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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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What are 20mph speed limits for?

What are 20mph speed limits for?

As readers of this blog will know I regard the introduction of 20mph speed limits as a good thing, and as I have said elsewhere, it has been known for well over 20 years that, as traffic speed increases, so does the risk to pedestrians:

  • 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

Many drivers don’t think about the fact that at 30 mph, a vehicle travels 44ft (roughly three car lengths) every second and at 20mph a vehicle travels 29.3ft (roughly two car lengths). The average reaction time of drivers is between 1 and 1.5 seconds, it takes time to stop, drivers have to think ahead rather than just trying to react to the situation. Lowering the speed limit allows driver more time to think and therefore reduces the frequency of accidents collisions.

However, if a 20mph speed limit is to be effective it has to be enforced, so I was very disappointed be the following twitter correspondence:

which leads to the question what are 20mph speed limit for? Or for that matter what are the police for, if they lack any real interest in community safety? Clearly the police aren’t interested in saving lives by enforcing speed limits, which may go some way to explain why the rate of pedestrians being killed or serious injury on our roads is currently increasing. This will continue to increase until driver change their behaviour and realise that they have a responsibility to drive below the speed limits and stop killing people.

Addendum: The above data on death rates includes children, in resent years groups such as RoSPA have taken to excluding children from their data, in order to play down the risk from motor vehicles. I find this practice utterly disgusting.

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More on Edinburgh’s proposed 20mph speed limit

More on Edinburgh’s proposed 20mph speed limit

The City of Edinburgh is currently in the possess of introducing a 20mph speed limit across a large area of the south side of the town. This is something which I am very much in favour of as it will make the city a safer and more pleasant place to live. The one thing I don’t really understand is why the most dangerous roads inwith the proposed zone are being left at the 30mph speed limit. Some of the roads which were originally going to be left with a 30mph limit are now proposed to have their speed limits reduced due to community pressure during the conciliation process. However, not all, I have to cross some of these roads everyday, there is a primary school which is bounded on two sides by roads which are being left at 30mph! Why not all the roads in the zone? Well it would appear that there are those who are objecting to any reduction in the speed limits. Well, my attitudes to anti speed limit campaigners can be expressed by substituting “speed limit” for “speed bump” in this video clip from episode six of Outnumbered, season 3.

I hope that makes things clear…

Addendum: It turns out that the two biggest objectors to the introduction of the 20mph speed limit are Lothian Buses and Lothian & Borders Police!

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20mph speed limit proposals – South Edinburgh

20mph speed limit proposals – South Edinburgh

As regular readers will know, I am keen to see traffic laws to make the roads safer for all. When I heard that the City of Edinburgh Council was proposing to introduce a 20mph speed limit across a large area of South Central Edinburgh, I though this was a great idea and one for which Councillor Gordon Mackenzie (Convener of the Transport, Infrastructure and Environment Committee) should be commended. The proposed scheme is currently going through the consultation phase, with all households in the area covered by the scheme being sent a leaflet, I received mine today.

The Council leaflet explains that “lower speeds make people feel safer when they are walking and cycling and make streets better places to live”. This is widely known outwith the UK, many countries in Europe have 30Km/h (18.6mph) speed limits in built up areas. So there is a wealth of data on the effects of these lower speed limits, not only do they feel safer, they are safer. Barcelona, for instance, showed a 27% drop in accidents in one area of the city after bringing in a 30Km/h speed limit. One study in London showed that the introduction of 20 mph zones was associated with a 41.9% reduction in road casualties. The same study showed the greatest percentage reduction was for younger children and greater for the category of killed or seriously injured casualties than for minor injuries.

It has been known for well over 20 years that, as traffic speed increases, so does the risk to pedestrians:

  • 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

Many drivers don’t think about the fact that at 30 mph, a vehicle travels 44ft (roughly three car lengths) every second and at 20mph a vehicle travels 29ft (roughly two car lengths). The average reaction time of drivers is between 1 and 1.5 seconds, it takes time to stop, drivers have to think ahead rather than just trying to react to the situation. Lowering the speed limit allows driver more time to thing and so reduces the frequency of accidents collisions.

There are also other benefits to having a lower speed limit: Reducing the speed limit from 30mph to 20mph reduces noise by 3 decibels. Not only is traffic noise annoying, it damages people’s health by disturbing sleep, causing cardiovascular and psycho-physiological effects. Lowering the speed limit from 50 km/h to 30 km/h has been shown to reduce emissions CO2 (about 15%), NOx (about 40%) and CO (about 45%). Also, a lower speed limit can help traffic to flow more smoothly, but only if drivers change their behaviour.

So there is much to welcome in this proposal. However, on looking a little closer, I saw that this isn’t the blanket 20 mph speed limit that I was expecting. No, there are nine “arterial routes” that are being left at 30mph, which really blows a hole in the whole thing. It is known that isolated schemes endorse driving faster outside of the zone, so the current proposal will have the effect of increasing speeds on the “arterial routes”, is this really a good idea? If you take a map of Edinburgh, lay a clear sheet over it, plot the locations of the accidents crashes over the last few years, take away the map, and what do you see?

road crashes in EdinburghThe image above is taken from the Traffic Injury Map.

The outline of the “arterial routes” which are being left out of the 20 mph zone! If this proposal isn’t changed, it will fail to achieve its full potential, surely the roads which need the lower speed limits most are the ones with the highest accident rates, otherwise what is the point? Don’t the people living along the “arterial routes” deserve a better quality of life, too? So if a 20 mph speed limit is good for the residents of Kirkhill Road, why not for those living in the tenements of Dalkeith Road? Or why should people living in Millerfield Place have greater protection that people living along Marchmont Road? Surely these improvements in quality of life should be for all those living inwith the 20 mph zone.

If you agree that this proposal flawed (or even if you don’t), you can give your feed back here.

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