower speed limits mean increased levels of safety. Slower speeds increase safety by reducing the risk and severity of collisions, improving the visibility and reaction time of drivers, and creating more comfortable and livable environments for pedestrians and cyclists.

According to a report by the World Resources Institute (WRI), every 1.6 kilometer-per-hour (1 mph) reduction in vehicle speeds on urban streets results in a 6 percent decrease in traffic fatalities. This is because driving at very high speeds can result in tunnel vision and decreased depth perception for the driver, while driving at lower speeds enables drivers to have a wider field of vision and notice other road-users, according to WRI.

Slower speeds mean drivers can stop within a shorter distance, and also making the streets more attractive and accessible for walking, cycling and public transport too. The WRI estimated that lower speed limits can generate up to $239 billion in social, economic, and environmental benefits over 20 years for 1,400 cities worldwide.

Why can’t the 20mph limit be only used around schools?

The Welsh government has acknowledged that the new lower limit of 20mph won’t be appropriate everywhere and local authorities can make exceptions, though not outside schools. The exceptions are roads that have a low risk of collisions, a high level of segregation between motor vehicles and pedestrians or cyclists, and a strategic function for traffic flow.

Therefore, the 20mph limit is not only used around schools in Wales but also in other areas where it can enhance road safety and quality of life for all road users and residents. The Welsh government believes that this policy will make Wales’ streets safer for all.

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