Posted: Wed 8th May 2019

20mph ‘should be the default speed limit for residential areas’ says First Minister

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

In yesterday’s First Minister Questions Mark Drakeford was asked for the Welsh Government’s view on 20 mph zones.

Welsh Conservative AM David Melding asked “What is the Welsh Government’s view on the use of 20 mph zones in Wales?”

The First Minister Mark Drakeford replied, “The Welsh Government believe that 20 mph should be the default speed limit for residential areas.

The Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, together with the Welsh Local Government Association, is taking forward work to identify the practical actions needed to implement 20 mph speed limits in residential areas across Wales.”

David Melding replied, “I was going to call for exactly that default position. It’s logical that we set the standard limit in built-up areas at 20 mph and then councils have the power to set it at 30 mph for those more arterial routes through their urban areas.”

The First Minister carried on the exchange, “Across this whole Assembly term, my colleague Ken Skates has provided hundreds of millions of pounds for small area 20 mph zones. What we now want to do is to go beyond that. The city of Cardiff is, I think, a good example of what can be done.

“Local authorities have to have discretion to retain 30 mph zones on key arterial routes, but outside that, and in residential areas, we know that 20 mph zones reduce speed of traffic, reduce accidents, particularly accidents to children, and we want to see that become the default position right across Wales.”

Welsh Labour’s John Griffiths AM spoke of a ‘very strong level of cross-party support’ for the policy and asked the First Minister, “Would you agree with me that, in addition to the benefits that you’ve mentioned, it’s very important in terms of enabling community life to strengthen, because older people will feel happier if they’re able to walk along the streets with 20 mph limits in place and parents will feel much happier in enabling their young people to play outside?

It will enable active travel—walking and cycling—to a greater extent, so it has very, very many benefits, and I’m pleased that they’re now strongly recognised by Welsh Government.”

Mark Drakeford replied, “There are a whole series of advantages, including all the ones that the Member has mentioned, including the better air quality that you get through slower traffic speeds.

In the jargon, Llywydd, the issues that John Griffiths has pointed to are talked of as ‘community severance’, the fact that fast-moving traffic through a community breaks one part of the community up from another, both geographically—but we know that those impacts fall differentially on people, whether it is older people, whether it’s children, whether it’s people without cars and so on, and so, 20 mph zones allow a reduction in that community severance, and that’s another really important social benefit that comes from the policy.”

It appears the limits are not imminent, with a task and finish group being used to ‘bring local authorities around the table with the Welsh Government’ to look at the practical ways to introduce it.

Rhiannon Hardiman, Wales Manager at Living Streets – the UK charity for everyday walking, said: 

“We’re delighted that the Welsh Government has listened to the voice of communities around Wales and is committing to slow motor speeds on urban roads. This will not only improve safety for those on foot, but also make sustainable travel more attractive, improving air quality and health as a result. We look forward to working with the Welsh Government in the coming months to deliver this.”

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