A petition to stop the introduction of a default 20mph speed limit across Wales has ‘closed early because it has received so many signatures’, according to Wales Online.
The decision to make 20mph the ‘default national position in residential areas’ in Wales was made in July 2022 by the Senedd and the law will come into force in September 2023.
The new legislation will not apply a blanket speed limit on all roads, but it will make the default limit 20mph on residential roads and busy pedestrian streets.
Currently, just 2.5% of Welsh roads have a speed limit of 20mph, but this is expected to increase to approximately 35%.
The Welsh Government hopes the move will help to save lives, develop safer communities, improve the quality of life and encourage more people to make more sustainable and active travel choices.
The Wales Online news report says the petition, titled ‘Stop the change of speed limits to 20mph on 17th September’, has received more than 21,000 signatures, meaning it will now be considered for a debate in the Senedd.
“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 use of speed bumps and 20mph zones in built-up areas and near schools is a generally accepted practice for the safety of children and adults. The widening of these measures could lead to an increase in ‘road rage’ incidents and currently appears to be nothing more than a revenue stream for people to pay fines when they are caught speeding (when they are travelling at a safe speed).
“I am yet to see an opinion supporting the changes, I have asked multiple people locally and read the comments left by many people online. It was the negative response to the changes that prompted the creation of this petition. The new speed changes will disproportionately affect the commute times of people travelling by road for work, especially in areas where most roads are currently 30mph and have no bypass roads with higher speed limits.”
If the debate was to go ahead in the Senedd, the likely date is 28 June.
The founder of 20s Plenty for Us, Rod King, says he ‘confidently expects the national 20mph limit will proceed as planned’.
Rod King said: “The legislation for the national 20mph limit was passed nearly a year ago. The changes will take place on September 17th of this year and already local authorities have done a large part of the work associated with changing signs and setting exceptions where appropriate.
“The plans for a national 20mph default were subject to democratic debate starting in 2018.
“After wide consultation with stakeholders, local authorities and Welsh Assembly members, the 20mph Task Force Report received cross-party support in 2020 and majority support in 2022. It has also been approved by the UK Secretary of State.
“With regard to this petition, we know from repeated UK surveys that 20mph limits gain majority support, yet are opposed by about 14% of those surveyed. That 22,000 people have signed a petition – which amounts to just 1.4% of the 1.6 million Welsh drivers – is neither surprising nor significant.
“We confidently expect Senedd to recognise that full and appropriate democratic process has been followed and that the national 20mph limit will proceed as planned. It will lead a transformative change in Welsh communities and the foundation for enhanced active travel, liveability and public health.”
Research conducted by the Transport Research Institute (TRI) at Edinburgh Napier University, in conjunction with Public Health Wales, estimates the default 20mph speed limit will save around £100 million in the first year.
The estimated cost saving is the result of fewer deaths and injuries – with predictions that the lower limit will save more than 100 lives over a decade and 14,000 casualties in total.
Meanwhile, a new independent public attitude survey, conducted by Beaufort Research on behalf of the Welsh Government, shows the majority of respondents support a new lower speed limit.
Almost two-thirds of people surveyed said they would support a 20mph speed limit where they lived and 62% said they wanted everyone to slow down on the roads.