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20mph Limit on Welsh Roads Goes Live

A new 20mph default speed limit for all urban roads in Wales came into force on Sunday 17th September 2023. Councils can exempt individual roads if they choose to and keep the previous 30mph limit.

The new law affects all residential roads with street lighting, most of which already had a 30-limit, and signage will be on the same pattern as previously, the 20 (or 30) limit denoted by circular signs with a red border. National speed limits on open roads remain 60mph for single-carriageways and 70mph for duals, unless signed otherwise.

The Welsh Government (which was given the power to set a nationwide speed limit in 2018) made the 20mph proposal in 2021, the aim being to reduce the number of collisions and injuries, and thus ease pressure on the NHS. They’re also hoping that slower, calmer traffic will encourage people to walk or cycle, improving general health and the environment.

Is there evidence for any of this? Well, yes there is. The Welsh Government trialled a 20-limit in eight different areas during 2021/22 and found that 64% of drivers were now travelling at 24 mph or less (down from 45% before the trial). For school journeys, there was a 51% increase in walking or cycling. There appeared to be no big change in air quality. A further report in six months will look at the effects of the national 20-limit.

And will it be enforced? The Welsh Police say yes, though there are indications that in the early days, those caught just over the limit may be offered an educational video instead of the standard £100 fine and three licence points. Those way over the limit can still expect the points and a fine.

Paul Morgan, BMF Government Relations Executive Officer stated ”The BMF does not support the implementation of blanket 20 mph area-wide limits across the UK road network. We believe such an approach is unlikely to see significant speed reductions as a result of the likely non-compliance by drivers.

BMF believes that targeted 20mph limits work most effectively where they are needed – outside schools or hospitals, or places where other vulnerable road users may be encountered. Speed limits also need to reflect the nature of a particular road, with research showing that drivers are less likely to comply with a lower speed limit if they don’t believe it is appropriate for the type of road.”

We, the BMF supports the setting and enforcement of appropriate speed limits as an important part of measures to develop wider road safety; alongside road network and vehicle design, education programmes and improved driver safety training. We are currently working with a number of government departments, industry representatives and wider road safety stakeholders to ensure that future transport policy delivers a better and safer environment for motorcyclists and other vulnerable road users as part of a holistic “shared responsibility” approach to road safety policy and practice.”

Written by Peter Henshaw

Top image courtesy of Peter Henshaw