Wales’ leading active travel organisations are calling on Members of the Senedd to vote in favour of landmark legislation to reduce speed limits next week (12 July 2022).

Living Streets Cymru, Sustrans Cymru and Cycling UK Cymru want to make Wales the first nation in the world to adopt a 20mph default speed limit on residential streets.

On 12 July, the Senedd will debate the introduction of 20mph default speed limits on restricted roads in Wales.If legislation is passed, many roads which currently operate as 30mph zones will reduce the speed limit to 20mph.

In November 2020, a Welsh Government national survey found that 80 per cent of participants supported the plans, in particular parents or those with children in the household.

Over the past year, Welsh Government has piloted a scheme in eight areas across Wales, where 20mph speed limits have been introduced on some residential roads. Living Streets Cymru is working with schools in these areas to understand the impact of reducing speed limits on the walk to school.

Research shows that pedestrians are 40 per cent less likely to die when hit by a car travelling at 20mph compared with one travelling at 30mph. If someone is struck by a vehicle at 20mph their chance of survival is up to 97 per cent. This decreases with every mile driven faster. There is also evidence that casualties are reduced when 20mph limits are introduced and that 20mph limits lead to more walking and cycling and lower noise levels.

The introduction of a national 20mph speed limit on residential roads would bring significant cost savings to the National Health Service. Researchers at Public Health Wales state “if all current 30mph limit roads in Wales became 20mph roads, it is estimated that 6–10 lives would be saved and 1200–2000 casualties avoided each year, at a value of prevention of £58m–£94m”. 

In 2021, the Welsh Government ran a consultation on the introduction of 20mph limits on residential roads across Wales.

Living Streets Cymru, Sustrans Cymru and Cycling UK Cymru are calling for area-wide default 20mph speed limits that include main roads and high streets where many people live work, shop, and play.


Children walking and scooting in 20mph street

Stephen Edwards, Chief Executive, Living Streets, said:

“This would be life-changing legislation because slower speeds will improve the places where we live, work and go to school.

“When the speed limit is reduced from 30mph to 20mph there is typically an average decline in casualties of at least 20%. There are also benefits in terms of reduced noise and safer and more cohesive communities that are more pleasant to live in. People are also likely to be encouraged to walk or cycle more, which is good for their health and pollution levels. 

“It’s simple: slower speeds save lives – and I urge Members of the Senedd to support the 20mph in the vote on 12 July and help make our streets and pavements safe and accessible for everyone in our communities.”

Christine Boston, Director, Sustrans Cymru, said:

“Sustrans Cymru joins Living Streets and Cycling UK in calling for Members of the Senedd to support the proposals, because 20mph defaults will help make communities across Wales safer and more attractive places to walk, wheel and cycle.

“We believe that everyone in Wales should have access to safe streets. Making 20mph default limits in our communities will help to reduce the dominance of motor vehicles whilst creating opportunities for social interaction, creating happier and healthier places.

“We want communities that are built for safety rather than speed.”

Gwenda Owen, Cycling UK’s Engagement Officer for Wales, said:

“The evidence in favour of 20mph as the default speed limit is overwhelming; it simply gives drivers more time to react, while having a negligible impact on journey times. Lower speeds result in fewer collisions, with an average 6% reduction in collisions per each 1mph reduction in speed, and when collisions do happen, injuries are far less severe.

“Cycling UK is therefore urgently calling for the Senedd to take this bold step to make our urban and residential streets safer. With poverty known to increase the likelihood of traffic collisions, it will work to reduce current health inequalities, and as more and more people become confident to get around on foot or by cycle, it will create better places and more liveable communities.”

Living Streets Cymru and Sustrans Cymru are member organisations of the Task Force Group and provided evidence to Welsh Government to support the 20mph restriction.

In 1934, Living Streets (then called the Pedestrians Association) successfully campaigned for a 30mph speed limit to be made the law.