In line with the February 2020 Stockholm Declaration and the call by the UN for a default 20 mph speed limit on streets shared with pedestrians and cyclists, the Welsh Government has taken the bold decision to set a national urban/village speed limit of 20 mph (30 km/h) by 2023.
The move was a response to a call by 20’s Plenty for Us which advocates for 20 mph as the appropriate speed limit on streets where people walk, live and play. Founded in 2007, the charity assists and empowers community campaigns promoting wide area 20 mph limits to replace the national 30 mph (50 km/h) limits. In its first 10 years, 20’s Plenty helped to set up over 350 local community campaigns under the banner “20’s Plenty for Our Streets”. Thanks to its efforts, by 2017 more than 15 million people in the United Kingdom lived in places where 20 mph was the norm for most streets.
Despite progress elsewhere, however, there were few 20 mph streets in Wales. This all began to change on 1 April 2018 when the Wales Act moved the power for setting national speed limits in the country to the Welsh Parliament or Senedd. Around this time there was also a growing understanding among Parliamentarians of a message that had long been promoted by 20’s Plenty: revising speed limits at the national level is much more cost-effective than doing so town by town. Given this favourable context, national and local 20’s Plenty campaigners saw this as an opportunity to call for change at a national level in Wales.
“20’s Plenty for Sully campaigners”
Of course, change doesn’t happen overnight. During a series of carefully prepared and targeted conversations between 20’s Plenty’s Founder and Campaign Director, Rod King, and key decision-makers, Mr King passionately described the myriad ways a national default 20 mph urban speed limit would be beneficial and how it aligned with Welsh values on communities. With the support of local 20’s Plenty campaigners who facilitated these one-on-one discussions, Mr King met the Future Generations Commissioner, Commissioner for Older People and officials from Public Health Wales, Institute for Welsh Affairs and an array of active travel NGOs. Importantly, he also met representatives of each of the political parties to gain cross-party support for such a change. To his delight, those he met showed a professional, objective and supportive response to his appeal.
From left to right: Rod King, Founder and Campaign Director of 20’s Plenty for Us; Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services of Wales; and Brendan Sadka of 20’s Plenty for Wales”
On a parallel track, 20’s Plenty also worked with Cardiff City Council to host a 20’s Plenty Conference in Wales in October 2018. The gathering convened 100 politicians, transport and public health professionals, and 20’s Plenty campaigners who benefitted from presentations on the merits of a national default 20 mph urban speed limit. A number of “Vox pops” were taken at the conference.
The conference was a huge success. 20’s Plenty commented:
“With respected Welsh establishment organisations backing 20 mph there is a real sense of top down validation. We know how 20 mph as the normal road speed for built up areas is an enormous public health, economic and environmental win-win. Wales can decide to push ahead and go 20 mph without the costly and time-consuming disadvantages of doing it authority by authority. It can combine national cost-effectiveness and consistency with local flexibility to deliver a real benefit to all communities.”
These advocacy efforts culminated in May 2019 with the announcement by Mark Drakeford, the First Minister for Wales, of his intention to set 20 mph as a national default urban/village speed limit. To prepare for this eventuality, a Task Force Group was established comprised of key stakeholders who were responsible for developing a robust implementation plan. Four teams – communications and promotion; exemptions, engineering and enforcement; legislation and policy; and outcomes, evaluation and monitoring – provided feedback to the Task Force Group, charged with producing a final report.
In an August 2019 Interview conducted by Rod King, Founder and Campaign Director of 20’s Plenty for Us, with Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport of Wales.
In June 2020, the 47-page Welsh 20 mph Task Force Group: Final Report was published, providing 21 recommendations and a detailed plan for adopting the new national urban speed limit with implementation in 2023. On 15 July 2020, the Welsh Senedd gave overwhelming approval to the plan. 20’s Plenty commented:
“The aspiration in Wales for a national default 20 mph limit reflects some of the key values within Welsh communities and Government around future generations, active travel, environment, transport, public health and equality. It also aligns with global best practice that 130 nations have endorsed at the recent 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety. This is a great achievement for all of those in Wales who have worked so hard to bring about this important change.”
In brief, Wales has committed to act to deliver a transformational change in its community spaces by implementing its national default 20 mph speed limit. Other countries are developing similar plans. According to Mr King, the key message to take from this for the 6th UN Global Road Safety Week is that lobbying for big changes on a national scale can be successful. Mr King notes “If as campaigners we can combine our passion for change, our precision on what we want, our planning of how to influence the people who can make the changes and, most importantly, be persistent in our efforts, then we can work with governments to deliver those much-needed changes to our cities, towns and villages.”.
20's Plenty for Us