What about this latest Senedd petition?

20mph limits for residential roads and where people are has always gained majority support. This has been legislated for in Wales over a year ago and implemented on Sept 17th 2023 with a national urban/village 20mph default with local authorities able to set exceptions. This aligns Wales with global best practice for motor vehicle speed where they mix with vulnerable road users. We have already documented the democratic route to legislation of this initiative that was launched 5 years ago with the support of Conservative, Labour, Plaid Cymru and Lib-Dem parties in Wales.

Yet we have a petition against the national default 20mph limit that is attracting a large number of signatures and shares.

This FAQ answer puts the petition into perspective and comes to the conclusion that whilst the number of signatures is significant, it is neither surprising nor is it representative of mainstream public opinion. 

The basis of Senedd petitions is that you can make a statement and ask people to sign with just a few clicks and entering their email address and postcode. Once signed the petition is easily shared to social media with a couple more clicks. If the petition reaches 10,000 signatures then the Petitions Committee will consider it for debate in Senedd.

The validity of a petition depends on what it states and the number of signatures. But what if the statement of the petition is false? How much credibility should be given to the results regardless of the number of signatures?

Lets look at the petition in question:

We want the Welsh Government to rescind and remove the disastrous 20mph law

The new 20mph law is coming into force on the 17th September and it will mark the end of having socialism in power in Wales.

Welsh Government claim to have supporting evidence stating that reducing to 20mph EVERWHERE saves lives! Yet we get flyers merely claiming that it will, and opinions from doctors that see RTCs coming into A&E. This is NOT evidence. The only true evidence is from Belfast and it states it makes NO DIFFERENCE to RTCs!

At least one of the trial villages in Monmouthshire actually reverted their trial because it was causing absolute carnage on the roads! Mark Drakeford has come out claiming it is a success in St Brides Major but every time I go though there NO ONE is driving at 20mph.

The Welsh Government has FAILED to produce ANY convincing evidence to support these claims of safety. This law is being spearheaded by the WG Climate Change department and NOT Health & Safety!!
YOU HAVE NOT LISTENED TO US.

The Welsh Government was put there BY THE PEOPLE OF WALES, We are your boss! We demand that this foolish idea be stopped.

The petition was created on 13th September 2023 and is collecting signatures until 13th March 2024.

The rules for petitions are quite specific. It is our opinion that this petition breaks several of the rules, namely :-

  • It contains potentially false or potentially defamatory statements;
  • It contains language which is offensive, intemperate, or provocative. This not only includes obvious profanities, swear words and insults, but any language which a reasonable person would regard as offensive;

We break the petition down into its elements with a critique of each and how it could contravene  the petition rules.

Element Critique Comment with respect to petition rules
We want the Welsh Government to rescind and remove the disastrous 20mph law

"Disastrous" is an opinion. Different people see 20mph in different ways. The change will benefit 500,000 Welsh children, 300,000 Welsh households with no access to a car and 600,000 Welsh people with concessionary travel passes.

Every indication from both the trials and the actual results after implementation are that speeds have reduced by a significant amount and match the intention of Senedd.

 
The new 20mph law is coming into force on the 17th September and it will mark the end of having socialism in power in Wales. While the change in the national default speed limit for restricted roads from 30mph to 20mph came in on 17th September, the view that this will "end socialism" is speculation and opinion. Although that may be the petitioner's aspiration,  20mph limits have been implemented by councils of all political colours. There is no evidence of "17th September marking the end of having socialism in power in Wales."

Hence this is a "false statement"
Welsh Government claim to have supporting evidence stating that reducing to 20mph EVERWHERE saves lives! Yet we get flyers merely claiming that it will, and opinions from doctors that see RTCs coming into A&E. This is NOT evidence. The only true evidence is from Belfast and it states it makes NO DIFFERENCE to RTCs!

There is no plan to implement 20mph "everywhere". In covering "restricted roads" in built-up areas it automatically excludes unrestricted 40mph roads, and 30mph roads without lighting. Local Highway Authorities are fully empowered to set local exceptions and, in anticipating the change, have excluded many roads so that they remain at 30mph.

There is credible and strong evidence from many authorities in the UK that 20mph limits reduce casualties and protect loss of life. This includes Edinburgh, Bristol, London, Warrington, Calderdale, Cheshire West and Chester. There is already strong evidence from elsewhere that 20mph and 30km/h limits reduce casualties.

The small city-centre 20mph limit in Belfast covered just 76 roads, including 26 that were pedestrianised with motor vehicles excluded. Since those roads had mean speeds before implementation of less than 20mph and few casualties, it is inevitable that speeds and casualties would not reduce further. Belfast's implementation is a poor example and is completely different to the Welsh implementation of 20mph as a national "default". To say that it is "The only true evidence" is not credible.

The statement that "The only true evidence is from Belfast" is a "false statement"

At least one of the trial villages in Monmouthshire actually reverted their trial because it was causing absolute carnage on the roads! Mark Drakeford has come out claiming it is a success in St Brides Major but every time I go though there NO ONE is driving at 20mph.

In one of Monmouthshire's pilot villages a decision was made to retrospectively make 3 sections of roads an exception. This aligned it with the Exceptions Guidance which was publicised after the pilot commenced. 

The comment about St Brides is anecdotal. The interim report from Welsh Government shows a significant mean speed reduction (from 28.2mph to 24.9mph). 

The statement that "At least one of the trial villages in Monmouthshire actually reverted their trial because it was causing absolute carnage on the roads!" is false.

 

The word "carnage" is defined as "the killing of a large number of people.". Hence its' use is both false and provocative.

The Welsh Government has FAILED to produce ANY convincing evidence to support these claims of safety. This law is being spearheaded by the WG Climate Change department and NOT Health & Safety!!
YOU HAVE NOT LISTENED TO US.

As above, there is much evidence that is referenced by Welsh Government. "The state of the evidence on 20mph speed limits with regards to road
safety, active travel and air pollution impacts".

And "Explanatory Memorandum to the Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Wales) Order 2022"

The responsibility for transport and setting national speed limits lies within the Department for Climate Change. This is entirely reasonable.

The benefits of lower limits accrue to many departments including Health and Education and aligns with government requirements such as Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013.

The Welsh Government has conducted due consultation and evaluation of public attitudes to 20mph limits over many years. The most recent results are available on the Welsh Government website 20mph public attitudes research.

The statement "The Welsh Government has FAILED to produce ANY convincing evidence to support these claims of safety. " is false.

The Welsh Government was put there BY THE PEOPLE OF WALES, We are your boss! We demand that this foolish idea be stopped.

This fails to understand the principle of parliamentary democracy whereby elected representative set laws on behalf of all their constituents. These include those voting and not voting or eligible to vote.

Nevertheless, 60% of people in Wales voted in the 2021 Senedd election for parties that had a national 20mph default limit in their election manifestos. It has followed all due democratic processes through Senedd, includling:

2018 Debate launched with cross party support.

2019/2020 Action by the government 20mph Task Force to develop recommendations to proceed with national default 20mph implementation planning.

2020 Approval by Senedd to proceed (45 votes to 6).

2022 Approval by Senedd of Statutory Instrument to set national 20mph limit for restricted roads (39 votes to 15) 

See "What is the democratic mandate for a national 20mph default limit?"

 

The petition statement fails to meet any test of whether it is accurate or factual. It misleads potential signatories with anecdotes and comments which are false. It is difficult to see how Members of Sened could take this petition seriously.

Next steps

Once the petition reached 10,000 signatures, the Petitions Committee is able to ask the petitioner if they wish to close the petition and the committee can then make a decision as to whether this should be debated in Senedd. In this case we understand that the petitioner has requested that the petition run its full course and be available till March 2024.

Are the signature numbers significant?

To date (11/10/23) it has attracted 461,014 signatures. While this is, at first sight, a lot - indeed a a record - for a Senedd petition, it is not unexpected, particularly taking into account how the debate has been highly politicised on social media.

Of the 461,014 signatures, 27,139 were from outside Wales, including Canada (28), Falkland Islands, Ireland (50), USA (59), Northern Ireland (158), Scotland (984) and England (25,512). So how does this Welsh count of 433,865 signatures compare with the Welsh adult population? In 2019 the population was 3.136 million. Of these 500,000 were children leaving a net 2.636 million adults. Hence 16% of the adult population of Wales have signed the petition. We suggest that there are three reasons for signing:

A. Those who do not support 20mph for residential areas

What we know from successive UK-wide surveys on transport attitudes (see page 10) conducted by the UK Government is that 71% of people support 20mph for residential streets whilst 14% oppose it.  Hence it is reasonable to suggest that those 14% would be inclined to sign a "click and share" petition when a 20mph has been implemented as a "default" for built-up areas across Wales. This contingent would make up 369,040 (14% of 2.636 million) and would comprise 85% of the petition signatures received so far.

 

B. Those who do not support the current government.

A large number of the petition 'shares' on social media are politically motivated. They refer to the change specifically as "blanket" rather than "default". We know from the  2021 Senedd election results that a total of 289,802 people voted for the Welsh Conservatives, plus a further 8,586 for UKIP. Both of these parties now oppose the national 20mph default. While some may be included in A above, there will be motivation from many supporters of these parties to sign a petition that opposes what the Welsh Government has done regardless of the benefits to the population as a whole. Examples of partisan promotion of the petition are :

Note that whilst we are neither condoning or criticising the use of social media in such a manner it is a very clear example of the politicisation and division that is being promoted and specifically targeted at this petition.

C. Those who support 20mph but are unhappy with the way it has been implemented.

The national change involved many thousands of roads and signage, including both boundary signs and signs within communities. It would always have been impossible to make all of these changes co-incidentally without huge additional resources in local authorities. It was inevitable and unavoidable that some signage would be contradictory and result in drivers not being fully aware of the limit on certain roads. This in turn led to many drivers incorrectly keeping to 20mph on roads which had been excepted at 30mph. This would have led to many criticising the implementation of the 20mph default whilst at the same time agreeing with its intention.  We note that the police in Wales have said that they will focus on educating drivers, rather than issuing speeding tickets during the initial implementation phase. 

 

Conclusion

Given the scale and complexity of this change, the numbers signing the petition are not surprising. The scale of misinformation and falsehoods both within and surrounding the petition statement, together with the politicising of the issue devalues it to the extent that it is meaningless as a basis for considering public opinion. The petition tells us what is already known, that many drivers would prefer to drive faster than what is appropriate, safe or considerate for many of the under-protected on community streets - the very people who will benefit most from the national default 20mph limit. It could be said that this actually endorses the need for the speed limit change.

It reflects one side of public opinion on an issue that has majority support and minority, but significant and noisy, opposition. Given the total population of Wales and the petition statement flaws the number of signatures is neither surprising or indicative of a need to change policy. 

 

We believe that Welsh Government and Local Authorities should be congratulated for delivering this life-enhancing and life-preserving 20mph initiative for the people of Wales which does have wide public support. Members of Senedd should recognise the flaws, misinformation and lack of evidence in this petition when considering whether it is worthy of debate in Senedd.

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  • Rod King
    published this page in FAQs 2023-12-03 15:20:26 +0000
  • Rod King
    published this page in FAQs 2023-12-03 13:15:10 +0000