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Wales becomes first nation to say yes to 20mph

Living Streets Cymru, part of the UK charity for everyday walking, is celebrating new legislation to reduce speed limits in Wales. 

From today (17 September 2023), 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. 

Research shows that 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. 

In 2019, Spain reduced the speed limit to 30km/h (18.64mph) on the majority of its roads. Since then, there have been 20% fewer urban road deaths, with fatalities reduced by 34% for cyclists and 24% for pedestrians.  

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 will continue to work with Welsh Government to ensure that our streets and pavements are safe and accessible for everyone in our communities.” 

Reducing speed limits will make it safer for more people in Wales to walk and cycle for short journeys, and as a result, reduce car use, congestion and air pollution. 

In a recent survey, one in three Welsh adults said that 20mph speed limits would increase their likelihood of walking more often.  

Data from WOW - the walk to school challenge from Living Streets - reported that schools in pilot 20mph areas have seen a 39% increase in active travel journeys (25 versus 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. 

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.  

20mph sign

About the author

Sarah Philpott

Communications Coordinator, Living Streets /