Edinburgh Living


Following the successful trial 20 mph speed limit zone in South Edinburgh it has finally been decided to broaden this out to the whole city and not before time. However, there are still a few out standing questions: will all roads in the city be included? If not what will be the criteria for having roads with higher speed limits? Will there be enforcement of the speed limits within the city?

While the trial 20 mph speed limit zone on the Southside has proved to be popular with those living in the area, there have been a few issues. To start with during the consultation before the trial zone was started, the Community Councils and the majority of local residents (who responded to the consultation) asked for the major roads, which also had the highest collision rates, to be included in the trial. However, this was refused due to objections from Lothian Buses, although there was no evidence published that this would significantly affect bus timetables or overall journey times. Another issue has been the reluctance of the police to enforce the 20 mph speed limits, as a result average speeds within the trial area have only been reduced by only 2mph, with the majority of driver flouting the speed limits. In spite of this the 20 mph trial has been overwhelmingly welcomed by the residents of the City.

The most frustrating part of all this is that we know metropolitan wide speed limits work, they are not a new idea Graz in Austria was the first city in Europe to introduce them in 1992 (they saw an immediate 25% drop in the number of serious collisions as a result, although this did rise later when enforcement was relaxed). In 2008 Portsmouth became the first city in the UK to adopt the a blanket 20 mph speed limit, which has also significantly reduced the number of collisions (even if the motoring lobby like to pretend that it doesn’t, but then they regard dead children as collateral damage and a price worth paying).

Fortunately the City of Edinburgh Council has now agreed that there should be 20 mph speed limit zones across the city, but just which streets will be included is yet to be decided. We are told that there will be a consultation, well yes we had one of those before the Southside trial was introduced. There was strong support from the Community Councils on the Southside for the pilot, and people would have liked more streets to be included, they were over ruled because Lothian Buses objected to certain roads being included, claiming bus services would be slowed (although the evidence for this was never published). We are supposed to be in a Democracy where the people and not business should have the final say. We are also told that the transport and environment committee has agreed to roll out 20mph limits to all residential streets, main shopping streets, city centre streets, and streets with high levels of pedestrian and/or cyclist activity. Which begs the question how do you define a “residential street” in a city like Edinburgh, which has very few commercial dead zones (unlike, say Glasgow, where large swathes of housing were demolished to make way for urban motorways). If you travel along any of the major routes to the city centre there are people living along these streets. So who will have the final say on what speed limits apply to the major arterial routes, the people that live there or a bus company (who director live in the leafier parts of town where the streets are already traffic calmed)? Apparently Councillor Joanna Mowat has already asked for a definition of a residential street. She said: “People will say ‘I live here, so it’s a residential street’. It will be interpreted in different ways.”, however her question appears not to have been answered, yet.

Then there is the issue of enforcement, in the current trial, Lothian and Borders Police (now Police Scotland) refused to implement effective enforcement of the 20 mph speed limit. Sadly Police Scotland lack the integrity of the likes of Julie Spence who condemned speeding as being middle class’s version of antisocial behaviour with motorists convinced they should be “able to get away with” breaking the law. Councillor Lesley Hinds is on record as saying that “We want to encourage drivers to keep their speed down and get used to that, rather than fining people.” Why? We don’t take this approach with other forms of anti-social criminal behaviour, why should we tolerate it from people just because they hold a driving licence? She also says “educating drivers was one of the most important ways forward”, well Lesley all drivers have been taught to drive within the speed limits, it is one of the requirements of the driving test, I used to be a full qualified Approved Driving Instructor, I used to teach people how to do it. People know that speeding is wrong, so they should expect to be fined if they break the law, the most effective way of getting people to comply with the law is to enforce it. No Excuses!

Another thing we can learn from the Graz experience is that public support support for 30Km/h limits dropped during the conciliation period before the introduction of the lower speed limits. Before the conciliation there was 64% support, during the conciliation this dropped to 44%, however within a year of the lower speed limits being implemented support had risen to 60%, and two years later had reached 80%. For the majority of people having lower speed limits is welcome, it is only the selfish few who want to put the lives of others at risk, for their own convenience. By the use of rigorous enforcement, we can make speeding less socially acceptable. We just need our elected representatives to show some spine in the face of the morally bankrupt motoring lobby. Just remember why there are speed limits:

  • Hit by a car at 20 mph, 3% of pedestrians will be killed – 97% will survive
  • Hit by a car at 30 mph, 20% of pedestrians will be killed – 80% will survive
  • Hit by a car at 35 mph, 50% of pedestrians will be killed – 50% will survive
  • Hit by a car at 40 mph, 90% of pedestrians will be killed – 10% will survive
  • Hit by a car at 50 mph, >99% of pedestrians will be killed – < 1% will survive

Once they have taken that on-board, maybe they could have get a few lessons on how to deal with the problem of cars parked illegally in cycle lanes

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On 19th May approximately 4,000 people converged on Holyrood for Pedal on Parliament, calling for Scotland to become a cycle friendly nation. The question is how do we get there? There are two countries which are invariably held as good examples of how to achieve this aim are the Netherlands and Denmark. But how do their models work and which is best for Scotland? The Danish model of creating a cycling-friendly culture is often said to be an easier fit for current UK conditions. Accordingly, we’re excited to welcome to the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling, the famous Danish urban mobility expert and “bicycle anthropologist”, Mikael Colville-Andersen, will be giving a talk on Bicycle Culture by Design – Considering Design as a Place-making Solution for Liveable Cities.

Here in Scotland we are looking again at how we use the space in our cities, in Edinburgh there is discussion about how the city centre will change with the arrival of the trams, as well as the recent Council report on the Building a Vision for the City Centre consultation. Glasgow is currently making changes to it’s infrastructure in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games. Aberdeen and Dundee are also looking at major redevelopment projects. This should be an opportunity to make our cities truly world class, benefiting residents, local businesses and visitors alike, by learning from the best. Copenhagen is often ranked as one of the best places to live in the world, and even Britain’s best known petrol head, Jeremy Clarkson, has described Copenhagen as paradise. However, the 500,000 people who travel by bike every day in Greater Copenhagen are not “cyclists”, nor are they “environmentalists”. They simply choose to ride a bicycle because it is the most convenient, pleasant and fast way to get across the city.

Colville-Andersen, often referred to as Denmark’s Bicycle Ambassador, has presented keynote talks around the world on how cities can use the lessons learned in Copenhagen to become better places to live for everybody. He considers the bicycle to be the most effective tool for achieving the 21st century goal of re-creating liveable cities, and uses a unique combination of anthropology and marketing to explain how ordinary people can be encouraged to choose the bicycle.

He argues that we should use design as a common denominator for everything from advocacy to traffic engineering. Using basic design principles in understanding bicycle infrastructure and culture, it is easier to provide a more direct route to implementation. This is a straight forward and cost effective way to achieve the goal of re-creating liveable cities, where people want to live, work and play.

There will be a rare opportunity to hear Mikael Colville-Andersen talk on his ground-breaking ideas in the UK. Bicycle Culture by Design – Considering Design as a Place-making Solution for Liveable Cities will take place on 15th June at the Assembly Hall, Mound Place, Edinburgh, starting at 19:30. Tickets are available on-line or at The Hub box office. This talk is kindly sponsored by Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative.

In response to the City of Edinburgh Council current proposal of actually banning bicycles from one of Edinburgh’s prime thoroughfares, a senior Spokes member has suggested that all councillors and planners should be given tickets to see this talk. Regardless of your occupation or your preconceptions about cycling, this is sure to be a thought-provoking, lively and ultimately inspiring evening.

This post was sent out as a Press Release for the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling, an idea that started here.

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On the 19th May approximately 4,000 people turned up at Holyrood for Pedal on Parliament, calling for Scotland to become a cycle friendly nation. The question is how do we get there? There are two models which are generally given as examples of how to go about it, the Dutch and the Danish. It is interesting to note that, as a result of the Pedal on Parliament protests, the Scottish Transport Minster, Keith Brown MSP, is going to Amsterdam on a fact finding trip. This is to be commended, let’s hope he learns something useful.

He could also take a fact finding trip to Copenhagen to find out more about the Danish model. However, as this would be at the tax payers expense and Copenhagen is rather more expensive that Amsterdam, a cheaper solution would be for him to attend the Bicycle Culture by Design talk in Edinburgh on the 15th June as part of the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling.

I have been told that the Danish model is an easier fit for the current conditions in the UK. While I make no claim to be an expert on the difference between the these two models, the Dutch model is not just infrastructure, but is a whole approach which the Dutch call Duurzaam veilig or Sustainable Safety. Whereas the Danish model is more based around the infrastructure, if I have got this wrong no doubt I will be told on the 15th June by Copenhagen’s bicycle ambassador himself. There is much that we can learn, back in the 1970’s Copenhagen was just as car-clogged as anywhere else, but now 36% of the population arriving at work or education do so on bicycles, from all over the Metro area. 50% of Copenhageners use bicycles each day. They all use over 1000 km of bicycle lanes in Greater Copenhagen for their journeys, one side effect of this is to improve the quality of life for those living there. Even Britain’s best known petrol head, Jeremy Clarkson, described Copenhagen as paradise.

Apparently Copenhagenizing is possible anywhere, so why not here?

Copenhagenizing is possible anywhere

The thing we want to avoid is the London scenario, where the only thing they copied from Copenhagen was the colour of the paint.

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To think that just six days ago I wrote a post called Hints of Spring which I illustrated with pictures of crocuses that had appeared along Melville Drive and now look what has happened …

Where did spring go?

But then I did warn that when March comes in with the lamb, it goes out with the lion, remember Ne’er cast a cloot til Mey’s oot …

Where did spring go?

… and the hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) is a long way off flowering round here.

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Here in Edinburgh there are hints that spring is in the air, the crocuses have appeared along Melville Drive, there are birds beginning to sing tentatively in the pre-dawn (by the time the sun rises the rush hour has started and the noise drowns out the birdsong, so the birds have given up the competition and started singing early). However, don’t be fooled by those clear blue skies and bright sunshine, it is cold outside, and in spite of the wall to wall sunshine the maximum day time temperatures are not yet getting into double figures.

The important thing now is to get out and enjoy it, there are dark mutterings among the locals that this might be more sun than we will see in summer (just like last year), and remember that when March comes in with the lamb, it goes out with the lion…

Crocuses

Crocuses

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