Welsh Government ‘should impose a default 20mph limit’

07.51 | 12 September 2018 | | 17 comments

The Welsh Government ‘should impose a default 20mph limit in urban areas’, giving local authorities discretion to exempt routes where justified, a new report suggests.

The report, titled ‘Decarbonising Transport in Wales’, has been published by the Institute of Welsh Affairs – an independent think-tank based in Cardiff.

With regard to 20mph limits the report states: “Speed limits of 20mph have been shown to have a significant impact on the extent of injuries arising from collisions between motor vehicles and pedestrians or cyclists.

“Slower traffic also encourages more people to take up walking and cycling as the perceived danger from traffic is reduced.”

The report has been welcomed by campaign group 20’s Plenty For Us, which reiterates the point that the Welsh Government now has the devolved power to set a national 20mph limit.

20’s Plenty For Us – which recently formed its 400th local campaign group – also points to a Public Health Wales report which suggests that 20mph limits can decrease injuries and crashes by between 17-70%.

Rod King MBE, founder and campaign director for 20’s Plenty for Us, said: “Wales clearly has aspirations in well-being, public health and energy savings that a default 20mph limit can address.

“It now has the devolved power to set a national 20mph limit.

“Our forthcoming conference in Cardiff will be an excellent opportunity to learn why and how this could be accomplished.”



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    My experience is that when the police are part of a multi-agency team that is addressing compliance through engagement and education to develop a public consensus around speed on residential and community roads then they are supportive of 20mph limits. Having spoken to senior police officers in Wales I have heard nothing to change that view.

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (7) | Disagree (8)

    In your first comment below Rod, the police were omitted from the list of bodies you mentioned to have a say in deciding the best process to deliver appropriate speed limits in Wales.

    Was that a Freudian slip? Or was it intentional because you know that you don’t have the support of the Welsh police forces for default signed only 20s?

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (9) | Disagree (7)

    If I can adopt the role of diplomat here, I don’t believe Pat’s view is that of ‘prejudice against anything that lowers speed or is seen to inconvenience motorists’ at all, but that of 20 limits in themselves not bringing about the necessary reduction in speeds, hence his scepticism. I’m inclined to agree with that – however, 20s instead of 30s make it a damn sight easier for the offenders to be detected and prosecuted. If the authorities have apparently got the will and the resources to check drivers’ eye-sights, car seats and passing cyclists’ distances, as has been reported elsewhere recently on the forum, then they can make the effort to take selective enforcement action against speeders.

    As for ‘sacrifice’, yes, I thought it was an over-the-top word to use as well and I’m sure Pat’s comment didn’t warrant that, but injuries and deaths of pedestrians are avoidable through lower speeds and I share Rod’s frustration in the face of apparent lack of enthusiasm from those involved in this field, for measures to try and achieve that.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

    Rod, I think your disrespectful comment about those here who are passionate about road safety and who know that speeds need to be reduced – but who do not believe that 20mph speed limits have any part to play in delivering that dream, is disgraceful.

    Charles, England
    Agree (8) | Disagree (3)


    You are mixing me up with the “bloke from Wales”. Perhaps difficult, but you managed to succeed where most have failed.

    I provided the KSI numbers because their larger numbers made them a little more significant to your statement that “there is no change in child pedestrian casualties”. The numbers in the Travel Independent site are taken from the DfT numbers.

    Pat from Wales

    Maybe you have never had the conversation with a parent who fears for the safety of their children when walking to school and when asking for a lower speed limit is told “you cannot have a lower speed limit because there haven’t been sufficient casualties on the road”.

    You keep peddling the myth of “failed 20mph defaults”, but never provide details. Perhaps with 110,000 casualties per annum on 30mph roads you can give some examples of successful default 30mph limits.

    I can’t help noticing that whenever any articles come up on 20mph limits, regardless of the organisation calling for them, whether that be health, children’s rights, environmental bodies, transport authorities (eg TFL), the same tired old arguments come from the same people. Few address the actual reports or source, but simply regurgitate the same prejudice against anything that lowers speed or is seen to inconvenience motorists.

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (3) | Disagree (6)

    ‘Sacrificed’ ? Goodness me Rod, you are scaling new heights of emotive language, aren’t you?

    Case not proven as there are many examples of default 20s that have failed to deliver the promised gains. So much campaigning spin that it makes me think that default 20s are often the 21st Century Transport policy equivalent of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

    We don’t need naked emperors around here thank you.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (11) | Disagree (7)

    Pat, my information is from the Dept of Transports own annual report and says as follows;-
    The number of child deaths in reported road traffic accidents in 2016 was 69. This is 15 more deaths than the 54 child deaths which occurred in 2015. the 2016 figure is the highest number of child deaths seen since 2009. However child fatalities have fluctuated between 48 and 69 over 2010 to 2016 with no clear trend.

    As has been the case, historically, child fatalities occur mainly in the pedestrian [ 34 fatalities in 2016] and car occupants [26 fatalities] categories, with a smaller number of pedal cyclists [6 fatalities]. This is because these are the forms of transport most commonly used by children.

    In 2016 there were 2,033 children seriously injured in reported road traffic accidents. Overall child casualties of all severity decrease by 1 % to 15.976 which is the second lowest year on record after 2013.

    The number of child casualties of ALL severity in 2016 was 10% lower than the 2010-2014 average.

    That said according to this report deaths have increased.

    That is taken straight from the Government office and apart from the last paragraph is specific to child deaths only, Your information comes for a third party source and includes Killed and seriously injured. Not specific to actual deaths at all.

    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Rob Craven says :-

    “there is no change in pedestrian child casualties for the period 2016 going back to 2010.”

    The actual figures for child pedestrian KSIs and %age of total child KSIs from 2005 were :-

    2005 2,134 (61%)
    2006 2,025 (61%)
    2007 1,899 (61%)
    2008 1,784 (64%)
    2009 1,660 (62%)
    2010 1,646 (66%)
    2011 1,602 (66%)
    2012 1,545 (68%)
    2013 1,358 (69%)
    2014 1,379 (66%)
    2015 1,283 (65%)
    2016 1,287 (61%)

    See http://www.travelindependent.org.uk/casualties_national.html


    The idea that setting the speed limit of 20mph for residential roads should be dependent on how many people have been sacrificed on specific roads is very 20th century. Just like the 30mph speed limit set by the son of the 17th Earl of Derby and MP for Westmorland in 1934 because it seemed “reasonable”. It may have seemed like a good idea at the time but most have moved on from then.

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (3) | Disagree (6)

    I would think that Welsh Government would have to update their own rules before making a decision on a default 20mph speed limit. It is getting quite old now but the Setting Local Speed Limits in Wales circular 24/2009 is still the current document. I am fairly sure that updating that policy document first and then following it to decide on whether on not to go to a default 20mph speed limit would take at least a year.

    Josh, Chepstow
    Agree (5) | Disagree (1)

    The new roads would obviously still have a speed limit Guzzi and I was just pointing out that whereas a new estate road would normally have the national speed limit for restricted, street-lit roads by default and which the developer would naturally expect, they might be dismayed to find that they have to pay for a TRO because the council had decided, in its ‘wisdom’, to depart from the (Welsh) national speed limit.

    Every time a new cul-de-sac gets tacked on to an existing development for example, a TRO would have to be made to avoid it automatically having the ‘wrong’ speed limit – according to the council anyway. It’s all academic anyway, as I can’t see a council doing this.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (0) | Disagree (4)

    No TROs would be needed on new housing estates. New residential areas should be built to “Manual for Streets 2” design standards. These are inherently designed (or should be) to deliver slower/lower vehicle speeds in these communities.

    The meandering road layout, raised platforms etc of newer street design are inherently more compatible with an engineering design speed limit of 20mph. – unlike the vast majority of streets built before hand.

    Guzzi, Newport
    Agree (6) | Disagree (1)

    Do 20mph schemes work? If we look at the 2016 Government stats.

    In 2016, casualties under 15-years-old [in the report there are no specific stats on under 10 year old alone]. In that one year the total number of deaths was 69 – of which 34 of them were pedestrian casualties and not in vehicles or cycling. This total figure was up some 25% on the previous year [2015 – 54 persons].

    The report goes on to say that in general terms, there is no change in pedestrian child casualties for the period 2016 going back to 2010. So it specifically stats that there has been no benefit at all. From whatever schemes or initiatives have been implemented over that period of time.

    In 2016 there were the highest numbers of child [under 15 yrs] deaths on our roads since 2009.

    So I ask myself, what does that government report, and 2016 stats, tell us about the 20’s plenty schemes own publicity stats of apparent massive reductions in child deaths.

    Agree (6) | Disagree (1)

    I think a Welsh council faced with the prospect of making another TRO everytime a new estate road is built, will opt for the sensible solution and go with the flow – I’m sure the developers will be pleased as well.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (0) | Disagree (8)

    Just a couple of weeks ago Welsh Gov published the written document on the review of the Road Safety Framework for Wales that run through the second half on 2017 and first half of this year.


    There were some necessary changes to governance due to structural changes however actions and targets continue as before.

    In the context of 20mph speed limits the policy continues to be to support new specific local 20mph speed limits/zones where there is evidence of personal injury collisions. (These are my words based on pages 23 and 25 of the document).

    I don’t see anything there about default 20s.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (8) | Disagree (1)

    Pat and Hugh

    Whilst the Welsh Ministers (ie government) can set a speed limit for “restricted roads” by means of a “statutory instrument” it needs approval by a resolution of the National Assembly for Wales. See RTRA 1984 81.3.aa. Welsh Ministers will also be required to “consult” with the Secretary of State.

    Should a 20mph limit be set for restricted roads then local traffic authorities will, just like present, be able to de-restrict a particular road so that the national speed limit for restricted roads does not apply and set a different limit through a Traffic Regulation Order. This would not set any default back to 30mph but simply set a different speed limit for the individual road(s) in the Traffic Regulation Order. The TRO would need appropriate justification and be subject to the normal consultation.

    There is no ability for a county or local authority to “opt-out” of a national limit for restricted roads regardless of whether the national limit is 30mph as present or if it changes to 20mph. It can only be done by a TRO specifying individual roads.

    This is not about “autocratic” national decisions from Cardiff, but the ability of Assembly Members, Local Traffic Authorities, councils, NGO’s, Public Health, the public and other bodies from all parts of Wales to have a say in deciding the best process to deliver appropriate speed limits cost effectively to most restricted roads in Wales yet at the same time enabling local traffic authorities to make appropriate exceptions.

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (4) | Disagree (12)

    Can I suggest that the possibility of any Welsh Council in it’s right mind even contemplating ‘overwriting’ a national speed limit, be one of the main subjects for discussion at the upcoming ’20 conference’ mentioned in another news story. I’m sure the Welsh government would like to know if such a rebellion was likely, otherwise it defeats the object of having a national speed limit, if it is going to vary from county to county.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (1) | Disagree (7)

    Welsh Government does indeed now have the devolved power to set a national 20mph limit in Wales.

    However the Local Highways Authorities have final authority to determine local speed limits and can easily “over write” any autocratic national decision from Cardiff with a local Traffic regulation order returning the default back to 30mph.

    It is not unknown for Welsh Councils to disagree with Welsh Government. So, I’m sure no decisions will be made in a hurry. This debate has not even warmed up yet.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (11) | Disagree (2)

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