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A petition opposing Wales’ new 20mph limit has smashed records, but what do people think?

A petition opposing the new 20mph default speed limit in Wales has had a record-breaking number of signatures.

With more than 244,000 signatures by Tuesday evening, the petition asks the Welsh government to “rescind and remove the disastrous 20mph law”.

The Senedd Petitions Committee will now consider it for debate as it is well over the 10,000 signature threshold.

Welsh ministers said a 20mph (32km/h) limit would reduce deaths and noise and encourage people to walk or cycle, but it has caused controversy with some drivers.

The news was welcomed by some, including Gareth Parry, whose brother Keith was killed in 1994 after being hit by a car travelling at 30mph.

In the Senedd First Minister Mark Drakeford gave a one-word rejection to the idea of scrapping the new speed limit in the Senedd on Tuesday.

Tom Giffard, Welsh Conservative Member of the Senedd for South Wales West, said: “Will you commit, as the 160,000-plus strong petition asks you to, and rescind your disastrous 20mph scheme?”

“No,” Mr Drakeford replied.

Later he added: “Behind this decision lies… the lives of people who would otherwise be caught up in the road traffic accidents which will not happen when people are travelling at 20mph but do happen when people are travelling at 30.”

Mr Drakeford accused the leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies of being “determined not to tell the truth” over the 20mph speed limit policy, calling him a “disgrace”.

The Welsh Conservatives have consistently claimed it is a blanket limit, to accusations from Welsh labour that it is misinformation.

Mr Davies later wrote to the presiding officer Elin Jones demanding an apology from Mr Drakeford, saying the allegation was “of no foundation”.

“It is correct to state the previous blanket 30mph limit has been replaced by a blanket 20mph limit and it is misleading of the First Minister to claim otherwise,” he said.

Image source, Getty Images

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The 20mph limit has come into force for all restricted roads

The petition, which was started by Mark Baker on 13 September, has broken the highest number of signatures for a petition in Wales.

The previous record, a petition to allow supermarkets to sell “non-essential” items during lockdown, reached 67,940 signatures.

Figures on the Senedd website show that 96% of those signing the 20mph petition said they were from Wales.

Analysis – David Deans, BBC Wales political reporter

It’s really unusual to get a petition that’s anywhere near as as big as this.

The last one that got close was during the pandemic, and is less than half the size of the 20mph petition to date.

The Senedd uses petitions as a way of giving people a voice and it can show the depth of feeling about an issue.

As well as a debate, the Senedd’s Petitions Committee can hold an inquiry if it chooses.

But although petitions can put the minister under pressure they do not have to do much about them, legally.

The petition is due to run until March and could just carry on until then.

But the committee might now have a chat with the petitioner to see what they want to do, and whether they would like to close it so the Senedd can hold another debate sooner – although there have already been two recently.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales Breakfast, Counsel General Mick Antoniw – who provides the Welsh government with legal advice – said debating the speed limit would be a matter for the Senedd Petitions Committee.

“It’s the Senedd that chooses what that debate will be, and if it takes place,” said Pontypridd MS Mr Antoniw.

“We’ve just introduced changes, we would need to allow them to bed in. I’m confident they will be workable and people will accept them.

“I think a lot of people are concerned, I think there is a degree of confusion. I think it will take time for significant culture change to bed in.”

Will I be fined if I break the 20mph limit?

The new 20mph limit has come into force for all restricted roads, which are defined as ones with lampposts placed not more than 200 yards (about 180m) apart.

If you are pulled over doing more than 20mph in a built-up area in Wales you could, in theory, be fined a minimum of £100 and get three penalty points.

But police say the response will be proportionate and reasonable while drivers get used to the change as the focus for the first 12 months will be on education – as officers have a level of discretion.

GoSafe is made up of Wales’ police forces, councils and the Welsh government, and applies the guidelines for road fines.

It said while the public gets used to the change in the limit, it will only start to prosecute at 26mph in a 20mph zone.

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