Research from UWE Bristol supports Welsh landmark road speed change

Media Relations Team, 19 September 2023

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20 miles per hour speed road  sign

Research by a UWE Bristol academic has played a key role in the landmark speed change on Welsh roads, which came into effect on Sunday (17 September).  

Wales is the first UK nation to reset the default speed limit for local roads. 

Alan Tapp, Professor of Social Marketing at UWE Bristol, has worked alongside the Welsh Government to advise on the change, which has seen most 30mph speed limits in Wales turn to 20mph. 

It is expected the move to slower speeds will make streets safer: reducing the number of people killed or injured and encouraging more walking and cycling. It has been described as the ‘biggest step-change in community safety in a generation’. 

Prof Tapp primarily works on research relating to public opinion and behaviour change relating to travel and health including driver behaviour, car use, and physical activity including cycling.  

He said: “There’s clearer evidence that 20mph limits not only save lives, but improves the experience of walking, cycling and living in residential areas overall.”  

Bristol itself introduced 20mph limits in 2012, with further study from UWE Bristol public health academics in 2018 concluding that injuries from road traffic collisions had significantly reduced. The move has been implemented by other countries, including Spain, which changed the speed limit to a 30kmh on a majority of its roads in 2019. Since the change, Spain has reported 20% fewer urban road deaths, with fatalities reduced by 34% for cyclists and 24% of pedestrians.  

Deputy Minister for Climate Change, with responsibility for transport, Lee Waters said: “It’s simple and we’ve seen it in many places, in Bristol, Edinburgh, Spain – slower speeds save lives and helps create safer communities for those that live there.  

“Evidence shows that a vehicle travelling at 30mph will still be travelling at 24mph in the time it would take a car travelling 20mph to stop.” 

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