Three months to go: Lee Waters says 20mph switch will save lives and build stronger communities
Reducing speed will not only save lives, but will help build stronger, safer communities, Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters has said, three months before the introduction of the default 20mph speed limit.
From Sunday, September 17, most streets in Wales, currently with a 30mph limit, will switch to a 20mph limit.
The pioneering law makes Wales the first UK nation to reset the default speed limit for local roads, after four years of concerted effort involving local authorities, police, and road safety experts.
Mr Waters stated, “We’re now just three months away from the biggest step-change in community safety we have seen in Wales for a generation. Evidence shows that reducing speed not only saves lives; it also helps build stronger, safer communities – better places to live our lives.”
Drawing parallels with Spain, where most road speeds were decreased to 30km/h in 2019, leading to a significant reduction in road fatalities, Waters expressed optimism for similar outcomes in Wales.
Research conducted on this initiative reveals that the default 20mph limit could save £92m a year by reducing the number of road-related deaths and injuries.
Over the first decade, it’s estimated that this lower speed limit will save up to 100 lives and prevent 20,000 casualties.
However, the transition has not been without controversy.
In the lead-up to the new legislation, eight communities were selected for the first phase of the national programme, where 20mph speed limits were introduced between July 2021 and May 2022.
Buckley, Mynydd Isa, New Brighton, Drury, Burntwood, Bryn y Baal, and Alltami were among the areas where the reduced speed restrictions were introduced on 28 February 2022.
However, the ‘trial’ sparked a fierce backlash in Buckley, due in part to the speed limit being reduced on main arterial routes through the town.
A petition launched last year in Buckley, calling for a stop to the Welsh Government imposing blanket 20mph speed limits across the whole of Wales, has hit nearly 62,000 signatures.
A second petition, called ‘Stop the change of speed limits to 20mph’, has gained 22,000 signatures, and is currently being considered by the Welsh Parliament Petitions Committee.
Following feedback, Flintshire Council reviewed several roads in and around Buckley, identifying ten that either meet an ‘exception’ criteria to the 20mph speed limit restriction or qualify for reassessment as 40mph zones.
These roads are now scheduled for a statutory consultation period in July.
Depending on the results, revised limits will be implemented on sections of those roads under review which include B5127 Liverpool Road, A5119 New Brighton, A549 Brunswick Road Chester Road, A549 Mold Road, and others.
The move to reduce the speed limit in Wales follows a similar approach in Spain where the speed limit on the majority of roads was changed to 30km/h in 2019.
Since then, Spain has reported 20% fewer urban road deaths, with fatalities reduced by 34 per cent for cyclists and 24 per cent for pedestrians.
First Minister Mark Drakeford added: “Our streets will be quieter, reducing the scourge of noise pollution, and slower speeds also boost the confidence of people to cycle and walk around their local areas and for children to play outdoors.”
“Evidence from around the world is clear – reducing speed limits reduces collisions and saves lives.”
“I am confident if we all work together, we can make the necessary changes that will benefit us now and in the future.”
Many key voices in public health and sustainable transport continue to support the 20mph initiative.
Joshua James, Public Affairs Manager, Living Streets Cymru said: “Introducing 20mph as the default speed on our streets will improve the places where we live, work and go to school – and most importantly, it will save lives.”
“At Living Streets, we want everyone in our communities to enjoy the benefits of walking and cycling – now and for many years to come.”
“Research shows that the majority of people in Wales support 20mph, and we are pleased to be working with the Welsh Government to ensure that our streets and pavements are safe and accessible for everyone.”
Dr Sarah Jones, Consultant in Environmental Public Health for Public Health Wales, said: “Public Health Wales strongly supports 20mph legislation, which will transform the places where people live, work and travel.”
“The evidence is clear that reducing traffic speeds has multiple health and wellbeing benefits. It improves road safety, reduces noise pollution and over time will help to tackle air pollution.”
“The safer environment that slower traffic speeds create will also enable more people to actively travel, for example by walking and cycling to work and school.”
“Active travel offers such a wide range of benefits across society, boosting physical and mental health, and reducing the demand on our health service of treating many preventable illnesses.”
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