Speed limit set to be lowered to 20mph in Wales
Senedd members will vote today on Welsh Government’s plans to reduce the speed limit on residential roads in Wales from 30mph to 20mph.
Legislation was laid last month which will allow for a vote to take place in the Welsh Parliament today on the reduced speed limit plan.
The proposals are expected to pass as they are supported by both Labour and Plaid Cymru.
30mph is currently the default speed limit for the majority of our urban and residential streets, known as ‘restricted roads’. These are defined as roads with street lights every 200 yards.
The policy aims to reduce the number of road traffic collisions, improve air quality and encourage the shift away from car use.
Research 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.
If someone is struck by a vehicle at 20mph their chance of survival is up to 97 per cent. This decreases with every mile driven faster.
Research and pilot trials have been taking place in eight areas across Wales including in Flintshire.
Reduced speed limits came into force at the end of February in Buckley, Drury, Burntwood, Alltami, New Brighton, Mynydd Isa, and Bryn Baal as part of a pilot.
How did we get here
In 2018, the Welsh Government asked Dr Adrian Davis to review the evidence that reducing urban speed limits can reduce the number of collisions.
The Review concluded that: “For casualty reduction the evidence is consistent that casualties are reduced as a result of 20mph speed limits.”
Only around 1% of the urban road network in Wales is currently subject to 20mph limits, even though most roads only serve residential areas.
Those in favour
Living Streets Cymru, Sustrans Cymru and Cycling UK Cymru want to make Wales the first nation in the world to adopt a 20mph default speed limit on residential streets and are fully backing the plans.
Public Health Wales has also back the proposals, it said that lowering the speed limit will reduce the risk of traffic crashes and could help people feel safer to walk and cycle.
Dr Sarah J Jones, consultant in environmental public health at Public Health Wales, said: “Travelling at 20 mph has been shown to reduce the risk of crashing and the severity of crashes that do still happen.”
“It also produces less noise pollution and reduces fuel consumption.”
“It encourages people to walk and cycle, helping to fight obesity and improve mental well-being.”
“All of these are likely to contribute to improvements in health and reduction in the demands for health services, which will help the NHS recovery from Covid.”
Alyn and Deeside MS Jack Sargeant has said he is backing the speed limit reduction: “I will be voting in favour of the 20mph default speed limits on restricted roads in Wales.”
“I stood for election on a manifesto to implement this scheme, and I will be speaking in the debate to encourage the Welsh Government to learn lessons from Buckley, including what constitutes a residential road.”
He said: “Many children in Alyn and Deeside have stated that speeding is one of their top concerns.”
“Research on vision has found that primary age children cannot accurately see or judge the speed of vehicles travelling above 20mph caused by age-related inability to correctly register faster traffic.” He added.
Jack said: “Since the introduction of the 20mph pilot scheme in Buckley, I have received a great deal of correspondence of various opinions from constituents of Alyn and Deeside.”
Jack said he has shared the correspondence with the Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters who said:
“As I have been advised I am aware of the concerns raised by local residents regarding the trial and these are noted.”
“I can assure you my officials are working with Flintshire County Council to learn lessons from the pilots.”
“I am under no illusions about how difficult this introduction is to do, and I appreciate the honest feedback I am receiving surrounding the challenges faced in the locality, but I am also certain it’s achievable and we must all confront the consequences of our failing to do this.”
There has been a well-documented backlash from local residents in Buckley who say they were not consulted properly on the 20mph speed limits despite Flintshire council stating an “extensive period of informal consultations” had taken place.
Locals have said the new speed limits are targeting the wrong roads such as Liverpool Road, a main arterial route through Buckley.
In some pilot areas of Wales, the 20mph pilots have been hailed a success, Fiona Andrews who lives in Saint Dogmaels village, Pembrokshire told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast, “It has just been brilliant, we are a little tiny classic Welsh village right on the coast and it feels safer, it feels friendlier, it feels more human.”
Fiona said, “lots of wonderful things have happened as a result of it, the local village school is doing ‘Living Streets’ walk to school.”
“I bumped into a parent who was saying that one of the benefirts is the social side with kids making new friends and meeting up with other kids that are now walking to school.”
Reflecting on the issues faced by people in Buckley since the introduction of the new speed limits, Adie Drury, a Buckley Town Councillor also spoke with BBC Radio Wales Breakfast this morning.
Adie said: “We live in a busy commuter town, we don’t have any industry of our own, we very much supply the workforce for the Wirral, Chester and Airbus down in Broughton.”
“Parents simply do not have the luxury of being able to walk their children to school and hop on a bike and cycle to work.”
“We don’t have the option of walking to our places of work or from them, your talking of 10,15, 20 miles each way commute. It’s not possible to do, walking or cycling.”
She said: 20 miles an hour when your town is built at the top of the hill, y car is chugging because it doesn’t know what gear to be in on the way up and you are constantly watching your speedometer on the way down to make sure that you’re not doing over the limit.”
“There have been so many people have had near misses and we’ve had more bumps in the last four months since the pilot has been in place than we’ve had in about the last 14 years combined.”
People are paying more attention to their speedometer, when they look up, they haven’t got the reaction time that they used to have because we’re tuned into doing 30, It’s a natural thing to have a 30mph, It’s not natural to do 20mph.
Adie said ‘road rage’ has increased in Buckley as a result of the new speed limits, “you’ve got people tailgating because they don’t know about the new limit.”
It’s not been well thought out, the infrastructure hasn’t been put in place to make it safer for everybody.”
She said: “Our town had had one fatal road traffic accident in the last 20 years and that is on the only roads to remain a 30mph.
“We aren’t a high-risk area, there wasn’t a need for it, this scheme has been pushed because the Welsh Government would like to be the first country in the world to do something and this is, it is not down to road safety because we don’t have the numbers to warrant the scheme in the first place,” Adie said.
The Welsh Conservatives have said they 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.”
Welsh Shadow Minister for Transport, Natasha Ashgar MS, said: “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.”
“With a price tag of more than £32 million, is this really money well spent 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.”
The RAC’s view
RAC road safety spokesperson Simon Williams said: “Research by the RAC suggests compliance with 20mph speed limits is quite poor with an increasing number of drivers believing the limit is inappropriate for the road. ”
“Rather than setting a default 20mph limit on all restricted roads it would be better to target areas where they are most needed – for example on residential roads or in areas where there is high footfall – as opposed to main ‘arterial’ roads where there are few pedestrians.”
“However, even if compliance with new 20mph limits is poor, it should lead to an overall reduction in speeds which will have a positive effect on road safety.”
“Better still, would be to enforce existing limits regularly to encourage drivers to slow down and to modify roads to prevent drivers from going too fast in the first place, for example by constructing traffic islands, well-designed speed humps or chicanes.”
The vote will take place this afternoon, July 12 – more here: https://business.senedd.wales/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=700&MId=12902
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