Lesley Hinds: Safer streets the prize as 20mph limit nears

File picture: Greg Macvean
File picture: Greg Macvean
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WE are moving ever-closer to beginning to introduce Edinburgh’s new 20mph network this summer. We know there are different views about the change, but in the years to come, when our streets become safer and accidents reduce, we will be able to say the right decision was made.

We have no doubt that the initiative will lead to a range of benefits in terms of safety, the environment and quality of life on our streets. We really want to see the public embrace the scheme, and to drive at the 20mph limit, if we are to truly gain from the transition. What’s more we’ll be retaining 30 and 40mph on key arterial routes across the city.

Last week, the Transport Minister acknowledged the example being set by Edinburgh in calling for all local authorities to consider introducing compulsory speed limits in built-up areas.

Derek Mackay recognised the need for speed limits to be widespread and legally enforceable to ensure they are taken more seriously, resulting in higher compliance and, in turn, fewer casualties.

We have worked hard throughout the consultation process to ensure we select an appropriate network of 20mph streets, based on a robust set of criteria, in partnership with key stakeholders like Police Scotland and Lothian Buses. Around 50 per cent of Edinburgh’s residential roads are already covered by 20pmh limits and the additional areas will bring a consistent level of benefit across the city.

By consistently lowering speeds on similar kinds of busy shopping streets and densely populated areas – roads used by the greatest mix of pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles – we want to improve safety and the environment, but also effect a change in attitude for all road users.

While streets in residential and shopping areas will become 20mph, by retaining key arterial routes at 30 and 40mph limits, we want to ensure a modest impact on journey times overall.

The safety and quality of life of our residents is of utmost importance to us, though, and we can’t ignore the positive statistics reported by other towns and cities. For example, in Portsmouth 20mph limits are estimated to have lowered casualties by eight per cent while in Warrington collisions have reduced by 25 per cent in 20mph areas. Our very own 20mph pilot in the south of Edinburgh was a great success amongst residents too. Why wouldn’t we want these benefits for the rest of the Capital?

Our own consultation showed that citizens do want to see this happen, with 60 per cent of respondents supporting the proposals. And now that they are becoming a reality we want to bring the rest of Edinburgh’s communities on board to appreciate the positive impact these changes will bring.

By becoming Scotland’s first 20mph city we want to set an example for the rest of the country too. As Mr Mackay suggests, other local authorities may wait to see how our 20mph scheme fares before considering their own speed reductions. I would invite the rest of the country to watch how we do and follow our lead to create safer, more liveable streets for the whole of Scotland.

Lesley Hinds is transport convener at Edinburgh City Council