Report recommends default 20mph limit in Wales

14.24 | 20 July 2020 | | 10 comments

A default 20mph speed limit on urban roads in Wales should be introduced as quickly as possible, with a target date of April 2023, a new report has concluded.

The independent report, published by the Welsh Government on 16 July, follows a year-long study, carried out by a taskforce made up of police, local authorities, public health experts and road safety groups.

At present, the default limit on restricted roads – defined by the presence of street lights no more than 183m apart – is 30mph, with communities needing to make the case for a lower speed limit.

The report recommends turning the process on its head, making the default limit 20mph – leaving communities and local authorities to decide which roads should remain at 30mph.

It also notes that lowering traffic speeds in urban areas should be seen as a major behaviour change project, requiring a sophisticated communications and marketing strategy – based on building social unacceptability for speeding in residential areas.

This would need to be backed up with strong enforcement in the early stages, the report says.

The report adds that a robust and comprehensive monitoring and evaluation framework should be established so that the outcomes can be assessed, and lessons learnt and disseminated.

Lee Waters, deputy minister for economy and transport, said: “Whilst we have made progress on reducing deaths on our roads in the 21 years of devolution, despite our considerable efforts, there are still 4,000 accidents which result in injuries every year in Wales.

“The evidence is clear, reducing speed reduces accidents. It saves lives. Slower speeds in our communities improves quality of life too.

“This is as much about changing hearts and minds as it is about hard enforcement. Over time 20mph will become the norm – just like the restrictions on smoking inside businesses, the carrier bag charge and organ donation.”



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    This sort of thing happens when you let Ministers go unchecked. ‘Blanket reduction in speed’ at 20mph even the slow cyclists will be complaining…do you check their speeds and compliance like riding on the correct side would be a start. It has more to do with politics and a desire to follow the EU without much evidence to support the proposals. You should be selective and justify making such changes not behave like sheep and look for political gains. Banning the Welsh language would be a big improvement for the UK…but I bet that won’t happen soon.

    Donald, Cambridge
    Agree (51) | Disagree (2)

    I suspect that their vision is somewhat different from yours Pat. I am sure you will find it interesting. And I do respect the fact that yours is a personal view.

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (0) | Disagree (55)

    Support presupposes that the 20s roll out is serious and so is to be fully funded in line with the WLGA task force report . A cost that is yet to be established. A cost that i guess is likely to exceed the sum total of the last 10 years Road Safety Grant. A vision without a price ticket is like a map without a scale. We will watch the politicians as they decide how our future will look.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (12) | Disagree (1)

    Of course it will Pat. Its not a “one size fits all” scheme, or just “putting up signs and nothing else”. Its well thought out and complementary to so many other Welsh aspirations. And its a great opportunity for road safety professionals to work with other professionals to implement an initiative that be an example of best practice in managing speeds.

    I therefore look forward to road safety professionals across Wales playing their part in the engagement and education implicit in the plans.

    Best wishes


    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (0) | Disagree (52)

    The task force report is very well written ( except for one partial quote from the TRL report which may mislead people) and confirms that the implementation of a default 20 in Wales will be complex, expensive and take several years to introduce. And will require a substantial ongoing commitment for policing.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (20) | Disagree (0)

    Pat. You miss the point that average speeds across a network fall far less when putting in expensive, isolated 20mph physically calmed roads. In fact the ave speed reduction per mile of road per £1,000 cost is about 7 times greater with a 20mph default compared to physical calming.

    Site specific 20mph limits with physical calming not only limit the reduction to a tiny proportion of roads but also endorse higher speeds on the rest of the network.

    Default 20mph limits may well only reduce average speeds by 1-2mph but there is a spread of -5mph to -6mph on faster roads to zero on roads where speeds are already below 20mph. But they deliver a population-wide benefit and reset the reference point at what is safe, social, just and legal for roads where motor vehicles mix with people.

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (2) | Disagree (53)

    When you have read the full report you will see that there is a very realistic understanding and expectation that the actual reduction in average speeds will be very small. And that would be the case even with the strong police enforcement considered by the report to be essential.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (11) | Disagree (1)

    What would be more useful is an examination into why a significant proportion of drivers do not comply with 20 speed limits. That is the real problem – not the limit itself. If say, typically 50% will make a point of complying, what is wrong with the 50% who don’t?

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (7) | Disagree (39)

    The report was debated on 15th July in the Senedd after members had received the report the previous week. The motion was :-

    To propose that the Senedd:

    1. Welcomes the report of the Taskforce chaired by Phil Jones setting out recommendations on how to change the default speed limit for restricted roads in Wales to 20mph.

    2. Notes the international research which demonstrates the road safety benefits, including a reduction in child deaths, of reducing default speed limits to 20mph.

    3. Recognises the Welsh Government roll out of 20mph pilot projects, as precursor to a default 20 mph speed limit across Wales, and the future community benefits this will bring.

    4. Supports the Welsh Government’s intention to commence consultation on the proposed making of an order by statutory instrument (which will require approval by a resolution of the Senedd) reducing the general speed limit for restricted roads to 20 mph.

    5. Calls on the Welsh Government to set out its proposals as part of the consultation to ensure that enforcement agencies have the appropriate resources to respond to the proposed order

    The Taskforce’s Report was emailed to Members on 8 July 2020.

    For 45

    Abstain 2

    Against 6

    Total 53

    The motion as amended was agreed with cross party support.

    The full debate may be seen on our website at

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (5) | Disagree (51)

    As most accident occur on urban roads with a maximum speed limit of 30 mph and that most collisions are of a shunt front to rear or a smidsy at junctions both circumstances with generally occur a speeds lower than the maximum. It seems strange that they wish to introduce a 20 mph limit that will do absolutely nothing the reduce the frequency of these collisions at all.

    May I suggest they concentrate on the DVSA advising tailgating whilst in urban traffic queues. To take the lead like Highways England in understanding that the vast majority, in fact they say some 75% are of front/rear end crashes. Further that most smidsey’s around town occuring at junction are caused by far too many vehicles travelling far too close to each other and that if motorists were trained to give safer space and not taught to give less space by the DVSA and some ADI’s then our roads will become a safer environment for all users.

    I do not believe for one moment that this measure will in fact reduce the numbers of collisions as that is not its purpose. Traffic will slow if the roads speeds are clarified about speed allowances by the police and of safe distances which needs to be more strongly enforced.

    Having said that in the next few years it’s unlikely that we will ever get the truth of the matter and that this endeavour was doomed to failure. No authority would dare to publish a negative result as it would have to admit that it was a waste of taxpayers money.

    Bob C., Lancs
    Agree (14) | Disagree (5)

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