Petition sparks potential 20mph debate in Welsh Assembly

10.53 | 13 June 2023 | | 4 comments

Image: Welsh Government

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.

The petition
“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.”

Financial savings
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.

 

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    The Senedd petitions committee has agreed that the petition should be debated by Senedd and this is to be done on 28th June 2023.

    We explore how the setting of the national 20mph limit for Wales has followed all required legislative procedures and included extensive involvement of politicians, local authorities, stakeholders, NGOs, government agencies and the public. It has also had 5 years of detailed investigation of its benefits and is in line with UK and International best practice.

    Members of Senedd should be congratulated in approving this important legislation which will bring wide benefits to the country.

    We believe that Members of Senedd should reject this petition when it is debated on 28th June 2023, and here we explain why.

    See our full critique at https://www.20splenty.org/critique_of_the_anti-20mph_senedd_petition


    Rod King, Lymm, Cheshire
    Agree (50) | Disagree (4)
    +46

    Last I heard, democracy wasn’t run by petition. We vote people in by the ballot box and they make decisions on our behalf.

    If you don’t like what they do, you campaign and get them voted them out at the next election and vote someone in who will change things for you.

    The Westminster Govt. seem to like pandering to the whims of the angry minority, but this is Wales and we don’t do that here.

    Saying that I would welcome a debate by the Welsh Govt. as it will confirm that the 20mph limit change is still going ahead as planned on 17th September, which thankfully it is, regardless of the angry minority stamping their feet.


    Rhian, Cardiff
    Agree (68) | Disagree (16)
    +52

    There are over 2 million adults in Wales so it is only a vocal minority of some motorists who are against this move.

    Most people think it is a good idea.

    Besides It’s not just Wales going down this 20mph road. Scotland is next by 2025 and when it proves to be a success England will probably follow.

    Some people are just panicking, as it will make little difference to journey times as in built up areas and on urban classified Local ‘A’ roads, average speed is already well below 20mph.


    Mike Thomas, Caerphilly
    Agree (71) | Disagree (16)
    +55

    I agree with the petitioner in saying “This decision is not representative of the broader public opinion…”

    Just because it has been approved by a democratic majority in the Senedd (Welsh parliament) does not make it a majority with the public, especially bearing in mind the make-up of the political parties in Wales.

    Neither the majority of the 5600 people in the Welsh Government consultation who voted AGAINST Default 20mph OR the majority of the mere 1002 people that were involved in the online public opinion survey in November 2020 who voted FOR it are enough.

    As I said on this website in May 2022. “Both samples are a vanishingly small fraction of 1% of the population. Far too small to build a case for change (or not) on”.

    Much more extensive polling would be good as the petitioner asks for, but the political majority is likely to carry on and have its day and we will begin to see the outcome of this interesting experiment fairly soon.


    Pat, Wales
    Agree (17) | Disagree (74)
    --57

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