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Swansea councillors debate enforcement of new 20mph speed limit

MAPS showing roads in Swansea which could be exempt from a new 20mph speed limit are being finalised.

There will be maps for all the county’s 32 wards and an opportunity for the public to comment on them.

A council scrutiny committee meeting heard that a communications campaign would get under way shortly across Wales about the 20mph nationwide switch for roads with street lighting, which will take place on September 17.

Councillors asked how the new default limit would be enforced, with some questioning just how compliant drivers would be.

The Welsh Government’s ambition for the new limit is to save lives, encourage more people to walk and cycle, and reduce pollution associated with vehicle tyre and brake wear. A report before the committee said the “primary disbenefit” was an increase in travel time.

Cllr Victoria Holland said some motorists would “completely ignore” the 20mph limit, as they currently did with the 30mph one.

She felt councillors should feel proud of the “life-saving and life-changing” policy, and added: “As mothers and as parents we are going to be saving kiddies’ lives and I think that’s an exceptional thing to do.”

Cllr Wendy Fitzgerald said 87% of drivers hadn’t complied with 20mph trial zones in Wales and wondered how reliant the new system would be on police enforcement, unless there was a “profusion” of new speed cameras.

Council officer Alan Ferris said there were concerns about the potential degree of non-compliance but that a lot of people would comply – and in doing so they would slow traffic down.

Cllr Chris Holley said he had no problem with 20mph roads at schools and in areas with lots of pedestrians.

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“What concerns me is there are roads where it’s plainly obvious that 20mph will not be stuck to,” he said.

Cllr Holley compared the culture change needed to that brought on by drink-driving legislation. “The reality is that enforcement is going to be very important,” he said.

Cllr Rebecca Fogarty said people were much more aware of the dangers of drink-driving than in the past, and that those who did it faced an incredulous reaction from friends.

She said a pedestrian had a 50% chance of survival being hit by a car travelling at 30mph and a 90% chance if it was going 20mph.

“Behaviour change theory is just as important as enforcement,” she said. “I really hope it’s successful because it’s about saving lives.”

The council has been given £551,000 to prepare for the new limit, and has bid for a further £2.9 million for new signs and road marking work.

The committee was told that existing 20mph signs outside schools would be removed and most likely replaced with a new “traffic calmed area” sign with a speed hump on it. There would, however, be 20mph signs outside rural schools which didn’t have street lighting. The council expects to have to install around 1,000 new signs, remove 2,100 existing ones, and scrub out 950 road markings.

The new maps indicating which roads could be exempt in Swansea will be made available publicly in the coming weeks. Adverts will also be placed in the local press. People will have three weeks to comment.

Mr Ferris said new 20mph signs covered by bags would start to be installed up to September, with a “grand unveiling” on changeover day on September 17.