Wheelrights is a cycle campaign group that was formed in 1995 to encourage more people to cycle regularly for everyday journeys in the Swansea Bay area (which includes Neath Port Talbot). We campaign for improved cycling provision and organise events to promote our aims.
We are writing in response to the Welsh Government's invitation for feedback on the introduction of 20mph speed limits on roads in Wales. Wheelrights strongly supports the 20mph default speed limit and believes it has significant benefits for all road users.
The benefits of 20mph limits to public health are also substantial. Lower speeds enable more people to walk and cycle safely, increasing physical activity levels. This is crucial in tackling health issues like obesity and heart disease. Furthermore, reduced vehicle speeds lead to lower emissions and improved air quality, benefiting respiratory health.
Children and vulnerable road users are at particular risk from vehicles travelling at 30mph or above. Research shows that a child hit by a car at 30mph is three times more likely to die than one hit at 20mph. 20mph limits create safer streets that enable children to walk, cycle or play outside, and give the elderly and disabled more confidence to get around independently.
We advocate that as a primary design principle, all roads in residential areas should be 20 mph.
As a cycle campaign, we have seen first-hand how transformative 20mph limits can be in encouraging more people to travel by bike. In areas with 30mph traffic, many people feel cycling is too dangerous. At 20mph, the roads feel hugely safer and welcoming for cyclists of all ages and abilities. Increased cycling rates then further improve safety in a "safety in numbers" effect.
We understand that some stretches of road in Swansea may be deemed suitable for a 30mph limit under the Welsh Government's exceptions process. However, we urge the council to retain the 20mph limit by default and only consider 30mph in areas where there is strong evidence that it would not increase danger for vulnerable road users. Walking and cycling need to be prioritised and enabled as healthy, sustainable modes of travel.
We advocate a secondary principle that 30mph in urban areas should only be an option where a cycle path is available adjacent to the road and offers at least the same connectivity as the road.
Enforcement a major issue
Enforcement is also a concern for us. We are aware of many roads where 20mph is regularly being exceeded at over 30mph (e.g. Townhill Rd approaching Tycoch in Swansea, a popular route home from school in an area with considerable concern about anti social vehicle use). Put simply, we would just like to see some enforcement of the existing 20mph limit.
In conclusion, Wheelrights believes the evidence is clear that 20mph limits provide extensive benefits for public health, the environment and community wellbeing. We urge the council to work constructively with the Welsh Government to implement 20mph as the default limit in Swansea, with limited exceptions. This will save lives, enable more walking and cycling, and create people-friendly streets and neighbourhoods.
Thank you for considering our response. We would be happy to meet with the Council to discuss the implementation of 20mph limits in more detail.