Record number of Welsh motorists sign petition in protest at new 20mph speed limits

Published: 26 September 2023

► Default speed limit in Wales reduced to 20mph
► Not a blanket rules – there will be exceptions

► National petition set up to reverse decision

A petition opposing the new blanket 20mph speed limits in Welsh towns has amassed 431,598 signatures in just a week.

It’s the biggest online petition ever received by the Senedd, the Welsh parliament, which has to debate any topic receiving more than 10,000 signatures – even though it is not legally bound to change policy.

The previous petition record was a poll held in lockdown requesting that supermarkets could sell non-essential items; it received 67,940 signatures. The title of the petition is: ‘We want the Welsh Government to rescind and remove the disastrous 20mph law.’

Welsh motorists revolt against 20mph speed limits

Hundreds of people protested in Cardiff at the weekend, demonstrating against the new 20mph limits.

A map created by Wales Online analyses the data of where in Wales signatories are based, showing that it’s been signed by motorists in the more built-up north and south towns of Wales who are most incensed by the lower limit.

The Welsh government lowered the default speed limit on urban roads in Wales from 30mph to 20mph on 17 September 2023. Restricted roads are usually found within residential areas where streetlights are placed no more than 200 yards apart.

While the new speed limit applies to most busy pedestrian streets across Wales, it is not a blanket limit on all restricted roads and there will be some exceptions to the rule.

Highway authorities have been granted the prerogative to decide which roads should remain at 30mph after consulting with their local communities.

The new speed limit is expected to cost £32 million, though the Welsh government has assured that the cost will be ‘outweighed by casualty prevention savings’. A public health study has estimated these savings could be up to £92m per year.

Why is a default 20mph speed limit being introduced in Wales?

The new speed limit has been called upon to lower the number of traffic-related injuries in residential areas. The new 20mph default speed limit could result in 1200 to 2000 fewer injuries a year with 40% fewer collisions, according to a public health study.

Speed limit street markings

The initiative is also expected to encourage a shift towards more active methods of travel such as cycling and walking – incentivising more physical activity to reduce taxpayer costs while lowering the NHS workload in Wales.

Will a 20mph default speed limit be introduced across the rest of the UK?

Though English local authorities have the power to impose 20mph limits on their roads, the default speed limit on restricted roads is still 30mph in England. Some councils have introduced the lower limit, most commonly near schools.

There have been calls to reduce the default limit on restricted roads to 20mph from campaign groups and road safety experts, but they’ve been met with resistance from MPs.

The government has considered cracking down on local 20mph speed limits following prime minister Rishi Sunak’s criticism of Labour’s road policies as ‘anti-motorist’, vowing that he is ‘on the side’ of English drivers.

In Scotland, local authorities in Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders region have already rolled out permanent 20mph limits on restricted roads. Although charities have requested the Scottish government follow Wales by setting a 20mph default speed limit, as it stands the default limit is still 30mph.

By Seth Walton

Staff writer at CAR and our sister website Parkers, specialising in ownership and car advice