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Just a minute!

frustrated driver

Whatever your idea you can nearly always come up with a statistic to support it. It is truly the case that there are lies, damn lies and statistics, in descending order of accuracy. So when a Welsh Labour government minister is reported as saying that the new 20mph national speed limit in towns and villages will only add a minute or two to the average journey time it tells us a lot about where the figure comes from.

Most of the people in Wales live in the south-east, concentrated in the Cardiff/Newport area. It follows that most car journeys therefore take place in those cities. From my limited experience of car travel down there, I suggest that most people would be delighted to achieve 20mph, unless they are driving in the early hours of the morning. So the ‘average journey’ statistic will be heavily weighted by city-centre travel.

Although seemingly largely unknown to the majority of Senedd members, there is a patch of Wales up here in the north which is quite different from the urban sprawl in the south. Here even short journeys can be many miles. And restricting those journeys to 20mph will have a much larger detrimental effect upon us.

We know that the whole 20mph campaign is driven by ideology rather than common sense. (Actually I think ‘Common Sense’ should now be renamed as Uncommon, since it seems to be so rare!) When the campaign started it was all about cutting exhaust emissions and saving the planet. It was strongly supported by the Conservatives until they discovered it was unpopular. But when it was pointed out that reducing speeds will actually lead to more pollution, not less, that argument was quietly dropped and a new reason invented. For the Labour party, the ideology is far more important than having evidence to support it.

So they came up with the idea that it will save road accident casualties. You don’t need evidence for that, just a few stories of road accident victims, preferably children, that will stir the emotions and get the people on side. Three years after a 20mph limit was imposed in Belfast city centre, Queens University carried out a study which concluded, “Our findings showed that a city centre 20mph intervention had little impact on long-term outcomes including road traffic collisions, casualties and speed, except for a reduction in traffic volume.“

If 20mph will save lives, then 10mph will save even more! Why not go the whole way and make it 0mph – no accidents at all! (Recognising that our politicians at the Senedd lack common sense, I am hoping that they do not decide to implement this idea!)

According to the Welsh Labour Government local Highways Authorities – Conwy County Borough Council in my case – are able to keep roads at 30mph if they wish to do so. But what they didn’t tell us was that there are strict criteria that the local authority has to use, so the effect would be very limited. So it’s a typical Welsh Government response. Seeing how unpopular their policy is, they try to shift the blame elsewhere.