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Calls for other nations to adopts Wales’s 20mph speed limit

Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking, is calling on governments in England and Scotland to follow Wales’s lead and reduce speed limits.

From 17 September, Wales will become the first UK nation to adopt a 20mph default speed limit on residential streets.

The new legislation means that most roads that currently operate as 30mph areas will reduce to 20mph. It is estimated that the move will save 6-10 lives every year, result in 40% fewer collisions and prevent up to 2,000 people being injured.

In Scotland and England, local authorities can decide to implement 20mph limits but the current 30mph default makes it costly for them to do so. In July 2023, it was reported that Ministers are considering restrictions on councils’ ability to impose 20mph speed limits.[1]

Living Streets wants a UK default of 20mph to be made the norm, to help save lives lost each year to speeding vehicles.

Stephen Edwards, Chief Executive, Living Streets said:

“Introducing 20mph as the default speed on our residential streets will improve the places where we live, work and go to school.

“When someone is hit at 30mph, they are around five times more likely to be killed than if they were hit at 20mph. This is, quite literally, life-changing legislation.

“We need to see other UK nations following Wales’ lead, so we can all benefit from safer streets for walking and wheeling.”

The Scottish Government announced plans for 20mph to be the norm on built-up roads by 2025[2], but Living Streets Scotland is worried that progress has been slow.

Many councils have already made the switch to 20mph, including Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders. The charity says this creates an inconsistent picture and wants a national default of 20mph to help save lives lost each year to speeding vehicles.

Stuart Hay, Director, Living Streets Scotland, said:

“Without a national default there is an inconsistent picture across Scotland with individual councils left with the arduous task of implementing their own 20mph limits.

“We need to see the new Transport Minister follow Wales’ lead and champion the switch over to a national default of 20mph. Without progress it’s unlikely that national road safety targets will be met. Until all councils implement local 20mph schemes on all suitable urban streets, road safety remains a local postcode lottery. Scotland needs to copy so all streets are safe by 2025 at the very latest, given the swift and decisive roll out in Wales.”



Notes to editors

  • In 2019, Spain reduced the speed limit to 30km/h (18.64mph) on many of its roads. Since then, there have been 20% fewer urban road deaths, with fatalities reduced by 34% for cyclists and 24% for pedestrians.[1]
  • Living Streets Cymru is a member organisation of the 20mph Welsh Government Task Force Group, which provided evidence to support the 20mph restriction. In 1934, Living Streets (then called the Pedestrians Association) successfully advocated for the introduction of the 30mph limit.
  • According to research, setting the default speed limit at 20mph in residential roads in Wales will reduce pressure on the NHS from a reduction in injuries from road traffic collisions and save £92m each year.[2]
  • In a recent survey, one in three Welsh adults said that 20mph speed limits would increase their likelihood of walking more often. Slower speeds also help families feel more comfortable walking to school, which is better for their health and the local environment.  
  • Data from WOW – the walk to school challenge from Living Streets – reported that schools in pilot 20mph areas have seen a 39% greater increase in active travel journeys (25 vs 18 percentage point increase) compared to schools predominantly in 30mph areas. Children also reported feeling much safer on their journey to and from school each day.



About the author

Sarah Philpott

Communications Coordinator, Living Streets / [email protected]