Health chiefs give backing to 20mph plans

Could 20mph be the default speed limit across Wales?

Monday 11th July 2022 11:00 am
Stock image 20mph speed sign
Stock image of 20 mph speed limit sign (cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Albert Bridge - )

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Health chiefs in Wales have given their backing to plans to make 20mph the default speed limit across the nation.

Public Health Wales has said it believes that lowering the default speed limit to 20mph could have substantial health benefits, arguing that evidence shows that not only will 20mph reduce the risk of traffic crashes, it can also help people feel safer to walk and cycle more.

A debate is due to be held in the Senedd on the issue on July 12, and if the new law is passed, the national default speed limit on residential roads and busy pedestrian streets will be changed from 30mph to 20mph.

The plans would affect 30mph roads with streetlights fewer than 200 yards apart, though there would be some exceptions.

The changes, aimed at preventing accidents and improving air quality, would come in on 17 September next year.

Public Health Wales say the speed reduction will benefit people’s physical and mental well-being and may also reduce the number of vehicles on the road resulting in less damage to the environment. Swapping car journeys for active travel will also make local shops and businesses more viable.

A spokesperson for Public Health Wales added: “The switch from 30mph to 20mph doesn’t make a significant difference to journey times; the increase in journey time for urban travel is just 17 seconds per mile and could be less in rural areas.”

Dr Sarah J Jones, Consultant in Environmental Public Health at Public Health Wales said: “Travelling at 20mph has been shown to reduce the risk of crashing and the severity of crashes that do still happen.

“It also produces less noise pollution and reduces fuel consumption.

“It encourages people to walk and cycle, helping to fight obesity and improve mental well-being.

“All of these are likely to contribute to improvements in health and reduction in the demands for health services, which will help the NHS recovery from COVID.”

A 20mph limit has been trialled in a number of Welsh towns over the last year, inclduing St Dogmaels, Llanelli, St Brides Major in Vale of Glamorgan; central-north Cardiff; Cilfrew Village in Neath Port Talbot; Abergavenny, Severnside in Monmouthshire and Buckley in Flintshire.

From just over 6,000 responses in last year’s consultation over the scheme, 53 per cent of people said they were against the lower default limit while 47 per cent were in favour.

Reasons for opposition included longer journey times, increased congestion and concerns it could “annoy” drivers.

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