A PETITION to reverse the switch to 20mph has become the most-signed petition in Senedd history.

From Sunday, September 17, restricted roads in Wales have a default speed limit of 20mph, though councils have been able to list roads and stretches of road as exemptions.

Around 1 in 20 constituents have signed the petition in areas such as Islwyn, Torfaen and Newport West.

For perspective, around three times more people have signed this petition than gave their constituency vote to the Welsh Liberal Democrats in 2021.

Where did the campaign come from?

In 2018, the Wales Act devolved control over national speed limits for restricted roads to the Welsh Government, so long as changes had permission from the Assembly (now Senedd).

It was an ex-Welsh Conservative member, David Melding, who first submitted a motion to introduce a 20mph default speed limit in residential areas which had cross-party support.

Lee Waters MS, now Deputy Minister for Climate Change, launched a task force in 2019 to outline the required steps and expected outcomes of a reduction in the default limit on restricted roads.

The final report, published in July 2020, made the case for a 20mph default in built-up areas.

How has 20mph speed been implemented?

Despite claims that the Welsh Government have “imposed” an unpopular law, the legislation for 20mph has gone through all the usual democratic steps.

Following the publication of the task force’s report, every Labour and Plaid MS backed the proposal, as well as seven out of the 10 Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd at the time.

Welsh Labour promised a 20mph default in residential areas in their manifesto for government before the 2021 Senedd elections.

The party increased its vote share in that election and matched its best Senedd result of 30 seats, though the debate around 20mph took something of a back seat to Covid and other issues of the time.

In fact, the party’s manifesto – titled “Moving Wales Forward” – only mentioned 20mph once, in the ninth point of the “Building a Stronger, Greener Economy” section on page 31.

Following trials in eight communities, in July 2022, the Senedd voted 39-15 in favour of implementing the change across Wales, with all 15 votes against coming from the Welsh Conservatives.

Have there been previous petitions on 20mph?

It is hardly surprising that such a major change to Welsh life has grabbed the attention of thousands who would not usually be moved to sign a Senedd petition.

Fewer people might know that Senedd members have already debated a similar petition, to stop 20mph, this year.

That petition, submitted by Benjamin James Watkins of the Rhondda, collected 21,920 signatures.

It argued that the reduction of the default speed limit was “not representative of the broader public opinion” and suggested more extensive polling or even a referendum should be required.

Senedd members debated this petition on June 28, 2023, barely a month after it was published so that it could be done before the changes came into effect, Petitions Committee chair Jack Sargeant MS said.

Welsh Conservative MS Natasha Asghar, who has taken vehement opposition to the 20mph limits as Shadow Minister for Transport, said she wore black to the debate because she was likely seeing “the death” of the 30mph default in Wales.

What do we know about this petition on 20mph?

The petition to “rescind and remove” the 20mph legislation was launched by Mark Baker.

At the time of writing, Mr Baker’s petition has picked up more than 160,000 signatures, beating the record set by a petition for non-essential items to be sold in shops during Wales’ “firebreak” lockdown.

Though the vast majority of signatures come from Wales, the petitions website shows more than 4,000 come from England, with others signing from as far as the Falkland Islands and Japan.

One person from Vatican City has also signed.

While the Deputy Minister for Climate Change has admitted there will be “tweaks” to the speed limits in coming months, it is unlikely a Labour and Plaid-controlled Senedd will do anything to undo the move – even if this petition forces another debate.