Impact of Wales’ 20mph speed limits hailed “astonishing”

12.44 | 25 September 2023 | | 5 comments

Analysis has shown that traffic speeds on urban roads in Wales have fallen by 2.9mph since the introduction of the country’s default 20mph speed limit.

Carried out by Agilysis, the analysis used traffic information along main routes in ten towns and cities, totalling 261 miles in length, in the period one week before and one week after the switch.

The headline statistics show a 2.9 mph drop in speeds on the surveyed roads, averaging 19.77 mph compared to 22.67 mph the week before the change.

Agilysis says the drop in average speeds should provide ‘incredible safety benefits’ to pedestrians and cyclists as well as an improvement in air quality to all residents and road users.

Richard Owen, Agilysis CEO and the report’s author, said: “The immediate impact on traffic speeds in Wales has been astonishing, and far greater than many would have predicted. 

“Welsh drivers are, on the whole, accepting lower speed limits and have changed their behaviour accordingly. There will remain some drivers who choose to break the limit by significant amounts but the drop in speeds on the fastest urban roads has been marked.”

Meanwhile, sample analysis of two 2.5km routes in Cardiff and Wrexham also demonstrate a journey time increase of between 45 and 63 seconds.

“This is what we expected”
The findings of the research have been welcomed by 20’s Plenty for Us.

Rod King, MBE, founder and campaign director of 20’s Plenty, said: “This is what we expected. Our experience from so many implementations across the UK tells us that 20mph limits work, and they work particularly well on the faster urban roads. 

“They are not a silver bullet, but do reduce speeds to make streets far more pleasant for walkers and cyclists, they lower faster speeds and produce a more consistent flow of traffic. This in turn makes it safer for all road users. 

“A default urban/village 20mph limit is key to liveability and community life whilst at the same time retaining mobility for all. Well done Wales.”



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    This situation is an absolute PR and communications disaster. The so-called experts have caused significant setback by implementing this blanket 20mph rule. It is unnecessary, considering that there wouldn’t have been any major opposition if they had simply focused on implementing it around schools and busy residential areas. It seems like a small group of vocal individuals is supporting this decision, completely disregarding the opinions of the vast majority. This is incredibly misguided. It’s clear that the communication surrounding this issue has been a complete failure, as even the Labour MP has described it as “bonkers.

    James, Conwy
    Agree (0) | Disagree (2)

    What might be astonishing is the difference in weighted median speed (whatever that is) being maintained through time.

    Further to Stephen Hughes comment – it may be of interest to note that the LUSTRE report found that for signs only schemes:

    “The conclusion is that the effect of introducing 20mph speed limits without physical measures (i.e. sign only) has a significant effect (a reduction of approximately 12%) on slight casualties but the effect on fatal and serious casualties is uncertain.”

    Andrew Fraser, STIRLING
    Agree (4) | Disagree (2)

    What this report has not given is if there has been any reduction in the number of KSI’s in the same period as this is what all the fuss is about

    Stephen Hughes, Derbyshire
    Agree (8) | Disagree (10)

    In ‘real terms’, that difference of 2.9 mph could be enough to allow a driver to react and stopping in time and within the available road space, thereby avoiding contact altogether. That would be a success surely?

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (18) | Disagree (7)

    2.9mph in real terms does not have an effect on the outcome of a road traffic collision.
    There are so many variables including frailty of those involved vehicle type, mechanism of injury etc.
    How on earth can such an insignificant reduction be heralded a success?

    Chris Harrison, Bristol
    Agree (19) | Disagree (21)

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