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Councils puzzle drivers by removing 20mph signs ahead of new speed limit implementation

Starting September 17, the Welsh Government’s new rule will be put into effect.

In preparation for the launch of Wales’ new default speed limit of 20mph, council staff have begun removing road markings and signs, leading to confusion and criticism from some motorists who view it as a “waste of taxpayers’ money.”

The new rule, set to come into effect on September 17, is aimed at improving road safety and encouraging more people to walk and cycle. Wales has become one of the first countries worldwide, and the first in the UK, to adopt 20mph as the default speed on roads frequently used by motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists.

Under this legislation, signs warning of entry and exit from 20mph zones will be removed by September 17, 2024, as they will no longer be necessary with the new default speed limit. Additionally, repeater signs and 20mph road markings in street-lit areas will become illegal from the same date. Local authorities have been granted until September 17, 2028, to remove repeater signs, though some councils have already started the process.

Flintshire Council, one of the authorities initiating sign removal, clarified in a tweet that the absence of road markings doesn’t mean 20mph speed restrictions have been lifted. They emphasized that street lights will serve as reminders of the 20mph speed limit in affected areas.

While some exceptions are still being considered, the new 20mph legislation will apply to all restricted roads. Old 30mph signs are also being removed as they will mostly no longer apply.

The change in legislation necessitates the creation and installation of new road signs, including a road safety sign, road humps sign, traffic-calmed area sign, speed camera sign, and temporary signs indicating the start of a new 20mph speed limit. The estimated cost of replacing thousands of speed signs is around £26.7 million.

The Welsh Government has long argued that lower speed limits in towns and villages will enhance road safety and encourage active forms of travel. However, some councils are utilizing exemptions criteria to increase speed limits on certain roads, leading to disputes over road safety claims and concerns about potential impacts on tourism and the economy.

Despite the benefits anticipated by the new speed limit, some citizens have expressed frustration at the removal of road signs, especially in 20mph pilot areas where they have been in place for only 18 months. Critics have raised questions about the expenditure and suggested focusing on other pressing issues, such as pothole repair.

With the new default speed limit set to be implemented next month, Welsh authorities are gearing up for changes that aim to improve road safety and foster a shift towards more sustainable modes of transportation. However, the debate surrounding the sign removal and the effectiveness of the 20mph rule continues to spark public interest and varied opinions.