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Finally 20 mph limit to go ahead across Edinburgh

Finally 20 mph limit to go ahead across Edinburgh

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 consultation 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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Of on street parking and bus/cycle lanes

Of on street parking and bus/cycle lanes

Earlier this week I wrote up a few thoughts on the Spokes Hustings last week, where I commented on my memory of Cllr Gordon Mackenzie’s replies on the issue of Pay & Display parking in bus lanes and cycle lanes. Since then, Cllr Mackenzie has left a comment on my post to correct my memory and continue the debate. So I thought I would take the opportunity to write a new post.

Cllr Gordon Mackenzie wrote:

Kim

I didn’t say we couldn’t remove parking but I think the point I was making about local shops depending for some of their income on passing car trade has been covered by the first contributor. I read your comments about they traders in Gorgie but if you pop down to the shops near you on Newington Rd you will find that many recently suffered substantially from the loss of trade during the gas mains works in the area which removed quite a lot of the parking. I’ve no doubt several would go out of business if that became the norm. Similarly if you’ve been to a GP practice, like the one near me on Dalkeith Rd you’d appreciate that while many patients could do with a bit more exercise there are also a substantial number who have impaired mobility and a ban on parking would mean that they’d have to move practice or require more home visits.

However I wasn’t arguing in either scenario that we couldn’t change or improve the situation for cyclists, I was mainly highlighting the fact that it’s not as easy as saying ‘lets remove parking’. There would undoubtedly be significant consequences for many of those involved. Loss of trade could mean a business becoming unprofitable and a loss of jobs. Having to move GP could involve more travel, loss of a key relationship and additional costs to the NHS. These are not insurmountable obstacles but they’re not easy or cost free to remedy. That’s why I’m not sure that a parking restriction is always the best option.

Thanks for your comments, Gordon.

Interesting that you should mention the effects of the recent gas mains works on traders on Newington Rd. As I live nearby, I did go to some of these shops while these works was in progress. It was very noticeable at the time that pedestrian access was also hampered by the work going on. Firstly, all of the temporary traffic signs were placed on the pavement, causing obstructions to pedestrians (including wheelchairs, prams etc.). Also, the pedestrian crossing at Salisbury Place was not available because of the temporary lights which had no provision for pedestrians. There is a Pelican crossing 150m north on Newington Road. However, from experience, using this Pelican crossing was more hazardous when the works were going on, as drivers were choosing to ignore the red light and driving straight through during the pedestrian phase. I had a number of near misses and I know of other people who had similar experiences. Given these difficulties in pedestrian access, it is not surprising that there was a decline in trade during the gas mains works, and it can hardly be attributed to the loss of a few parking spaces alone.

Neither the GP practice nor the dental surgery I use have parking outside, yet both are busy. So, here again, parking is not the key issue that it is often made out to be. You say that a parking ban would impact on patients with “impaired mobility”, but Blue Badge holders are permitted to park on yellow lines, and disabled-only bays could easily be provided (as long as they were enforced). Since July of last year I have had to make regular trips to the Royal Infirmary, all of these I have made by bus, including the initial trip to A&E, to have my broken collarbone diagnosed. I have a friend who broke his leg playing football, he travelled to all of his outpatient appointments by bus, too. The suggestion that access to a car is needed in order to receive medical treatment really is a red herring.

People need to have a choice of transport, but the over-emphasis on making it easy to use a car, as the default, leads to car dependence and a closing-off of opportunities for active travel. International experience has shown that restricting parking is effective at increasing active travel, and quality of life for those living in urban areas. It is very noticeable that places which often are voted as being “the best place to live” are those where walking and cycling are easy and car access is restricted. This doesn’t mean that people living in these places own fewer cars or have less access to cars, just that they use them far less often.

If you are serious about reducing congestion and air pollution in the city, for the benefit of all, then you really do have to grasp the nettle and reduce car parking. Again, looking at international evidence of places where these changes have been applied, they didn’t always have high approval rating when they were first brought in. But after a couple of years when people had experienced the benefits of having more people-friendly streets, they have proved to be highly popular. To quote Jeremy Clarkson (I never thought I would find myself doing this) writing about CopenhagenThe upshot is a city that works. It’s pleasing to look at. It’s astonishingly quiet. It’s safe. And no one wastes half their life looking for a parking space. I’d live there in a heartbeat.” This is the way I would like Edinburgh to be!

With regard to the “Quality Bike Corridor”, there is no reason why drivers have to be able to park on the main road. They could be provided with a small number of short term Pay & Display parking bays in nearby side streets and walk the last few metres. If active travel is to become the default means of transport, it must be made the easier option, with driving being a less attractive option. Current policies are having the opposite effect, this needs to change for the benefit of everyone.

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Thoughts on the Spokes Hustings

Thoughts on the Spokes Hustings

I was at the Spokes Hustings the other night and since then I have had a number of thoughts about it churning through my mind, and so have decided to write them down here. It was good to hear that all parties support the commitment of 5% of the transport budget to cycling, which was a good start. Generally there was a positive attitude to cycle friendly policies, which is hardly surprising as these councillors were trying to capture the cycling vote.

However, there were other things which stuck in my mind, such as Cllr Gordon Mackenzie (Lib Dem) saying that the Council couldn’t remove on street parking from bus lanes or the “Quality Cycle Corridor” because people depend on their cars to drive to the local shops. What? The reason we have so many local shops is because Edinburgh still has people living in the city centre, and they shop in places within walking distance. If the on street parking was removed from Causewayside, the antiques shops would still be there, it is just the residents of the Grange and Newington would have to walk 5-10 minutes to get there. The reason those shops are there is because the customers live nearby and not because there is on street parking. Come on, Cllr Mackenzie, have you actually gone and looked at other cities which are pedestrian and cycle friendly? One thing you will find is that they have lots of local shops, because people can walk and cycle to them. It is the places where people are car dependent that don’t have local shops, which is the result of failed transport policies making people car dependent and causing the death of the High Street in clone towns across the UK. Also, Cllr Mackenzie, when you say people have to be able to drive to their local Health Centre, have you talked to the doctors about this? Increasingly the medical profession is waking up to the benefits of active travel, and encourage people to be more active in their daily lives. This includes walking to their local Health Centre. It should be noted though that Cllr Mackenzie is a regular cyclist and the current Transport Convener of the City of Edinburgh Council, who has done much to support cycling in Edinburgh.

Then there was Cllr Lesley Hinds (Lab), who said that she thought cycling was a good idea, but doesn’t cycle herself because she doesn’t feel safe. The interesting thing here was the reaction of avid cyclists, who all told her that cycling was safe and completely ignored what she was trying to tell them. This is important, as it has a dramatic effect on policies to increase cycling: we are constantly being told that it is safe to cycle, and that we just have to share the roads. We are told that we just need to train more people to cycle with the motor traffic, and cycling will become even safer. Then, once a critical mass of cyclists on the roads has been achieved, we can have more infrastructure to accommodate cycling on the roads. Well, we have had cycle training for children for 60 years, and yet we haven’t seen this increase in safety, just a decline in the numbers cycling and walking as transport on a regular basis. We need to learn to listen to people like Cllr Hinds who say they would cycle as transport, if they felt it was safe. It is the provision of infrastructure to make cycling feel safer and more convenient that increases cycling rates, and not the other way around. Experience from other countries has shown that, when safe and convenient routes are provided between places people want to go, cycling rates increase rapidly.

Instead, British transport policy has historically been aimed at making driving easier, and at the same time taking away choice by making it harder to walk and cycle, through measures such as “traffic smoothing” and “cycle networks” which look like they have been designed by a spider on caffeine. This is something we need to turn around. The one piece of news Cllr Hinds gave the meeting, that came as a surprise to all (including Cllr Mackenzie), was that TIE (the company set up to run Edinburgh’s trams) intends to renege on its promise to carry bikes on the trams when they start running. This would be a very foolish move on their part.

Next on the list was Cllr Cameron Rose (Con), a long time Spokes member and regular utility cyclist. Given that description, you might expect Cllr Rose to be supportive of active travel, but he wasn’t keen on the idea of spending money on it, well he is a Tory. More oddly, he seemed to think that we should “experiment” with different solutions, rather that using existing best practice from places where cycling is common, and where they have already carried out these “experiments” and found out what works. The reason given by Cllr Rose was that the Netherlands are flat, an argument which I really can’t get my head around, what has topography got to do with safe junction design and the principles of separation? If he was trying to suggest that high levels of cycling can only be found in places that are flat, he should try telling that to people in cities throughout the Alps where cycling rates are high. I have personally seen this in Salzburg, Innsbruck and Bozen/Bolzano, these places are not exactly flat. I do however like his strong support for the idea of having a bicycle share scheme in Edinburgh, similar to those found in cities across the world.

I don’t remember Cllr Steve Burgess (Green) saying anything I could disagree with, indeed he seemed to have read the Pedal on Parliament manifesto and was supporting all the things we are calling for. Then again, I would be seriously worried if the Greens weren’t supportive of Active Travel.

Finally there was Cllr Alasdair Rankin (SNP) who seemed a wee bit unclear as to just what the SNP policy on cycling is – he is not alone there, non of us are clear on that. He was, however, keen to take on board the need for change. I just wish Keith Brown MSP, the Transport Minister, was the same. Currently the SNP’s transport policy seems to be stuck somewhere in the 1980’s, building more roads without strategic thought for the future. For example, the new Forth road crossing has been designed with no provision at all for cycling or walking (which came as news to Cllr Rankin). At the end of the day, using the roads should be safe for all, and no one should have to take their life in their hands to get from A to B.

The one glimmer of hope on the SNP front comes from Marco Biagi MSP, whose response to the Pedal on Parliament manifesto I received today. He says: “The Pedal on Parliament manifesto is a set of practical and helpful proposals that set out very clearly the action that must be taken at all levels if cycling is to grow and flourish in Scotland.” Let us hope that he can persuade the rest of his party of this.

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