Huge backlash to council’s 20mph speed limit plans

There has been widespread opposition to the plan to roll out 20mph limits across the city's roads. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
There has been widespread opposition to the plan to roll out 20mph limits across the city's roads. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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A BID to slash speed limits across Edinburgh is today facing a major backlash as politicians, citizens and traders unite to oppose a blanket roll-out.

Critics argue that reducing 80 per cent of carriageways to 20mph will lengthen journey times considerably – affecting traders, bus timetables and, in many cases, slow down the city unnecessarily.

But while there is support for lower speeds in residential areas, most want trunk and ­arterial roads exempted from the sweeping speed cuts.

The city has unveiled these plans following a three-month public consultation in which it claims almost half of the 2500 people surveyed strongly supported the introduction of more 20mph zones – with just a quarter 
opposed.

However, since details of the proposals have been examined and made public, sampling by the Evening News suggests 
overwhelming opposition. Scores of readers have written letters, posted online comments and telephoned the News to urge a major rethink.

The groundswell of opposition comes as:

• A Facebook poll by the Evening News reveals 83 per cent of readers are against the proposal;

• Fears slower traffic will inflame road rage and tailgating;

• Warnings from Portsmouth – a “20’s Plenty” city – ­suggest reduced speed limits are ineffectual without proper enforcement;

• Motoring groups claim the safety benefits are “overstated”.

The readers survey calls into question the level of public backing for the scheme and suggests the city has more work to do to convince residents of the value of a blanket reduction in speed limits.

Residents living in areas which already have 20mph limits have complained of incidents of “aggressive tailgating” as impatient 
motorists grow frustrated behind drivers who are respecting the rules.

If the speed cuts get the green light, Edinburgh would become Scotland’s slowest city and the first to introduce 20mph limits on such a major scale. English cities Portsmouth and Bristol have been experimenting with 20mph limits for several years.

Studies carried out following the introduction of 20mph limits in Portsmouth found that while areas with traffic calming measures such as speed bumps and widened pavements saw average speeds drop by almost 10mph, schemes based purely on signposting new speed limits only saw a reduction of a little more than 2mph.

Bruce Hall, general manager of Portsmouth taxi firm Aquacars, said that despite the first 20mph pilots being rolled out in the city in 2007, the schemes had failed to have a significant impact.

He said: “In built-up areas it’s not had that much of an impact because the main routes are still 30mph. Most of the roads are one lane each way, so there isn’t enough space to go faster anyway.”

Mr Hall added that members of the public have been asked to volunteer as traffic wardens to catch speeders, due to a lack of police resources to enforce the rules.”

It echoes similar findings in south Edinburgh where a swathe of streets were made 20mph in 2012 – without traffic calming measures.

Police speed checks carried out in the following months found almost one in two drivers were flouting the new ­restrictions. Details of the ­police checks carried over a four-day period showed an alarming 21 out of 53 motorists were caught driving at 5mph or more above the new limit on some roads.

Fifty-five cars were caught speeding in a single day across another two roads.

Today, business owners, transport experts and politicians have joined sceptical residents’ opposition to the changes.

Jerry Stewart, director of ­delivery firm Eagle Couriers, said “common sense needs to prevail” in the roll-out to ­ensure 20mph limits were introduced “where it will make a real difference” to safety.

He said: “We are absolutely committed to road safety and entirely agree with a 20mph limit in priority areas, such as around schools and hospitals.

“However, it would seem unnecessary in other areas as the 30mph limits have been in place for a long time and since these were introduced braking systems and other aspects of vehicle design have been improved to make them far safer.

“In terms of getting from one side of the city to the other it could slow us down 
considerably, especially when you add the potential impact of other driver frustration and gridlock. “

In today’s Evening News, Neil Greig, director of policy and research Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), warned against the speed cut being a “as a cheap and quick fix” without any investment in traffic calming measures.

He argues the “safety benefits [are] often overstated” and said the IAM “does not favour a blanket approach to speed limits or a wholesale change in the urban limit from 30 to 20”.

Colin Keir, Edinburgh Western SNP MSP, backed 20mph for side streets but voiced ­concern about extending the limit to key routes.

He said: “I fully support ­introducing 20mph limits in residential areas, but I think we have to be very careful when it comes to arterial roads. If you are going to start slowing the traffic down on main roads you might be treading on dangerous territory. It’s horses for courses – some roads can take it, others cannot.”

Lothian Tory MSP Cameron Buchanan said a blanket 20mph limit was not the answer. “If you have a 20mph limit everywhere people will not differentiate when it comes to the really vulnerable areas like outside schools or at crossings,” he said. “And you should definitely not make it 20mph on arterial routes.

“There is not the incidence of accidents. It’s too much like nannying – the blanket approach is just wrong.”

He added: “Inevitably this leads to compromises as roads which look and feel safe at 30 suddenly become 20 for no ­obvious reason, leading to confusion on the part of drivers.”

Taxi drivers have warned the move to reduce speed limits on four out of five roads in the Capital would hit fares.Cabbie Philip Capaldi, who has driven taxis for 30 years on Edinburgh’s roads, said: “If you’ve got all these cars doing 20mph and it’s all backed up like roadworks, then the taxi’s not going to be moving and fares would increase.”

Transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds insisted the planned scheme would be properly ­policed and enforced.

She said: “We delivered our south Edinburgh pilot project with a focused enforcement strategy backed up by measures such as painted 20mph ‘roundels’ on the road and speed-responsive electronic signs.

“We are envisaging a similar model for the city-wide roll-out, though we would welcome any extra resources the police can provide.”

‘That will be faster than usual coming into town in the morning’

PLANS for 20mph limits on many streets across the city have resulted in an overwhelming response. Here is a selection of readers’

comments on Facebook.

Scott Pablo Watson: That will be faster than usual coming into town in the morning.

Audrey Horsburgh: Utterly ridiculous. Zones yes, whole city no. Another loony idea from our leaders. How much will it cost to implement?

Karen Cuthbert: I already get tailgated regularly because I’m daring to drive at 30 in a 30 zone. It’s going to be horrendous trying to keep to 20 with idiots on your tail.

David McDonald: Just ban cars and walk, probably be quicker!

Michael Lee Jervis: No safer, just more excuses to give us fines.

Claire AA Eadie: Unnecessary, people need to start taking responsibility for themselves instead of the Council doing it!

Steven Doyle: You can’t even go 20 mph due to the potholes!

Andrew Patrick Shaw: Walking children to school down ferry rd can be quite scary. This might help. Or restricting hgv routes.

John Banks: Will cyclists get a speed limit?

Mike Smart: This is to push people on to the tram...

Heather Steele: Will not stop the boy/girl racers as the police have been so cut in numbers to enforce it.

Ronnie McFarlane: I didn’t know you could go that fast in Edinburgh courtesy of the trams, roadworks, etc.

Kenny McLennan: If you don’t like this make sure you don’t vote for a councillor who has voted for it.

Jackie Crawford: Which committee is responsible for putting together this proposal, based on what statistical analysis and who will be invited to a consultation process?

Morris Forbes: Flexible time speed limits might work eg 20mph at rush hour times, but not 24/7.

Maureen Sayers: Aberdeen has had the 20mph is plenty, for years – in a built up area at twenty your child is less likely to die if hit.

Kevin Macfarlane: It’s a joke, have you tried driving at 20mph?

Barry Wood: Will trams be doing 20 if they enter these zones?

Fraserandcarol Andrews: Cunning plan by Edinburgh council to make the tram quicker than taxi to the airport.

Michael Warburton: Will not make our streets safer. It will make them more dangerous. 20mph should be applied around schools but not on main roads.