20mph speed limit in Wales will ‘become the norm like carrier bag charges’ says minister after vote passes
20mph speed limits in residential areas in Wales will become the norm like carrier bag charges and organ donation, a minister has said after the vote passed.
Wales becomes the first UK nation to make the move that the Welsh Government say will help to save lives, develop safer communities, improve the quality of life and encourage more people to ride a bike or use public transport.
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said that the move showed that Labour were “slowing Wales down”.
“Local people know their roads best. They should have a say on speed limits,” he said.
But Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said that she was “delighted” that the vote passed with the help of Plaid Cymru.
“We know this move won’t be easy – it’s as much about changing hearts and minds as it is about enforcement – but over time 20mph will become the norm, just like the restrictions we’ve introduced before on carrier bag charges and organ donation,” she said.
“The evidence is clear, decreasing speeds not only reduces accidents and saves lives, but helps improve people’s quality of life – making our streets and communities a safer and more welcoming place for cyclists and pedestrians, whilst helping reduce our environmental impact.
“Once again Wales is leading the way for other UK nations to follow.”
The new slower speed limits are currently being trialled in eight communities across Wales and will be rolled out nationally in September 2023.
The new legislation will not apply a blanket speed limit on all roads, it will simply make the default limit 20mph, leaving local authorities to engage with the local community to decide which roads should remain at 30mph.
Currently, just 2.5% of Welsh roads have a speed limit of 20mph, but from next year this is expected to increase to approximately 35%, helping to create safer roads and communities across Wales.
Last week travel campaigners urged the Senedd to back the plans, highlighting research which shows that pedestrians are 40 per cent less likely to die when hit by a car travelling at 20mph compared with one travelling at 30mph.
A survey conducted by the Welsh Government last November also found that 80 per cent of participants supported the plans, in particular parents or those with children in the household.
Backing the new speed limit, Stephen Edwards, Chief Executive of the campaign group Living Streets, described the plans as “life-changing legislation”.
“When the speed limit is reduced from 30mph to 20mph there is typically an average decline in casualties of at least 20%,” he said.
“There are also benefits in terms of reduced noise and safer and more cohesive communities that are more pleasant to live in. People are also likely to be encouraged to walk or cycle more, which is good for their health and pollution levels.
“It’s simple: slower speeds save lives – and I urge Members of the Senedd to support the 20mph in the vote.”
Earlier however the Welsh Conservatives had described the plans as as “frankly ludicrous”.
“The Welsh Conservatives are not against introducing 20mph speed limits outside schools, playgrounds, places of worship and high streets, but a blanket roll-out is quite frankly ludicrous,” Shadow Minister for Transport, Natasha Ashgar MS, said.
“It’s extraordinary that that the Labour Government has admitted this will have a negative cost of £4.54bn to the Welsh economy – is this appropriate at a time when the Labour Government should be focused on tackling the big issues at hand such as the cost-of-living? I don’t think it is, and I am sure residents across the country will be thinking the exact same.
“This is yet another diktat imposed by Labour from Cardiff Bay.
“Speed limits like this should be decided by councils in their local areas, not top-down by Labour ministers.
“Let’s give local people the power over their communities, the very people who know their roads best.”
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