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Default 20mph speed limit for residential roads comes into force in Wales

17 Sep 2023 4 minute read
“20mph Zone” by EdinburghGreens is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Wales has become the first country in the UK to roll out a default 20mph speed limit for residential roads.

The scheme begins on Sunday and most roads in Wales that are currently 30mph have become 20mph although councils have discretion to impose exemptions.

The Welsh Government has said that cutting the limit from 30mph to 20mph will protect lives and save the NHS in Wales £92 million a year.

The RAC warned drivers not to rely on satnavs for the correct speed limit and instead follow the road signs.

But any motorist caught driving over 20mph but under 30mph will initially receive advice from the police rather than face a ticket, a minister said.

Lee Waters, deputy minister for climate change, told the PA news agency: “Very much the intention initially is to educate and to speak to people and not to fine but over 30mph we will be fining and issuing points.”

The minister said he expected it would take around a month for motorists to get used to the changes but said trials of the 20mph limits had shown a typical delay of between one to two minutes for an average journey.

“Most delay doesn’t occur because of speed, it could be because of delays at junctions and traffic lights,” he said.

“We’ve all been overtaken by an idiot only to find them one space in front of us at the lights.

“A business model that assumes on somebody driving a way that is dangerous is not a very good business model.”

Councils have the power to change the default speed limit of any road locally but Mr Waters said some local authorities were rigidly sticking to the Welsh Government guidelines.

“The risk appetite of local authorities varies considerably,” he said.

“For example, the Vale of Glamorgan and Rhonda Cynon Taff have put in quite a few exceptions and exempted through roads.

“Other councils have not, and they are terrified to move away from the letter of the guidance.

“But I think confidence will grow and experience will influence that, and I think give it a year or two and it will settle down.”

Controversial

The project is costing around £33 million to implement and has proved controversial, with reports of the new 20mph signs being defaced in areas including Conwy, Gwynedd, Newport, Torfaen, Wrexham and Flintshire.

The Welsh Conservatives have opposed the scheme and tabled a motion in the Senedd to halt the rollout but were defeated.

They cited Welsh Government documents that estimate the cost to the Welsh economy of increased journey times from lower average vehicle speeds at anywhere between £2.7 billion and £8.9 billion.

They want to see more “targeted measures” rather than the introduction of the default speed limit with exemptions, and likened it to the ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) in London.

Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd, said: “Whilst I agree that 20mph is sensible outside heavily pedestrianised areas, such as schools, hospitals and care homes, the Labour Government’s blanket 20mph speed limit rollout across Wales is simply ludicrous.”

Natasha Asghar, the Welsh Conservative shadow transport minister, added: “Labour and Plaid Cymru have refused to listen to public opinion and are continuing to wage their anti-worker, anti-road and anti-motorist agenda.”

But organisations including Brake, Cardiff Cycling Campaign, We Are Cycling UK Cymru, Friends Of The Earth Cymru, Sustrans and Living Streets Cymru have signed a joint letter organised by the 20’s Plenty For Us campaign backing the rollout.

“It’s not just a road safety benefit. It also supports broader health, climate and societal goals such as helping the vulnerable to get about, improving social connection, reducing air and noise pollution, and more,” they said.


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 months ago

So Lee Waters is going to ‘educate’ us is he…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Ask the good people of Llanbedr how they view 2nd Gear Lee’s attitude to pedestrian safety…

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
6 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

The old combustion engines are the problem they need frequent gear changes. When petrol and diesels vehicles disappear from our roads everyone will see the benefit of electric vehicles. Since most car journeys are under 5 km, then it will be better and safer to travel at the lower speed without energy inefficiency. For long distances, we need new North to South rail links. The UK already closed the Cardiff-Welshpool-Wexham rail link based on steam train economy. We need to build a Carmarthen-Aberystwyth-Bangor mainline rail link. Go electric – fast electric railways ! Don’t stay with the old lack of… Read more »

CapM
CapM
6 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

“Ask the good people of Llanbedr how they view 2nd Gear Lee’s attitude to pedestrian safety…”

When you asked them what did they say?

Bill
Bill
6 months ago

As someone who has lived all his adult life with a “life changing” disability as a consequence of being hit by a car as an eight year old, I totally agree with the change.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 months ago
Reply to  Bill

Been there, got the metalwork…first thing the orthopaedic ward said to me was “sh*t happens stop moaning”…mine was life changing too…it is the messenger not the message…

Jeff
Jeff
6 months ago

Travelled my first one today. Cannot say I was tailgated, everyone seemed to be following the rule, my cruise control worked at 20. The world did not implode, I did not age before the end and I expect the sun to come up tomorrow and no demons appeared with red hot pokers.

defaid
defaid
6 months ago

That 20 is safer than 30 is indisputable. It’s particularly the case in residential areas where the driver’s available reaction time is so much shorter: think of a kid running out from behind a parked car. Even us old folk tend to bounce at 20 whereas breaking is more likely at 30. There are to me only two objectionable aspects. The majority of the population didn’t want this implemented, which has the government ignoring the public. Governing, if you will, rather than serving. And my car does not do 20 in top gear. I’ll have to drop from 5th to… Read more »

Ap Kenneth
6 months ago

Well the sky did not fall. Most were following the limit the only one not was a gammon on a bycycle overtaking traffic towards oncoming cars in Llanrhaeadtr near Ruthun. One motorbike in same village having words with a Police Motorcyclist but most behaving impeccably.
The World continues.

NOT Grayham Jones
NOT Grayham Jones
6 months ago

As a unionist i love this new 20 mph law as it demonstrates why we cannot go for independence and let the lunatics run the asylum as demonstrated by The Senedd over the past few years. Carry on boys

Rob
Rob
6 months ago

Err no, thats an argument to vote out the Labour government, and not an argument against independence. As far as I know Starmer is considering a similar for England, what would you do then?

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