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

3 thoughts on “Finally 20 mph limit to go ahead across Edinburgh

  1. I just tried driving at 20mph down Bonnington Road to see what it was like. A car was waiting to pull out onto the main road and did not seem to appreciate me dawdling along at 18-22mph.
    I found I was constantly looking at the speedo to try and stay under the 20mph INSTEAD of looking at the road ahead and anticipating any hazards!
    I have an automatic so depending on the gradient of the road my car seemed unsure of which gear to be in and was constantly changing up and down from 2nd to 3rd. Then an old lady with a zimmer frame overtook me.
    But seriously, it feels like you are driving in slow motion which is ridiculous because the road was fairly quiet and not a lot of pedestrians, cyclists or dogs running out in front of me.
    I also wonder if this means we are going to criminalise anyone who dares to go over 20mph? 3 points and £60 fine plus increased insurance premiums for years and cost of updating driving license etc

    1. As a former driving instructor and as someone who has had a a clean driving licence all my adult life, I find you comment somewhat worrying. When you took your driving test did you find it imposable to drive within the speed limit without constantly looking at the speedo NSTEAD of looking at the road ahead and anticipating any hazards? Or are you just saying you are an inadequate driver? Driving within the speed limit is not a difficult skill, and it one which you were required to demonstrate to pass a driving test. If you were to take a driving test tomorrow would you be able to pass it?

      If you are worried that your automatic car was constantly changing suggest that you are not very smooth with the gas pedal (as any driving instructor could tell you). On the European mainland 30Km/h speed limits are common, as are automatic cars, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem there, maybe they are just better drivers.

      The reason that there are few pedestrians and cyclists in this country is because are roads are substantially less safe for vulnerable road users that the European mainland. One of the effects of this is that we have the worst health record in Europe, 20 years ago that was Finland, the Fins turn things around by encouraging active travel, by doing things like lowering speed limits to encourage walking and cycling as a means of transport.

      Finally, yes if you break the speed limit you should expect to get a minimum of 3 points and £60 fine, that is the law as it currently stands. All good drivers are capable of driving within the speed limits, why should we tolerate bad drivers? There is no right to drive, it is a privilege held under licence, if that privilege is abused then the licence should be withdrawn.

  2. This seems like a no-brainer to me. What I find remarkable is that the
    police are effectively saying that some forms of lawbreaking are worth
    dealing with and others are not, and that no-one is calling them out on
    this: once we start agreeing that some crimes are ‘worse’ than others, we
    can start to pick and choose what laws we follow.

    In Germany mobile speed traps are financed (and run at a profit) by the
    local towns. a speeding driver is simply photographed and sent a letter and
    a bill. It would seem odd that local communities aren’t keen to do the same
    in the UK.

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