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Opinion

The 20-mph limit has been much ado about nothing – it is time to move on

11 Nov 2023 4 minute read
Andrew RT Davies. Stefan Rousseau PA Wire; 20mph sign. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Chris Carter

Reader, I am tired. So very tired.

I cannot leave my house to go to the barbers, the pub, the cinema or even community fireworks displays without fellow citizens bringing up the dastardly attempt of Mark Drakeford to infringe our liberties by lowering the default speed limit from 30-mph to 20-mph.

The real oppression now, more than one month after its introduction, is the constant fear we currently live under. That is that we spend but one more month, week, or day, being forced to hear and speak about the 20-mph limit.

The obsession has got out of hand.

Just last week I found myself carefully crafting 1,000 words of copy across several days and evenings “constructively criticising” elements of its introduction. Yes, some roads should have never ever made the switch. In turn however, I could have written about economic growth, interest rates, Israel-Palestine, or how politicians could support the thousands of workers at Port-Talbot steelworks on the verge of losing their livelihoods.

Yes, there is an irony to creating this piece of writing discussing the 20-mph limit instead of the “real” issues but despite this paradox, it is undoubtedly time to turn down the temperature over the issue. To say what really needs to said after weeks of dogmatic exchanges online, in the media and our own Parliament.

Wales has some serious challenges facing it, and to tackle them, we have to move on.

Our country feels like it is trapped in a social media wind tunnel. The political oxygen used up at the expense of other priorities.

Under this persistent cloud of conversation, one might think that the 20-mph introduction has been so tremendously unpopular, Welsh Government support would surely collapse in the face of such negative press. The governing Labour Party in Wales has never been more popular.

Westminster Voting Intention, Redfield and Wilton Poll 14th-15th October

Andrew RT Davies who, for the record, once supported the introduction of the 20-mph limit, has made more political hay out of this one issue than any since his election as Welsh Conservative leader.

His party sits in the doldrums of public support because of last year’s car crash government under Liz Truss, and this year’s blandest Kings Speech in living memory under Rishi Sunak. There is a certain duplicity to supporting 20-mph and then reversing, as if no one would notice.

Having just one issue to cling onto to prevent your party’s support from cratering is not conducive to a positive national discussion. Political woes for the Conservatives have created the toxic atmosphere in the Senedd and the country.

The policy itself is unpopular. That is a given, (see the chart below) but it is not providing any traction to desperate Conservatives at the Senedd. In other words, it has failed to serve as a political wedge issue and has come at the expense of a political culture the Senedd worked hard to build when compared to the outright toxicity that defines Westminster.

The nature of public discourse over the issue has amplified it above all others. We should all be concerned how this reflects on the values and priorities of our society, and what it might say about the collective focus of us here in Wales.

If we are to thrive, it may be high time to put the issue behind us and say firmly that we will not allow Westminster-levels of toxicity to infect our own politics, places and personal lives. This next week I’ll be changing the discussion with my friends, family and barber (sorry Mike). I hope our politicians do too.

Chris Carter is a Transport and Infrastructure Research Specialist, he writes in a personal capacity and Tweets at @CarterRoutes


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Andrew Robinson-Redman
Andrew Robinson-Redman
4 months ago

“gotten”? Obviously your day to day life has not been adversely affected.?

Ieuan Evans
Ieuan Evans
4 months ago

Mine hasn’t.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
4 months ago

I also think this subject has been blown out of proportion. Especially as there are many cities and towns across the rest of the UK that have adopted it and some before Wales. It’s time to move on but the Tories are like a dog with a bone believing it’ll bring them votes. If they continue to bring it up we should tell them where to go.

Llyn
Llyn
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

Yes it’s normally the way with the Welsh Conservative Party that they point to some nirvana in England as what should happen in Wales. Appears that they and their social media and newspaper allies are painting a narrative that 20mph is unique to Wales. I have seen no mentions of Bristol which is both a 20mph zone and a low emission zone. I shudder to think of the economic carnage that has impacted that city. Perhaps the media which run daily horror stories about the 20mph impact in Wales should do some proper journalism and take an evidenced look at… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff
4 months ago

It is interesting how this now appears. This is small potatoes considering the overall state of the nation but they seem to have found a foghorn to blow on the back of a massive vote loss but tiny win in Uxbridge. Sling enough at a wall and some of it will stick. There is an unsavoury element in the Tory party and adherents that have gamed this, I have no doubt now, granted there will be genuine concerns but how many are on the band wagon cos family said so, pressure groups and gamed on social media etc. Try policy… Read more »

Ianto
Ianto
4 months ago

Quite agree. It’s just trivia masquerading as mass outrage, while the world burns and explodes all around us. A typical distraction technique so beloved of right wing extremists who have nothing positive to offer.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
4 months ago

Tory turnip Andrew RT Davies & Welsh Tories are a one policy party. Oppose everything. No doubt if we would have had devolution in 1989 would have celebrated the draconian poll tax, oh but it’s England see and they know best. He and they, like that right-wing nutjob Suella Braverman, opt to whip up descent those mentally deficient reactionists who will like automatons feel anger where there was once none as seen with Brexit. An example. Just look at those damaging the 20mph signage in Wales , or even the far-right who today during the million march for Palestine were… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Y Cymro
Alun Gerrard
Alun Gerrard
4 months ago

A number of Drakeford’s cheer leaders on this site. I think like at least 470,000 others that £35 million was a waste of money. I wonder how much the WG donate to this site?

Gareth
Gareth
4 months ago
Reply to  Alun Gerrard

If you want to know, you can find out how much the site receives , there is a large logo at the foot if this article to help you, it is no secret, unlike groups within the Tory party like the ERG, and other Tory party donors.

Jeff
Jeff
4 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

Daily Wail is a big Cons supporter. Always on the attack for the party. Johnson tried to put Paul Dacre at the top of OFCOM. Telegraph, Barclay brother, big supporter in the cons/brexit. Trying to buy his paper back, wonder where the loot will com from (latest wheeze is a Middle East oil nation). Their finances and taxes are very interesting. Times, Murdoch, probably the most dangerous press baron in history, see damage he inflicted in the US, he does daily here. Always attacking that which he deems fit to attack and at the moment it will never be the… Read more »

C Blackmore
4 months ago
Reply to  Alun Gerrard

470,000? Nope. The voting was fiddled using bot-nets.

Stephen
Stephen
4 months ago

From my observations, everyone bar learner drivers, is ignoring the 20 as it is just way too slow, it’s ridiculous, struggle to find the right gear to be in. However everyone seems to be keeping at max 30 now instead which is an improvement. I still think the whole thing has been a complete waste of money. 20 outside schools, within city centres and other areas with high pedestrian footfall I have no issues with.

Last edited 4 months ago by Stephen
Tonaut Brom
Tonaut Brom
4 months ago
Reply to  Stephen

Children spend about 2.5% of their waking hours travelling to and from school. Your policy would leave them at risk the rest of their lives and do nothing for other members of society.

Rod King MBE
4 months ago

I agree totally. When I was asked to speak to politicians in Cardiff after the setting of national limits was devolved in 2018 I found a co-operative and grown-up culture which struck me as very different from Westminster. I engaged with each of the parties and found not only support but also leadership from Welsh Labour, Welsh Conservative, Plaid Cymru and Welsh Lib-Dems. Here was a policy that they all agreed on and Senedd debates throughout 2018 to 2020 were all constructive and received cross-party support for “a national 20mph default to replace the national 30mph default”. But in 2021… Read more »

Rod King MBE
4 months ago
Reply to  Rod King MBE

Correction. That should say 61 out of 153 English local Highway Authorities.

max wallis
max wallis
4 months ago
Reply to  Rod King MBE

Can’t say “well done Wales”. Labour had the 20mph policy for years until Lee Waters came along and decided to press it. They still took a long time to legislate. They didn’t say other countries have adopted it, because they like to pretend Wales under Labour leads (sometimes, leads the world!). And they messed up arguing for it among the people, as they have become autocratic, securing a vote in Senedd then ramming though a policy.

max wallis
max wallis
4 months ago

It’s questionable that Welsh Labour has defended “a political culture the Senedd worked hard to build when compared” with Westminster. Drakeford turned autocrat during Covid, closing down Senedd, using scare tactics and imposing draconian measure on people’s movements. Now he (and Vaughan Gething) declare no Welsh Covid Inquiry and whip Labour MSs to block any vote on it. Drakeford ruptured any civil and collaborative culture. Quashing rebel Labour MSs suppress esdemocratic debate more effectively than Tory-run Westminster.

simon m hughes
simon m hughes
4 months ago
Reply to  max wallis

Dictators are like that. If there are alternative views they refuse to interact with those views? This policy has not been welcomed by the majority of welsh voters and even if the next MS cycle is not until 2026 you will find that people tend to recall those situations which have been emotionally upsetting easier than when they have encountered good memories. That is a fact of human evolution and will come back on those MS looking to be voted back into their cosy seat! As a Labour supporter I am fearful when Labour politicians take our vote for granted?

simon m hughes
simon m hughes
4 months ago

I would like the WG to divulge the fatality hotspots within each 30mph speed limit zone pre-20mph speed limit policy ? This evidence would prove the necessity for the policy as it would show the fatalities on these roads, time of day, weather conditions, whether there were arrests for dangerous driving and the condition of the driver? Such evidence would be crucial in any investigation and therefore must have been considered in the overall evaluation of the speed limit policy?

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