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Average speed in Wales’ 20mph zones ‘down 2.3mph’ – new analysis

23 Oct 2023 6 minute read
20mph signs in Newport. Photo via Newport

Martin Shipton

Average driving speeds in a sample of Welsh roads in Wales affected by the 20mph limit are now running at just 2.3mph less than they were before the scheme was introduced, according to analysts.

Agilysis, the independent transport data consultancy that undertook the original research, has revisited the data one month on from its first report.

The change has been highly controversial in Wales, with more than having signed a petition on the Senedd’s website calling for it to be scrapped.

Although the latest analysis only covers a smaller sample of roads, data from 10,000 vehicle movements shows there has been a slight bounce-back in vehicle speeds.

Data was collected automatically from new cars whose movements are monitored by manufacturers and shared with location technology firm TomTom.

On the roads analysed in the week after the change, speeds had dropped by 3.1mph. The new data shows this is now 2.3mph.

Speeds of the fastest drivers – the top 15% – dropped by 4.9mph after the first week but this has changed to only 3.8mph.

Complacency

Richard Owen, CEO of Agilysis and the report’s author said: “The evidence on this smaller sample of roads indicates there is no room for complacency. Although the majority of motorists are sticking to the limit, there will be concerns about the minority who haven’t adjusted their speed choices enough.

“Understanding which roads are seeing lower levels of compliance could be critical in targeting education and enforcement to achieve better compliance.

“To add some context, the industry usually considers the top 15% – referred to as the 85th percentile – as an indication of where to look at speed management, whether that’s engineering like speed bumps or gates or some kind of enforcement. However it seems no one can yet enforce the 20mph limits anywhere in the UK because the equipment needs to go through a type approval process and the government system is so backlogged and has been for about a decade, things are taking an age to make it all the way through.

“I was at a conference this week where understandably 20mph was raised a few times and they talked about an updated report which reviewed similar schemes in Scotland, Ireland and England and the effect it’s had on casualties. Their argument was that as well as saving lives it was also helping the NHS because fewer people need short- or long-term treatment.”

Enforced

In response to Mr Owen’s comment’ a spokesperson for GoSafe, the Welsh road casualty reduction partnership, said: “We have enforced in 20mph areas for over a decade, using mobile enforcement equipment.

“We are working closely with local highways authorities to ensure that our enforcement can continue to serve the communities in our current 20mph enforcement locations, where the speed limit remains unchanged, and signage is appropriate.

“There are also a number of fixed speed cameras that were installed in 30mph limits, where killed or serious injury collisions occurred, that now sit within 20mph limits.

“We will work with our Highway Authority partners to understand where there are still road safety concerns in these areas, and will commence enforcement using the fixed camera infrastructure, where there will be a road safety benefit in doing so.

Support

A report discussed at the conference from the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) states: “Lower speed limits in urban areas (typically 20 mph in place of 30 mph in the UK, and 30 km/h in place of 40 or 50 km/h in mainland Europe) have been introduced since the 1990s. These usually covered relatively small areas. Graz, Austria was the first to embrace a whole city. It was seen as a matter for local policy makers, often within constraints set by central government.

“This has now changed. There is now high-level support for widespread use of lower speed limits (20 mph / 30 km/h) in urban areas, to improve road safety and to support other policy objectives. Lower urban speed limits were endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 2020 and have been adopted in many countries and major cities, including for example Spain and Brussels. Many towns or cities have implemented 20 mph limits, usually in particular areas but sometimes citywide.

“Excessive or inappropriate speed is a major contributory factor to road casualties. Setting and enforcing speed limits is a well-established part of road safety policy. The increasing adoption of schemes like Vision Zero and Safe System has brought about a new approach to speed limit setting. In this context, a safe speed is one at which the road user can withstand a collision without suffering death or life-changing injury.

“This will depend on the safety performance of the vehicle, the infrastructure, the nature of the collision and other factors. 20 mph is now generally accepted as the safe speed for streets used by pedestrians and cyclists. At 20 mph a pedestrian is likely to survive an impact with a motor vehicle whereas at 30 mph the pedestrian is significantly more likely to be killed. Traffic speeds of around 20 mph are also more conducive to walking and cycling.

“The conclusions and direction of change are reasonably consistent. These show a downward movement in speeds and casualties where lower limits are introduced. It is the scale of the movement that is harder to assess.

“The magnitude of the results of individual studies varies, both within countries and between them. However, there is enough commonality to draw the following findings, based on the UK and six European case studies:

* 20 mph limits without physical measures result in modest speed reductions – typically 1-2 mph where before speeds are approximately 25 mph, and reductions of 3-5 mph where before speeds are approximately 30 mph.

* 20 mph limits without physical measures result in approximately 11% fewer casualties than before in the UK.

* For the European case studies, there were approximately 18% fewer casualties after 30 km/h limits were introduced but this figure was for all schemes, including some with physical measures. There were too few studies of sign only schemes to provide an average.

* Some 20 mph limits would have been accompanied by other measures, such as cycling infrastructure which might have contributed to any casualty reductions.

* Compliance with 20 mph limits without physical measures is poor.

* 20 mph limits with physical measures have substantially greater speed and casualty reduction effects than those without.


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Richard 1
Richard 1
6 months ago

Where can I buy a shopping bag emblazoned with 20 MPH? I want one to wave at passing lawbreakers

Average Pedestrian
Average Pedestrian
6 months ago

I walk to work and since 20mph has come into effect it is so much harder to cross the road, a slow convoy of tailgating traffic blocks me. There was never a problem before.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
6 months ago

Step out into the road, put your hand up, palm facing the oncoming traffic and cross. I often do that on Newport Road in Cardiff near where I live, and that’s 30mph. If the traffic is slow enough it should be easier to accommodate pedestrians crossing too.

Pilli
Pilli
6 months ago

I disagree, the minority are the ones adhering to the new speed limit, whilst the majority are still going at 30 or more.
I will also add though, that particularly in NPT the signs have not been clear, they are very confusing or indeed absent.
It is also very stressful when you are sticking to 20 mph but the person behind you isn’t, and they end up basically sitting on your lap. People know that it is impossible to enforce so they are not bothering 😔

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
6 months ago
Reply to  Pilli

Impossible at the moment, it will eventually be fully enforced, and I’m guessing it will be sooner rather than later now that it’s known to be a major issue in gaining compliance.

Kudos for sticking to the new rules!

lufcwls
lufcwls
6 months ago
Reply to  Pilli

I know it’s difficult because I get frustrated too, but we are supposed to slow down even more if people come up close behind you. I am trying to remember to do that more often and if everyone starts doing the same then hopefully it will get through to these ignorant idiots not to drive up people’s behinds.

S Parry
S Parry
6 months ago

I am a very calm driver and have never suffered road rage in 40 + years of driving, until now. Why? Not because of people complying with the 20 mph limits but because those same drivers are taking the opportunity to drive at 25 to 35 mph when reaching a 40 mph limit.
If a normally calm driver is getting so frustrated, how do those who are easily annoyed feel?
I think the accident rate will increase

Sarah Good
Sarah Good
6 months ago
Reply to  S Parry

I’m not getting rage from that.
Remember it’s a limit, not an objective.
We adapted to cope with the long slow snaking traffic lines caused by bicyclists cosplaying as slow-motion Geraint Thomases. We will adapt to this

NewYorker
NewYorker
6 months ago

Because it’s virtually impossible to drive for any distance at 20mph. Roads through villages with no pavements, going downhill, long straight stretches of road with no traffic. Was this ever thought put properly ?

Ap Kenneth
6 months ago
Reply to  NewYorker

It is quite easy and possible but if you are finding it difficult you could always take further lessons to upskill.

lufcwls
lufcwls
6 months ago
Reply to  NewYorker

Hahahaha how is it impossible? Does your car start at 30mph? Does it keep moving around the block all night because it can’t go under 30?

Robert morgan
Robert morgan
6 months ago

Your average speedo reads 10% higher, so 20mph is 18mph

Ap Kenneth
6 months ago
Reply to  Robert morgan

Spot on and easy to check with Sat Nav on phone.

Gareth
Gareth
6 months ago

Let’s all ignore the fact that this has been going on in Europe since the 1990’s, and in endorsed by the UN general council, and moan for the sake of it, just like a “mini me ” ART Davies.

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
6 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

It is possible that all these frustrated motorists have moved to Aberystwyth. Our local main road that has several schools used to have speed limit signs. They have now all been removed and the road is like a race track. If we are going to do urban traffic calming we really do need plenty of repeater signs. With the Tory austerity still decimating Welsh Government funding we are unlikely to get enforcement any time soon.

lufcwls
lufcwls
6 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

It’s also been going on here! A BBC Wales interview with a load of Cardiff residents moaning about the 20mph was hilarious as they were in Roath and around Wellfield Road, which has been 20mph since 2014 or so!

Dan
Dan
6 months ago
Reply to  lufcwls

So people from roath only drive on the 20mph roads there then do they? They can magically just keep going around in circles there and not go anywhere else?

Think about what you’re saying before you say it, moron.

Jones Arfon
Jones Arfon
6 months ago

The intention was to reduce average speeds from 33/35mph to around 27mph.

DodgyRog
DodgyRog
6 months ago
Reply to  Jones Arfon

That argument is the old excuse for 20yrs of Labour mismanagement in the Senydd. 33 millions wasted on this recent debacle.

Simondc1711
Simondc1711
6 months ago

This policy is nothing more than an ill thought through and conceived vanity policy Those who have forced this policy through are living in denial. Their evidence as this article reports is spurious at best. The company employed to report these findings are known as an anti- car outfit. The WG will have to live with the fact that there will not be a direct positive effect on fatalities and the economy will be negatively effected by between £3.4 billion to £9billion WHY would any politician of any party think that this policy would improve the lives of us the… Read more »

Paul
Paul
6 months ago
Reply to  Simondc1711

Has anyone thought about how this effects the income of delivery drivers? And how hot the food is for the customer?

TeeCee
TeeCee
6 months ago

It’s another gov control farce..for myself Living and commuting in the valleys, having to drive a 1.2cc up the steep hills at 20mph is just not happening is it…god help the engine should I ever have the car full of people and I’ve not much choice to break the 20 speed on the uphills like crumlin road etc..guess next bet is speed cam vans be parked up top of hill road next, keep the car revenues fill their pockets…

Max Wallis
Max Wallis
6 months ago

For Councils like the Vale of Glamorgan, blind to cyclists, this means building Traffic islands to facilitate all right turns on ‘exception’ roads – and slowing down motorists to boot.

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