THE Welsh Government has unveiled guidance for setting new 20mph speed limits on the nation’s residential roads.
In September 2023, the default speed limit for so-called “restricted roads” – the type most commonly found in residential areas – will be cut from 30mph to 20mph.
It will be up to each council in Wales how and where to enforce the new speed limits, and there is no obligation for local authorities to make all of its roads 20mph.
The government believes 20mph speed limits will make roads less dangerous and save the NHS money as a result of fewer deaths and injuries, but trial schemes – including several in Monmouthshire – have proven to be controversial with many motorists.
Ministers also believe the lower speed limits will generally help to cut air pollution.
In new guidance, the Welsh Government has set out how it believes the new speed limits should be introduced, and when it may be more appropriate for councils to keep some roads at 30mph.
Central to the government’s guidance are the numbers of pedestrians who use each road.
Councils are asked to decide whether there are “significant numbers, or potential numbers, if speeds were lower, of pedestrians and cyclists travelling along or across the road”.
If the answer to this is no, the government suggests “an exception for a 30mph speed limit may be appropriate”.
If the answer is yes, then councils are asked to consider whether pedestrians and cyclists are “mixing with motor traffic” on the road in question.
Again, if the answer to this no, then the government suggests “a 30mph speed limit exception may be appropriate”.
But if the answer to this second question is yes, the government said “a 20mph speed limit will be appropriate unless the robust and evidenced application of local factors indicates otherwise”.
However, some places should automatically be lowered to 20mph, the Welsh Government has recommended.
These include roads within 100 metres of schools or any other education setting, such as colleges.
Roads within 100m of community centres, hospitals, and built-up residential and shopping areas should also be lowered to 20mph, the guidance shows.
But “highway authorities” – i.e. councils – should “continue to have the flexibility to set local speed limits that are right for individual roads, reflecting local needs and considerations”.
This means practical matters should be accounted for on a case-by-case basis.
For example, if there is a community centre but most people access it via a subway or bridge, the Welsh Government suggests it is not necessary to cut the speed limit.
On the other hand, there may be stretches of road which do not contain schools or hospitals, but councils may still feel it is necessary to lower the speed to 20mph for other safety reasons.
Only roads which are currently 30mph should be eligible for the new speed limit. Any roads presently at 40mph or higher “should not generally be changed at this stage, but their limits may need to be reviewed” after September 17, 2023, when the new 20mph limit comes into force.