FAQs

The Welsh Government has published its own Frequently Asked Questions, but here we detail some of the most common questions we are asked and our answers.

If you have a particular question that you would like answered then please email [email protected]

Can Welsh Local Authorities set a 30mph limit on main roads?

I understand that the national limit for streets in most cities, towns and villages will change from 30mph to 20mph. Can local authorities set exceptions where the speed limit will remain at 30mph? 

Yes, the national default limit for "restricted" roads (those with lighting at frequent intervals) will change from 30mph to 20mph on September 17th 2023. And there is "guidance" from Welsh Government regarding what factors could justify keeping the speed limit at 30mph. The primary consideration is whether there are significant numbers of pedestrians and cyclists travelling along or across the roads. This is all detailed in the Welsh Government Exceptions Guidance. We have created this flowchart diagram to show you how this works :-

It is our opinion that even if the road is used by pedestrians and cyclists then a well segregated cycle and pedestrian path with controlled crossings may provide a basis for setting a higher speed limit than 20mph. However any "robust and evidenced application of local factors" would need to take into account other pertinent characteristics such as road width, traffic volumes and presence of housing, community buildings, schools, etc. But note that the "guidance" is only "guidance". The need to fully take into account the needs of vulnerable road users was part of the previous guidance on setting local speed limits. 


The needs of vulnerable road users must be fully taken into account in order to further encourage their mobility and improve their safety. Setting appropriate speed limits is a particularly important element in urban safety management, with significant benefits for pedestrians and cyclists. Similarly as vehicle speeds are generally higher on rural roads, collision severity and the risk to vulnerable road users are also greater. In both situations
speed management strategies should seek to protect local community life.

The absolute responsibility and authority for setting a different limit for a street from the national speed limit lies with the local highway authority. They are well placed to consider the needs of all road users including those who are most vulnerable and the need to preserve local community life. Local authorities in Wales are setting exceptions to the national 20mph limit for some main roads and these may be viewed at the Welsh Government website.

Note that it is important to recognise that its is often "main" roads which pose the biggest risk to vulnerable road users due to the volume of interactions. Hence lowering the speed will disproportionately reduce the likelihood and outcome of any collisions. 

 

Update 23rd April 2024 

Please also see our FAQ on expected Welsh Government guidance changes

Will the 20mph limits be enforced?

20mph limits can be enforced just like any other speed limit. Gosafe and Police in Wales are supporting the new national 20mph speed limit. It will have many ways of enforcing 20mph limits including its Community Speedwatch program, police officers in cars or using speed detection devices, and static cameras. This will also include opportunities for driver education rather than fines. Whilst enforcement is a key element of maximising compliance experience from other parts of the country shows that adopting 20mph limits reduces speeds significantly without having to overly rely on enforcement. 

What are the benefits to the Welsh economy?

Will the 20mph limits slow down the Welsh economy by adding time to motor journeys?

Will this be offset by savings in road casualties?

Are there other benefits such as reduced noise, pollution and fuel consumption?

  • Whilst there may be some increase in journey times these are minimal and for most journeys will be less than 2 minutes.
  • Yes, there will be substantial benefits in reducing road casualties .
  • There will be other benefits from reduced noise, pollution and fuel consumption, as well as positive public health outcomes.

The Welsh Government has published a Regulatory Impact Assesment (RIA) report which sought to forecast the benefits and disbenefits from the 20mph policy. This was made available to Members of Senedd.

The primary factors in this are the potential for increased journey times, fewer casualties and better public health outcomes. On balance we believe that there will be large benefits to the Welsh economy, but the difficult part is not only in estimating the outcome, but also in the quantifying that as a benefit or disbenefit. This difficulty was referenced in the RIA, which concluded that an "indicative forecast" of the Net Present Value of benefits over 30 years were between +£1,870mn (excluding journey time) and -£4,480m (including journey time). There were a number of caveats to this which explained the range of forecasts. The figures shown are in £ millions as a Net Present Value over 30 years with positive figures being a benefit and negative a disbenefit. All following information is from the report except that asterisked and indented. :-

Direct Capital Costs (-£32.5m)

These were predictable and all funding is provided by the Welsh Government. Although local authorities are implementing the changes there is no net cost to them.

Increase in Journey Times (between 0 and -£6,350m)

Three quarters of the disbenefits are associated with trips with time impacts of less than 2 minutes. In addition, only 26% of these trips were associated with business and 74% were either commuting or leisure. With average journey time increases being less than a minute and most journeys affected by less than 2 minutes there is great uncertainty about the opportunity cost of that time, especially with such a high proportion not being business mileage. And the methodology dictated for use in such a calculation was required to use the formula developed for major road construction rather than minor changes to short journeys in urban settings. It also does not allow any reduction on cost for commuting/leisure compared to business. For these reasons the RIA decided to include the NPV excluding journey time which then resulted in the +£1,870 net economic gain. 

Road Casualty Reduction (between +£479m and +£2,533m)

These were calculated by using the forecast reduction in speed and applying factor which predicted the reduction in casualties. This varied from a low of preventing 1 fatality, 62 serious and 198 slight injuries pa annum to a high of preventing 15 fatalities, 130 serious and 299 slight injuries per annum. When using a standard DfT formula for the value of casualty prevention this amounted to the NPV of the resulting benefit being between £479 and £2,533m. 

* A separate report by the Transport Research Institute of Edinburgh Napier University predicted a value of the prevention of casualties at £92m per annum. This would confirm the higher benefit from the RIA. Note that much of this would benefit the NHS in reduced A & E resources required to attend to road casualties..

Increase in Cycling and Walking (between +190m and +£948m)

The RIA has based the benefits from walking and cycling on 4-6 extra cycling trips per person per year and 1-2 extra walking trips per year attributable to the 20mph policy by 2040. This mainly comprises the benefits to public health from the active travel increases associated with a calmer and safer urban and village streets.

* Separately we note that the annual cost of obesity in Wales of £3,000m per annum so even a 2% reduction from increased active travel would result in a £60m gain per annum.

Reduced emissions (between +£2m and +£8m)

A small environmental improvement resulting from lower non-exhaust particulate (PM2 and PM10) emissions can be expected from the policy. Lower driving speeds should result in lower tyre, road and brake abrasion reducing particulate pollution in communities. We note that this benefit is somewhat but not entirely offset by increased exhaust emissions of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) from fossil fuel powered vehicles at lower speeds.

* Note that more recent research is showing substantial reductions in emissions when in a congested stop/start environment. In such circumstance the repeated acceleration up to a speed limit has a far greater impact that steady-state driving. This has shown that when congestion, junctions, lights, crossing, require stopping at a frequency of 220m then a 25% reduction in emissions would result. This would result in a large increase in emission reduction and benefit to the above figures.

Other benefits not taken into account

The RIA notes that there are several benefits that have not been taken into account. These include :-

  • Improved functioning of the road network / smoother traffic flow / reduced congestion as a consequence of slower speeds. For example, the ability of vehicles to move in and out of parking bays or change lanes more efficiently at lower speeds.
  • While many benefits from increased active travel have been included such as reduced mortality and decongestion. Broader benefits such as the day to day benefit of increased physical and mental health from increased exercise remain unquantified. Furthermore if increased levels of active travel disproportionally remove car trips that affect stop-start
    congestion during peak periods such as school runs , the decongestion benefits from increased active travel could be larger.
  • Noise: it was considered that the evidence base was not conclusive enough to form a monetary judgment for the policy. However, we note that the Welsh Government has
    recently commissioned additional research and analysis of likely noise-related impacts of the policy, to be performed pre- and post-policy implementation, to gain a better
    understanding of the relevant impacts.
  • Increased retail spending, resulting from improved access (particularly amongst those with mobility challenges). At this point in time however good quantitative evidence on which to calibrate this benefit remains lacking.
  • Increased property values (and the resultant land value uplift) are also not included as a credible methodology could not be assembled to monetise these benefits given available data and pre-existing studies, and available resources.
  • Once the 20mph policy has been fully implemented, it is expected that a wider range of data will become available. This will enable an analysis of the policy’s broader impacts,
    including in relation to the aspects outlined above. (The proposed monitoring of the policy’s impacts post-implementation is discussed in section 7 of this RIA).

* In addition, we identified several other benefits that were not included :-

  • The same research on urban emissions also calculated that under the same congested conditions drivers would save up to 30% of their fuel usage (up to 10p per mile) where a 20mph limit was in operation compared to a 30mph limit. 
  • In just the same way that casualties will be reduced because of reduced speeds, so will non-injury collisions. This will be a benefit that will be reflected in both reduced costs of such collisions to drivers involved and their insurers.
  • Many other initiatives to support active travel become cheaper and more cost-effective in a 20mph environment compared to 30mph.
  • Tourism can be boosted by visitors from other countries where they drive on the right feeling much more comfortable in a slower speed environment.

20's Plenty believe that the benefits from the 20mph policy are large and will benefit the Welsh economy.

Rod King MBE, Founder and Campaign Director commented :-

"In particular the idea that it will "cost" the Welsh economy £4.5BN is predicated on outdated UK treasury orthodoxy in accounting. There is no "cost to the economy" of either setting off for work or school a minute earlier or arriving home a minute later. For this to be true then lingering over a coffee whilst shopping or stopping to look in a shop window whilst walking to work would equally impact the economy. It is clear "bunkum". Wales and its' economy will gain hugely from the adoption of its national 20mph default."

 

 

What is the democratic mandate for a national 20mph default limit in Wales?

How has this change to the national limit been decided? What was the process leading up to this decision by the Welsh Government?

The national 20mph limit has had a 5-year history of wide support within the Senedd.

Since 1934, Welsh roads with lighting have had a national speed limit set by the Westminster government of 30mph. However, local Highway Authorities (usually city or county councils) have had the power and responsibility to set individual roads at different speeds (either lower or higher) by means of a Traffic Regulation Order. National governments provide guidance on the setting of such local variations on the 30mph national limit. The Welsh guidance dates from 2009 in the form of the "Setting Local Speed Limits in Wales" document.  This was modelled on the previous DfT guidance from 2006. In both of these 20mph speed limits were only advised for "individual roads or for a small network of roads".

Since 2006 many local authorities in England had been going beyond this guidance and setting 20mph limits for most roads in their jurisdiction with positive results. In 2013 the guidance for England was changed to include the implementation of 20mph limits over a large number of roads. This accelerated the adoption of 20mph as a norm in many English local authorities, and there was increasing recognition that setting 20mph as a norm in urban and village locations was beneficial. This was further enhanced in 2016 when changes to UK-wide signage regulations enabled 20mph repeater signs and roundels to be used as "traffic calming devices" within expanded 20mph zones. 

Some local authorities in England were calling on UK government to change the national limit from what they considered an unfit-for-purpose 30mph to 20mph and enable the local authority to set higher limits as exceptions on particular roads. 

At this time in Wales, there had been no change in the guidance on setting local speed limits from the Welsh Government and in Wales 20mph roads were expensive to implement (due to requiring physical calming) and hence relatively uncommon. However the Wales Act 2017 was enacted in 2018 by the current Conservative government and devolved the setting of national speed limits for restricted (lit) roads to the Welsh ministers with certain provisos on consulting with the UK Secretary of State and approved by a resolution in the National Assembly for Wales. This altered the Road Traffic Act 1984 to accommodate this.

RoadTrafficAct1984_RestrictedRoads.jpg

 

It was in May 2018 that 20's Plenty were invited to discuss with Welsh political leaders and institutions specifically on how this Act enabled a far "smarter" and more cost-effective way to set 20mph limits by making them the national limit for restricted roads as a default and allowing local authorities to set higher exceptions. This included meetings with Andrew RT Davies AM (Welsh Conservatives), Vaughan Gething AM (Welsh Labour) and Leanne Wood AM (Plaid Cymru).  

Subsequent to this and discussions within and across parties in September 2018 a debate was held in Senedd tabled by Welsh Conservative members with cross party support from Welsh Labour, Plaid Cymru, Lib-Dems and Independents to "introduce legislation so that a 20mph speed limit becomes the standard speed limit in Welsh residential areas".

2018_Senedd_debate.jpg

The following month Conservative AM David Melding and Labour AM John Griffiths MS spoke at the 20's Plenty conference held in Cardiff on Oct 2nd 2018. Both were advocating a national 20mph default within the conference. This specifically discussed setting 20mph as a national default limit and had wide political and institutional support.

This led to the Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport for the Welsh Government setting up a "Welsh 20mph Task Force Group" in May 2019 to "identify the outcomes which would be expected from changing the default speed limit for restricted roads in Wales to 20mph, and the practical actions needed to implement this change in law". This was chaired by Phil Jones and included a wide range of participants including police, local authorities, emergency service, government officers and NGOs, as well as motoring, public transport and freight organisations. The "Final Report" was published in July 2020 and included the case for change and 20 recommendations on how to implement such a change. On 15th July 2020 the Senedd duly debated the findings of the report in a plenary session and passed motion NDM7355 supporting the Welsh Government's intention to set a national 20mph limit for restricted roads subject to subsequent approval by resolution of Senedd.

 

Senedd_NDM7355.jpg 

This motion supported by 85% of the Members of Senedd showed a clear democratic and cross-party support for the proposal. It was particularly pleasing to see the wide support from Welsh Conservative Members of Senedd.

Listen to Janet Finch-Saunders AM speaking in favour of the recommendations in the report in the debate in Senedd.

Subsequent to this the intention to set such a 20mph national limit was specifically included in the 2021 election manifestos of two of the major Welsh political parties. These parties received 60.2% of the constituency votes and  56.9% of regional votes, with a combined majority of 43 out of 60 Senedd seats.

Based on the cross-party support in the 2020 debate and the inclusion of the national 20mph initiative as a key manifesto policy, the Welsh Government went on to propose legislation in the form of a Statutory Instrument to set a national 20mph limit for restricted roads in Wales and "The Restricted Roads (20mph Speed Limit) Order 2022 was debated (NDM8054) and passed in a plenary session in Senedd on 12th July 2022. It was passed by a majority 39 votes (72%) for and 15 (28%) against.

20mph_Statutory_Instrument.jpg

 

This legislation sets an effective date of 17th September 2023 for the national 30mph limit for restricted roads to change to 20mph. The Welsh Government has issued guidance to assist local authorities in setting exceptions. Note that the authority and responsibility to set local exceptions to a national speed lies exclusively with the local Highway Authority. The national guidance is simply guidance and not a mandatory rule. How local authorities interpret or adhere to that guidance is their responsibility rather than that of the national government.

Hence, the setting of a national 20mph limit for restricted roads has had consistent support over 5 years, since the devolution of such powers to the Senedd by the UK government.  It has had cross-party support for all the development work in the initiative and also been clearly publicised in the election manifestos of the two major political parties who comprise a majority in Senedd. It has had extensive consideration of the expected outcomes and method for implementation. It has received all the necessary requirements for legislation including two affirmative votes in the Senedd and the necessary consultation with the UK Secretary of State.

It has been through all appropriate and necessary democratic processes for setting such national legislation.

Will Wales be the first country to set a national 20mph default urban/village speed limit?

If we look at the few countries that currently use mph for speed limits then certainly Wales will be the first to do so. However many countries using km/h, where the equivalent is 30km/h, have this as a norm for most urban/village roads. Spain has taken a step similar to Wales when it set a national 30km/h limit for any urban/village roads with a lane in each direction to 30km/h in 2021. This is reduced to 20km/h (12mph) if there is no pavement.

Wales will be the first nation within the UK to set a national 20mph limit, however Scotland plans for 20mph to be the norm by 2025.

Already 18 million people in England live in local authorities who have rejected 30mph as an urban/village norm and have set 20mph for most such roads. This includes all the inner London boroughs, most of the large cities and more rural counties such as Lancashire and Cornwall. See our full list of 20mph places.

Will this affect the working of my Diesel Particulate Filter on my car?

A DPF filter is designed to collect soot at all vehicle speeds. It still operates in an urban environment with either a 20mph or 30mph limit, collecting soot and depositing it within the filter. However the filter relies upon a process of “passive regeneration” to periodically burn off the collected soot. This would normally happen if the vehicle is running at a sustained speed of 40mph or above. Hence current urban environments with a 30mph limit would not provide the opportunity for such “passive regeneration”. In such cases the engine is designed to automatically trigger a process called “active regeneration” at a pre-determined level of soot collection (normally 45%). In this extra fuel is injected into the engine automatically to raise the temperature in the filter and burn off the collected soot. This process burns off the soot already collected in the filter. This process is already used for vehicles operating in urban 30mph environments.

Hence a 20mph limit will not create any difference in the way that a Diesel Particulate Filter clears itself. A 20mph environment will be no more of a problem than a 30mph environment. If the vehicle is not periodically driven above 40mph then it will simply initiate its own "active regeneration". 

Why are 20mph repeater signs being removed?

You may have heard in the news that local authorities are removing the 20mph repeater signs

That's correct. Repeater signs are only required and allowed where there the speed limit on a section of road is changed from the normal national limit by the Highway Authority under a Traffic Regulation Order. Hence whilst 20mph repeater signs were necessary to advise drivers that the national 30mph limit no longer applies on lit roads, now that the national limit is 20mph then no repeater signs are required or allowed. 20mph repeater signs will only be found on unlit roads where the 20mph limit has been set by a Traffic Regulation Order.

 

Hence local authorities in Wales will be removing some, but not all, 20mph repeater signs. Note that all 20mph limits will still have a large 20mph sign as you enter the limit and one indicating when it ends. 

What about this latest Senedd petition?

Update 20 April 2024

We now have the results of an FOI request for the daily signatures with Welsh postcodes. This shows that 97% of the signatures were gathered between 13th and 30th September 2023. During this period signs were still being installed and this would have meant many 20mph roads had 30mph signage and 30mph roads were assumed to be 20mph. In fact after the first two weeks of the 20mph limit being set daily signatures dropped hugely as shown by this graph of daily signings. In February 2024 the average number of daily signatures added was just 16. This is hardly a sign of rising anger but merely rising boredom by those that weren't triggered into signing in the first few weeks.

Daily signatures for Senedd anti-20mph petition

We also analysed the split of signatures by constituency. This was done by measuring the share of signatures in each constituency and comparing it with the share of electors. ie ((share of sigs/share of electors) -1). This shows that North Wales was over-represented in the petition by 21% compared to the national average. This is not surprising with Buckley being the N. Wales pilot area which was implemented with zero exceptions. Interestingly North West Wales in Arfon and Ynys Môn were under-represented at -45% and -9%.

 

The 432,875 signatures reported are lower than the 14th March results due to unverified postcodes being removed. The total represents around 14% of the population in Wales, in line with other opinion surveys on 20mph - around 1 in 7 people oppose with 2 in 3 people supporting.       

 

Update - 14 March 2024

It is now 5 months since we reported below. The petition seems to have run out of steam and when it closed on 13/03/24 the final count of Welsh signatories shows that it increased by less than 2% in the last 5 months with just 7422 new signings. 98% of signatories were made before the signage changes had been completed. During this time many drivers would have experienced 30mph signs within 20mph areas.

The monthly protests turning up outside Senedd have comprised about 20 people and at the close of the petition yesterday the usual people and numbers were there, being addressed by Natasha Asghar MS, whose late father was one of the original proposers of a national 20mph default as an Assembly Member in 2018. This is not a sign of "rising anger" but more boredom at opposition politicians attempting to weaponise road safety and community live-ability by creating a divisive culture war for the sake of a few votes

The fact is that  Wales and the Welsh people are getting on with life at 20 in villages, town and cities across the country. Its not perfect and there are some 20 roads which could be set at 30 and some 30 roads that could be set at 20. But all of this is in the hands of local highway authorities. A national 20mph default urban/village limit has made Welsh communities better places to live, walk, learn, cycle, shop and work, whether you are a resident or a tourist.  Well done Wales.

Note, final signatory numbers were:-

Wales 441,287
Rest of World 28,283
Total 469,570

 

Here is what we wrote one month into the petition in October 02023

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 provides a snapshot of driver opposition in a two week period in September 23 whilst signage was being changed. 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.


 

Is the guidance on exceptions being changed?

Yes, there is a review of the way that the exceptions guidance has been used by local authorities. We have provided some input into this with the following "supplementary statement".

20mph default speed limit – review of exceptions guidance

 

Supplementary statement by Rod King MBE, 20’s Plenty for Us

We welcome the consultation, but feel that a statement provides an opportunity to add a useful perspective beyond the framework of questions and answers provided.

1. The guidance is only guidance

Whilst it is entirely correct that the Welsh Government should provide guidance on the setting of a local speed limit other than the national limit, it must be remembered that it is only guidance. Whilst national governments have the responsibility to set a national limit for “restricted roads” with powers devolved in The Wales Act (2017), this does not allow any variations based on the type of restricted road. The only way that a different limit can be set is through the Highway Authority responsible for a road. This is done through a Traffic Regulation Order that both removes the restricted roads and sets an alternative limit. The power to do this is derived from UK-wide legislation in the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984.

The responsibilities of UK local authorities who have Highway Authority status is not just limited to reducing casualties, but embodies a far wider set of considerations. For Welsh local authorities include both Welsh legislation (Active Travel Act, Future Generations Act,  Equalities Act) and also UK-wide legislation. This means that guidance must be considered and applied within a wider context. A good example of this may be seen in the local authority historical implementations of authority-wide 20mph in England from 2006 onwards. The Guidance in 01/2006 stated specifically in para 81:-

“20 mph speed limits should be used for individual roads, or for a small number of roads”

Yet between 2006 and 2009 the local authorities of Portsmouth, Islington, Oxfordshire, Lancashire and Warrington all implemented wide-area 20mph limits over hundreds of roads. In doing so they were treating the guidance as “guidance” rather than “rules”. In fact the guidance was then changed in a DfT Circular in December 2009 stating :-

“We want to draw attention to the initial evidence from the trial of wide area signed-only 20mph limits in Portsmouth, and want to make clear that 20 mph limits over a number of roads may be appropriate elsewhere.”

Here was recognition of both Portsmouth not complying with the previous guidelines and also a change in guidance to align with developing best practice.

So guidance is only that. They are not “cast in stone rules” and it can be expected that local Highway Authorities should consider them alongside their wider local authority responsibilities. This also allow guidance to be developed and improved over time.

Indeed, if local authorities such as Portsmouth, Islington and other had not gone beyond guidance then the real benefits of wide-area 20mph limits as a norm may never have been realised. Now 20 million people in England live in paces where 20mph is the urban/village norm.

2. Civil Liability

There are two precedents in civil law which could influence highway authorities setting speed limits that are higher than the national default.

The High Court case of Rehman v Brady found that where a driver was exceeding the speed limit then the driver becomes 100% liable for the consequences and damages of any collision, even if a pedestrian behaved negligently. A child of 7 was walking with her mother, aunt and sister when she negligently crossed the road and was hit by a car travelling at an estimated 28 to 32mph in a 20mph limit. The court concluded that "allegations of contributory negligence will not be successful where it can be shown that the accident would not have happened at all but for the driver's negligence".

Where a 20mph speed limit exists, liability for the consequences of a collision rests solely with the driver if they had negligently exceeded a speed limit which if adhered to would have enabled the collision to be avoided.

In the case of Yetkin v London Borough of Newham in the Court of Appeal, the court recognised that the correct management of the roads imposes a liability on the Traffic Authority, even in cases where a road users had been negligent. Whilst the particular case was about the management of raised beds in a central reservation obscuring the view of a driver approaching a negligent pedestrian, the judgement was more general:-

"The Highway Authority owed a duty to all road users, whether careful or negligent, to use reasonable care in the manner in which it exercised its powers when it created and maintained the crossing facility."

"The Local Authority had a common law duty of care towards the Claimant, notwithstanding her own negligence; that duty was breached; the breach was a cause of the accident."

From this we can deduce that if a Traffic Authority sets a speed limit which misrepresented the hazards involved then it is in breach of its common law duty of care towards both the driver and to anyone injured regardless of whether either road user was negligent. Raising the speed limit by 50% above the national speed limit may well misrepresent the hazards involved.

These Court of Appeal precedents are an important consideration for any Highway Authority setting or raising a speed limit. Each Traffic Regulation Order for an increase in speed limit requires a Statement of Reason which should lay out the evidence that a change is appropriate. This is referred to in the guidance as requiring “evidenced application of local factors”. Whilst the officers and councillors authorising any increase in speed limit may decide to ignore this guidance, they should be mindful of potentially breaching their duty of care to all road users when exercising their powers. Merely setting a higher speed limit “because there is a lot of traffic or being a main road” would not have fulfilled  that “duty of care” and may open the Highway Authority to subsequent civil liability in the event of a collision or casualty.

We consider that issue should be brought to the attention of Highway Authorities in any guidance provided by the Welsh Government.

3. Stockholm Declaration

At the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in 2020 the Stockholm Declaration was accepted by the 130 ministerial attendees, including Baroness Vere on behalf of the UK. In Resolution 11 on Speed management it states :-

"Focus on speed management, including the strengthening of law enforcement to prevent speeding and mandate a maximum road travel speed of 30 km/h in areas where vulnerable road users and vehicles mix in a frequent and planned manner, except where strong evidence exists that higher speeds are safe, noting that efforts to reduce speed in general will have a beneficial impact on air quality and climate change as well as being vital to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries;"

This was incorporated into the UN Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030 with its objective of halving road deaths over that decade. It provides a basis that countries around the world are using for their speed management strategies. Key to this is the presumption of a 20mph or 30km/h maximum legal speed where authorities allow motors to mix with vulnerable road users. This aligns with the idea of “restricted roads” within UK urban/village settings. And this presumption mandates that there is strong evidence for setting any higher speed limit.

It is entirely appropriate that this should be incorporated into Policy section of the guidance in para 1.2.3. This endorses the requirement for Highway Authorities to provide strong evidence of safety for vulnerable road users if setting a higher speed limit.

4. Local Speed Limit Guidance and Vulnerable Road Users

Throughout the UK in all guidance on speed limit setting there is reference to the needs of vulnerable road users :

England - Circular 01/2013 Mar 24 Update Para 33

"Different road users perceive risks and appropriate speeds differently, and drivers and riders of motor vehicles often do not have the same perception of the hazards of speed as do people on foot, on bicycles or on horseback. Fear of traffic can affect people’s quality of life and the needs of vulnerable road users must be fully taken into account to encourage these modes of travel and improve their safety. Speed management strategies should seek to protect local community life."

Wales – Circular 24/2009 Setting Local Speed Limits 2017 Para 3.10

"The needs of vulnerable road users must be fully taken into account in order to further encourage their mobility and improve their safety. Setting appropriate speed limits is a particularly important element in urban safety management, with significant benefits for pedestrians and cyclists. Similarly as vehicle speeds are generally higher on rural roads, collision severity and the risk to vulnerable road users are also greater. In both situations speed management strategies should seek to protect local community life."

Both of these include “The needs of vulnerable road users must be fully taken into account”. It is difficult to see how any arbitrary consideration by a Highway Authority, such as “the road is an A or B road”, or “the road is a bus route”, or “pre-speeds were above x” could dictate that a higher speed limit than the national default was automatically applied could credibly meet this requirement. Each decision “must” take full account of the needs of vulnerable road users.

This equally applies to the Public Sector Equality Duties whereby the Equality Act legally requires a robust consideration of the needs of those with protected characteristics. This is particularly relevant to children, elderly, mothers and those with disabilities. All are impacted by higher speeds. There are other legal implications in both the Future Generations and Active Travel legislation.

Looking at the “Statement of reason” in some of the Traffic Regulation Orders already enacted by some Highway Authorities on exceptions to the national 20mph default, it is clear that no such consideration is evidenced. Any revision of guidance should make reference to these obligations.

In conclusion.

It is entirely correct to review the guidance and the way that it has been interpreted and used by Highway and Local Authorities. But this should be done with the aim of making it clearer rather than having any pre-conceived idea of diluting the guidance to allow greater freedom to set higher limits.  Freedom to set higher limits already exists within current guidance but this does come with the responsibility to do so with due diligence, adherence to the principles of speed management, wider legal obligations, to be of benefit to vulnerable road users and meet a wide range of societal outcomes.

Rod King MBE – 20’s Plenty for Us

12th April 2024

 

 

 

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  • Rod King
    published this page in Wales 2023-02-16 22:22:20 +0000