Welsh people have started fighting back against the country’s new 20mph speed limit by painting over road signs for the newly-restricted zones.
Furious locals spray painted over signs for the 20mph limit after Wales’s new rules came into force today – as lorry drivers also vowed to show their opposition by driving at 19mph.
The clampdown has seen Wales become the first country in the UK to reduce speed limits down from 30mph in built-up residential areas with a view to saving lives and cutting costs for the NHS.
The Conservatives have, however, called the Labour-run government’s ULEZ-style clampdown ‘ludicrous’ as they accused the devolved authority of having an ‘anti-worker, anti-road and anti-motorist agenda’.
Now, motorists have reported feeling scared to drive on roads amid the threat of penalties and widespread confusion about the new rules.
An estimated 7,700 miles of urban and village roads across Wales changed from 30mph to 20mph at midnight, in a shift that will see over 30,000 road signs altered at a cost of £32million.
Photos show furious drivers have now stared fighting back against the scheme by vandalising the newly-erected speed limit signs themselves.
Drivers taking to the road were also left confused as many local authorities failed to put up the new signs ahead of the 20mph limit coming into force.
Some drivers said they were ‘scared’ to go out in case of being trapped by police, static cameras and mobile speed vans, with one elderly couple having cancelled their trip to Aberystwyth to visit family due to their fear of getting a £100 fine.
Ministers have said motorists caught driving over the 20mph limit, but under speeds of 30mph, will initially be given advice by police instead of being given tickets.
Lee Waters, deputy minister for climate change, told the PA news agency: ‘Very much the intention initially is to educate and to speak to people and not to fine but over 30mph we will be fining and issuing points.’
Newly-erected signs also caused confusion for drivers on Welsh roads, as motorists were seen sticking to the new 20mph limit while in 50mph zones.
At Llandudno a 40mph restriction remained on a winding section of road where there have been a number of smashes – even as the limit was cut to 20mph on long clear stretches.
A group of Welsh lorry drivers also apologised in advance as they vowed to trundle along at 19mph in opposition to the plans.
The Labour-run Welsh government instead claims its £33million clampdown will save lives and cut NHS costs by £92million a year.
The backlash comes after Welsh Conservatives opposed the Labour-run Welsh government’s plans having previously tabled a motion in the Senedd to halt the scheme.
Critics have argued the new speed limits could bring Wales to a ‘standstill,’ hurt business, and hit the country’s tourism industry.
Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd, said: ‘Whilst I agree that 20mph is sensible outside heavily pedestrianised areas, such as schools, hospitals and care homes, the Labour Government’s blanket 20mph speed limit rollout across Wales is simply ludicrous.’
Natasha Asghar, the Welsh Conservative shadow transport minister, added: ‘Labour and Plaid Cymru have refused to listen to public opinion and are continuing to wage their anti-worker, anti-road and anti-motorist agenda.’
The Welsh Tories cited Welsh Government documents estimating the cost to the Welsh economy of increased journey times from lower average vehicle speeds at anywhere between £2.7 billion and £8.9 billion.
First Minister Mark Drakeford claims the new 20mph limit will add an average of just 63 seconds to every journey.
‘Most delay doesn’t occur because of speed, it could be because of delays at junctions and traffic lights,’ he said.
‘We’ve all been overtaken by an idiot only to find them one space in front of us at the lights.
Protest groups are instead asking drivers to put Drakeford to the test by recording how much longer it takes to get to and from their workplace – and how much more fuel they are using.
An official petition titled ‘We want the Welsh Government to rescind and remove the disastrous 20mph law has been signed by 13,840 people.
Security worker Phillip Eynon, 58, said: ‘It’s crazy – no one in Wales voted for this. I work unsociable hours sometimes finishing at 4am when there’s no one on the road.
‘From now on I’m going to be crawling along at 20mph, using more fuel and getting home up to 15 minutes later after a night shift. Where’s the sense in that?’ he added.
Delivery courier Lewis Price, 28, of Talybont-on-Usk, Powys, added: ‘It’s a massive waste of money to change the speed signs all over Wales.
‘As a professional driver I’m not looking forward to constantly changing between second and third gear all day in built up areas.
‘I also think it’s devisive – people in England may not come to Wales because they won’t be sure what the rules are. They are confusing for us and we live here.
‘If you are over the speed limit by a lot you could lose your license.’
Carpenter John Mills, from Merthyr Tydfil, described the new 20mph limit as ‘pathetic’.
He said: ‘I dropped down to 20mph after passing a sign earlier. It was like I was standing still.
‘I don’t think people will adhere to It – everyone is so used to 30mph.
‘The Welsh Government should have spent the money on hospitals or cancer research – something far more worthwhile.’
And father-of- two Rafal Klokec, who is originally from Poland but now lives in Merthyr Tydfil, said: ‘It’s way too slow, people have to get around for their jobs and to take their children to school.
‘In Poland it’s 50 km an hour which is more than the 30 mph everyone is used to here.’
Campaign groups including Brake, Cardiff Cycling Campaign, We Are Cycling UK Cymru, Friends Of The Earth Cymru, Sustrans and Living Streets Cymru have also backed the plans.
In a joint letter, the groups wrote: ‘It’s not just a road safety benefit. It also supports broader health, climate and societal goals such as helping the vulnerable to get about, improving social connection, reducing air and noise pollution, and more.’
But not everyone was so critical – with some saying that lowering the speed limit is a necessary annoyance to make Wales’ streets safer.
Mother-of-three Iola Williams, 42, of Llanedwen, Anglesey, said: ‘They have done this in Spain and it has saved lives.
‘If the same happens here then it has to be a good thing.
‘I don’t see it as a massive issue, lowering the speed limit especially around schools and built up areas makes sense.’
NHS nurse and mother-of-two Natalie Davies, 43, of Merthyr Tydfil added: ‘I can see it will be frustrating on longer journeys but people will get used to it.
‘It’s not gone down favourably but I’ve driven a short distance to the shops today and didn’t notice any difference.’
And maintenance supervisor Chris Lewis, 42, of Ebbw Vale, said: ‘I have my doubts about the figures we’ve been given that an average journey will take just an extra 63 seconds.
‘It will put a few minutes on my journey to and from work every day.
‘From a safety point of view but we will all be spending more time in our cars.’