Senedd Petitions Committee air mixed opinions on 20mph speed limits

Wales will be one of the first countries in the world, and the first nation in the UK, to introduce legislation to have a default 20mph speed limit on roads where cars mix with pedestrians and cyclists.

The plans have not gone down well with some and there has been a petition signed by over 21,000 people.

The petition reads: ‘Stop the change of speed limits to 20mph on 17th September. This decision is not representative of the broader public opinion and as such, it is not democratic to implement the changes. An alteration to road laws on this scale should be subject to much more extensive polling or possibly as part of a Welsh referendum on the matter’.

The petition was debated by the Petitions Committee on the 28th of June.

Joel James MS said he wanted to emphasise that 21,920 signatures on this petition shows the enormity of opposition to the blanket reduction in speed to 20 mph on all urban roads in Wales. He said: “It highlights in my mind how out of touch the Welsh Government really is in understanding the needs of communities across Wales.

The MS also said that he recognised the benefits of having 20 mph speed limits in certain areas, such as around schools and in densely populated areas. He said: “I can fully appreciate that reduced speeds can have positive impacts in reducing the extent of casualties and improving air quality in localised areas, but I find myself at a loss to understand the overall point of introducing 20 mph limits on so many other urban roads, most notably because it’s completely unenforceable.”

Joel James MS also highlighted a large trial in London saying: “Official UK Government statistics have shown that 87 per cent of drivers break the 20 mph speed limits when they’re imposed. Evidence also shows that 20 mph speed limits do not significantly reduce speed. In Islington, one of the first places to introduce a borough-wide 20 mph speed limit, average speeds were reduced by only 1 mph, rather than the intended 10. A Department for Transport study in 2018 described at the time as the largest, most comprehensive and sophisticated study into the effects of 20 mph speed limits to be undertaken in the UK found that drivers’ median speed fell by just 0.7 mph in residential areas and 0.9 mph in city centre areas, where limits had been dropped from 30 to 20. The same study also found that the introduction of 20 mph limits increased journey times by 3 per cent in residential areas, and 5 per cent in city centres. Whilst 3 and 5 per cent increases seem insignificant, I would argue that a 5 per cent increase in travel time is going to have many unintended consequences that are going to be more damaging in the longer term. Drivers will likely drive faster on the roads to make up perceived loss of time and this will undoubtedly increase the likelihood of collisions. I’d also argue that there would be a potential for a driver in frustration to increase incidences of road rage.

Llyr Gruffydd MS wanted to know what Lee Waters and the Government were doing to make sure that local authorities don’t just conclude that it’s easier just to make everything 20 mph, regardless of the reality on the ground.

Mike Hedges MS suggested that the key to it (20mph) working is enforcement. He said: “As long as the police and GoSafe enforce 20 mph like any other speed limit, it will work. But can I just come back to the point I really want to get across? A and B roads are different. A roads are different. They’re major arterial roads. A roads need to stay at 30 mph. I hope the Minister is going to say that today.”


Lee Waters MS the Deputy Minister for Climate Change has been accused of ignoring the views of thousands of people who objected to the plans

In his speech responding to the petition on Thursday (Jun 29) the MS said: “I think we will look back in years to come and be very proud of the decision we’ve made as the statistics in Wales will do what they’ve done everywhere else: save lives”

The sentiment did not go down well on his Twitter feed.

@welshnaked was one of many who voiced there opinion saying: No! You are not listening to the people of this country. This farce in Cardiff Bay is a dictatorship (or will end up as one very soon).

@CensoredFascist posted: This is the contempt @WelshLabour has for the motorist, for ordinary people just trying to make the best out of life and who value their cars and the convenience and freedom it gives them. This is the nanny state running wild, all you that voted Labour this is on you.

@PaulDavidJones thought it was ‘Absolute nonsense’ and said that the amount of extra man hours wasted behind a wheel far will be incalculable.

He posted “Your government should not be reducing the practicality of road use whilst failing to deliver infrastructure improvements, and whilst many areas have inadequate public transport.

The Welsh Government state that “not all roads with a currently at 30mph limit will be suitable to change to 20mph. These roads will be known as exceptions. Local Authorities will consider with their communities which roads should remain at 30mph and there will be 30mph signs to tell you this.  We have published a map on DataMapWales that shows which roads would stay at 30mph.”

Some claimed the MS had blocked them and thereby censored or ignored their views.

One poster said: It’s just too mental to comprehend the level of stupidly of this Welsh government and of course it goes without saying @Amanwy has blocked me for simply calling into question policies that are draconian and not necessary.

@hearthefalconer was extremely pessimistic and posted: “Everyone will have left Wales to go somewhere sane.”

@rob_jenko posted: “I watched live and i’m very disappointed. You have ignored the views of the Welsh public, made a mockery of the petitions process by ignoring the views, ignored the many social media posts, ignored the other petitions, played party politics against the good points put across…..”

@Thorinoaken6 posted: “Completely against the wishes of the majority of Welsh people again…Of course it’s the common theme now of all elected members the length and breath of this country local and national to disregard the views/ wishes and opinions of the MAJORITY of the people of whom THEY SERVE.”

Trials on 20mph speed limits  took place in eight communities;
St Dogmaels, Pembrokeshire
Llanelli North, Carmarthenshire
St Brides Major, Vale of Glamorgan
Central North, Cardiff
Cilfrew Village, Neath Port Talbot
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
Severnside, Monmouthshire
Buckley, Flintshire

There was a distinct theme of opposition to the plans on the Twitter post with plenty of questions for the MS who did not appear to be responding to many of them.

@mcardmtb posted: “Please tell me you are put in the Sennedd by the people to work for the people on issues they want resolved. You are not there to pursue your own vanity projects and in hope advance your career. Could you tell me how many of your constituents came to you and asked for 20mph limit.”

A number of people pointed out that despite living in a 20mph zone with signs up drivers were still not sticking to the limit.

@daimaynard posted: “I have lived in a 20mph for years no one takes a blind bit of notice of it.
And when I stick to the speed limit I get overtaken by kids on there illegal electric scooters that the police seem to ignore.”

@annelee45 reiterated this posting: “The signs are up where I live but very few drivers are sticking to 20mph.”

Some pointed out the dire state of other services in Wales including the NHS. @g_bfishing posted: “More people are dying waiting for an ambulance or hospital treatment in Wales than 20mph will ‘allegedly’ save.”

There were some positive responses. @TafTorfaen posted: “We at TAF and our disabled members are supporting the 20mph speed limit being introduced on 17 September. Promoting safe travel, better health, less noise in the community and protecting the environment for our disabled members and all.”

There is no doubt from the petition to the responses to posts by Lee Waters MS that the decision is unpopular and may come at a cost to Welsh Labour at the next Senedd elections.

@Missfitzwales summed up the general consensus on the post by Lee Waters. “All I can say is that myself along with other Welsh voters have been ignored yet again! You’ve ignored the views of the Welsh public, the petitions process by ignoring views & ignored the many social media post’s. Democracy in Wales is dead! 😡”

Introducing Default 20mph speed limits

You can read the full document here:

Restricted roads are usually located in residential and built-up areas where there are lots of people. They often have street lights on them, placed no more than 200 yards apart.
We are making this change to:
reduce the number of collisions and severe injuries from them (also reducing the impact on the NHS from treating the people who are injured)
encourage more people to walk and cycle in our communities
help to improve our health and well-being
make our streets safer
safeguard the environment for future generations.

Lee Waters MS concluded his speech on the debate of the petition by saying: “This will be a difficult policy, there’s no doubt about it. This is the biggest change in road safety and in public health in the history of the time the Senedd has been sitting.

“It’s a major change in behaviour for people who have been trained and spent all their lives driving at 30 mph. Just as it took time to get used to seatbelts and smoking in public places, and paying for carrier bags, and breathalysers, it will take time. And I’m sure that councils and we haven’t got it 100 per cent right the first time, and that’s the joy of the default—it can be changed. And we will make funding available next financial year to assist with those changes.

“I expect them to be exceptions, not the rule. I think we will look back at this, Llywydd, in years to come and we’ll be proud of the decision we’ve made, as the statistics will do in Wales what they’ve done everywhere else: save lives, cut noise, improve levels of active travel and strengthen our communities.”

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