Road Safety News

Welsh Assembly passes 20mph motion

Wednesday 6th February 2013

The Welsh Assembly last week passed a motion to encourage local authorities in Wales to implement more 20mph limits.

In a debate in the Senedd chamber, a group of Welsh Assembly members called for more 20mph zones to be introduced to protect pedestrians and children in built-up areas.

While 20mph zones are a familiar sight outside many Welsh schools, the four Assembly members argued they should be introduced in other built-up areas and places where children play.

Welsh councils have been given £11.5m this year to encourage them to introduce more zones, with ministers saying that slower traffic would make roads safer and encourage people to walk and cycle.

The Welsh Assembly’s move comes just two weeks after the UK Government published new speed limit guidance for local authorities in England, which includes changes that create more flexibility for authorities to implement 20mph limits and zones.

Labour assembly member Joyce Watson, one of the four Assembly members tabling the debate, said 20mph zones could be imposed around school gates at peak times when children were likely to be around.

Brake, the road safety charity, has welcomed the move.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of Brake, said: “We are delighted the Welsh Assembly has thrown its weight behind life-saving and life-enabling 20mph limits, recognising the evidence that going 20 is good for road safety and good for communities.

“We urge local authorities in Wales and across the UK to heed this call and make this important step towards safer neighbourhoods and safer walking and cycling.”


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Postscript to previous comment: Reading Dave’s comment again, I think he’s misinterpreted my view. A 20 limit is fine by me in residential roads and certain access/distributor roads and no doubt will benefit all, but compliance will be a big problem not because, as Dave assumes, rather naively, that those who do not comply do so because they think that it is the ‘safe and appropriate speed’ – it’s more a mindset which reads along the lines of “I have no respect for traffic laws, other road users, or my environment to make me want to drive properly”.

That’s the reality of life on our roads I’m afraid.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Dave picked two examples, if true, of two drivers who had clearly NOT chosen safe and appropriate speeds for the conditions. As both drivers were in public service employment, I hope he reported them. I presume Dave was following the gritter lorry at a much slower, safe and appropriate speed i.e not 48mph on ice, but remarkably he was somehow still able to judge the lorry’s speed to an accuracy of 1mph – impressive - even I can’t do that.

The rest of his comment is poor reasoning and largely illogical – the first paragraph doesn’t even make sense.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Hugh makes a good point. The vast majority of drivers are keen to avoid crashing and therefore select safe and appropriate speeds for the conditions. So how are the authorities going to persuade them not to do this?

Examples abound. I was on a bus doing 32mph in a 20mph with speed humps. I was following a gritter lorry on ice and snow doing 48mph in a 40mph. Both drivers had selected a safe and appropriate speed for the conditions showing that the authorities bring the law into disrepute when they set speed limits too low.

But if drivers did concentrate on the speed limit, journeys would take longer leading to either less time at work (damaging the economy) or less time with their families, leading to a deterioration in the quality of life for residents.

But the big issue is safety, and there is no good evidence of benefit.
Dave, Slough

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I don’t think there can be any doubt in a rational observer's mind that if speeds in urban areas can be reduced there would be an improvement in the quality of life for the residents and for the non-motorised road users (for want of a better term). However if, as I understand it, there is to be no physical traffic calming or regular enforcement associated with new 20 zones, I cannot for the life of me see how speeds are going to be substantially reduced in reality. I’m sure some locals will voluntarily reduce their speed - notwithstanding the illegality of not doing so – however, in my experience, some people can’t even bother respecting the current 30 limit in their own roads. If events prove me wrong I would be delighted.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Many thanks Eric, Rod and Idris for your views on 20mph zones which you have articulated on many occasions - be interested to hear from others on this subject now.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety GB newsfeed

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May I suggest that those wishing to view the breakdown of casualties in 2010/11 in Portsmouth and Hampshire can find these analysed at

I am sure that you can draw your own conclusions from this.
Rod King, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

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Mark, you say "reductions seen are typically well over 50%".

I'm sorry, but reductions of what?, where?, when? When very few (15%?) of collisions/casualties have "speeding" as even a contributory factor, and a 20mph scheme typically reduces the average speed by 1mph (that was the Portsmouth experience) it is simply not credible that a 20mph limit could achieve 50% reduction of any road safety measure.

Then you say "it is clear ... that the general increase in the number of zones and probably the other related figures is much higher than the increase in casualties in roads with a 20 mph limit".

I'm struggling to understand what point you are making, and based on what.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

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From my experience with schemes near me the reductions seen are typically well over 50%. I could not be as sure as you regarding the national picture since a representative from the DfT said on the BBC's More or Less "Nobody has the information on the number of 20 zones or limits, the road lengths involved or the traffic levels now or prior to installation."

However, it is clear (to me and many if not most people) that the general increase in the number of zones and probably the other related figues is much higher than the increse in casualties in roads with a 20 mph limit.
Mark, Caerphilly

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Actually Mark, no-one had mentioned the "more accidents in 20 limits" which, as you say, may be due to more 20mph areas. The worry is the increase in serious injuries following 20mph speed limits being imposed, such as in Portsmouth (the largest 20mph experiment in Britain) and here in Slough in Manor Park (North, South and Central).

Opportunities to introduce 20mph in scientific trials have been missed time and again and it would appear that the Welsh Assembly is about to miss this opportunity yet again. Were the politicians offered scientific trials? Do they even know that such trials exist?

The £11.5m cost will be a debt to be paid by generations yet to be born so we need the evidence to justify that debt to the people who will have to pay it. We owe them the evidence that scientific trials provide.
Dave, Slough

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That's an interesting view but, from memory, there is usually a reduction in traffic volume - in fact, it's often an objective of the scheme. My challenge remains for anyone to find an implementation where there is a not an increase in serious injuries when measured using the criteria in my previous posting.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

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Eric: To the best of my knowledge, ‘20’ zones generally apply to estate roads, older terraced streets and associated local access roads all carrying local traffic –i.e. traffic there with a purpose and not passing through, in which case if you think that 20% will feel compelled to ‘divert to avoid the area’.. do these individuals then get to their destinations? If a '20' zone covers a whole town, do they go into self-imposed exile?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Mark (Caerphilly)
A simple count of injuries in a 20mph is not sufficient to claim success. It must be adjusted for traffic volume (if 20% of traffic diverts to avoid the area, they have to be assumed to take there "share" of collisions/casualties with them). Also, it is appropriate to compare the 20mph data with national trends. When these adjustments are made, I think you will find that all 20mph schemes result in increased serious injuries. Note also that "all casualties" (serious and minor) is not a valid measure due to casualties, and minor injuries in particular, being under-reported.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

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I note the "more accidents in 20 limits" has been quoted, but that ignored the fact that the number of 20 limits had increased so even with zero change in rate there would be more in total. LAs usually monitor schemes and most 20 schemes around here have (when there were any) resulted in fewer casualties in each one. The mistake was in the 1930s when the default went from 20 to 30 (followed the next year with the first zebra crossing!)
Mark, Caerphilly

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This illustrates a perfect way to create accidents/fatalities by unrealistic speed limits that cause zombie driving. Everyone needs to watch the road (and that includes all road users) rather than just the speedometer.
Phil, Kent

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Please note that BRAKE are now firm supporters of 20mph limits being across all communities rather than simply around schools.

And here is our Briefing Sheet explaining our position on School Safety Zones.
Rod King, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

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Yes, Richard Brunstrom CC of North Wales,was asked on the Vine Show about accidents near schools, because of a Brake campaign for 20mph limits there. He replied that there were very few accidents near schools to start with - something Brake had, it seems, failed to check before starting their campaign.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

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I understand its actually about 20% of child casualties which are whilst on the way to school. Which is why we advocate area-wide 20mph limits to protect a much larger part of a child's daily life in the places where they live, walk to the shops or their grandparents.

PS: That reference to Brunstrom and The Jeremy Vine Show is interesting. Is that Richard Brunstrom?
Rod King, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

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I am not opposed to 20mph zones (or any other public safety experiment) in principal but the effects of each intervention need to be competently analysed and honestly reported. The problem with 20mph zones is that none have been installed within scientific trials and the zones that have been tried appear to have resulted in a rise in serious injuries.

The PM today in Brussels stated we need to “... spend money wisely” therefore we need to compare what £11.5m could be spent on. If we have these 20mph zones, then we cannot have (say) 12 Police officers over the next 10 years and more than 20 nurses.

But we need to determine the effects first. If we introduced 20mph zones in scientific trials we could move the discussion on from guesswork and opinion to an objective cost/benefit analysis.
Dave, Slough

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Big mistake, based on simplistic and naive theories. And a dreadful waste of money when tens of thousands are dying from neglect and fuel poverty. Somewhere there must be a politician who understands that politics should be the language of priorities. Quite apart from there being very few accidents near schools (Brunstrom, Jeremy Vine Show) there is growing evidence that serious injuries rise in 20mph areas
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (8) | Disagree (18)