PIONEERING plans to impose a 20mph speed limit on most of Edinburgh will start to be rolled out this weekend.
From Sunday, the entire centre and rural west of the Capital will come under the reduced limit, which aims to make roads safer and calmer.
The ambitious scheme will eventually cover 80 per cent of the city’s streets following a phased implementation spread out over 24 months.
And those caught flouting the new rules face being slapped with £100 fines and three penalty points – just like any other speedster.
But fears are already brewing over how the new rules will be enforced, with council bosses admitting they will rely heavily on drivers choosing to change their own behaviour.
Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader, insisted slower speeds “bring many benefits to the urban environment”, adding: “What we want is a safer city.”
She said: “The majority of Edinburgh residents support our 20mph scheme and we know that other local authorities in the rest of Scotland are closely monitoring our experience.
“We’ve been working towards this roll-out for a number of years now and I’m delighted to see the first phase going live.
“Experience here from our south Edinburgh pilot and from schemes elsewhere shows that support for 20mph increases after implementation as people welcome the benefits.
“We’ll continue to help people adapt to the new limit throughout the roll–out, through awareness-raising and education campaigns.”
City officials said there were three fixed speed cameras within the 20mph roll-out area which could not be adjusted to monitor the slower speed.
The admission comes after we revealed last year that some of the city’s older cameras would be unable to enforce the new limit.
But council bosses insisted “adjustable mobile speed camera units are available to tackle any problem hotspots”, while police can also use hand-held machines.
And they argued “speed cameras are not the primary method which will be used to achieve compliance” – citing a “major culture change and awareness campaign” as their most important method, followed by signs, road markings and traffic calming measures.
Cllr Hinds admitted changing driver behaviour would not happen overnight, adding that it would “take a bit of time for it to become second nature”.
She said: “It’s about a change of attitude. People used to drink and drive and that attitude changed.”
Meanwhile, Chief Inspector Mark Rennie, local area commander for south-east Edinburgh, said officers would focus on carrying out enforcement in areas where speeding is regularly reported. He said roads around secondary and primary schools would also be checked on a “regular basis”.
But Police Scotland refused to say how often these routine checks would be carried out – insisting it was an “operational matter”.
Ch Insp Rennie said: “If we receive concerns regarding speeding in particular areas, then we will be looking to carry out enforcement there.
“The main thrust is our data information tells us that when you reduce speed, you reduce the likelihood of accidents and fatal accidents.”
He added: “We remain committed to casualty reduction on our roads and whenever we observe motorists disobeying the 20mph speed limit, or where the public tell us there is an ongoing problem, we will respond appropriately.”
Edinburgh’s 20mph roll-out will be the first of its kind in Scotland, with the entire city set to be covered by January 31, 2018.
Key arterial routes – including Ferry Road, St John’s Road and Telford Road – are among the few that will retain their 30 and 40mph limits.
The £2.22 million proposals were initially met with a groundswell of opposition, with upwards of 2700 people signing a petition calling for the decision to be reversed.
But city-wide consultations have since reported positive feedback – amid some remaining concerns around increased congestion, road safety and longer journey times.
John Lauder, national director of sustainable transport charity Sustrans Scotland, said the “number one benefit” of the new rules was safety. He added: “You’re much less likely to be seriously injured if you’re struck by a vehicle moving at 20mph rather than 30.”
He insisted the evidence suggested drivers would adhere to the new rules, adding: “The public approval is high. I think we’ve got to trust that our fellow citizens will observe the law. I don’t doubt that they will.
“It’ll take time. It won’t be an immediate change. Think back to seat belts and the ban on smoking in public places – it took time.
“But pretty quickly, people were looking back and saying, ‘Why on earth did we not do this years ago?’ I think that’s where we’ll get to.”
Not everyone is convinced it will be so easy. Judy Wightman, treasurer of Ratho community council, said concerns over how the changes would be policed remained.
She added: “Realistically, I can’t see how they are going to police it. If people know it’s not being policed, will they keep to the speed limit? I think that’s the concern.
“As far as I’m aware, unless you are in a speeding blackspot, the police only come and do speed checks when someone asks them to.
“We are supportive of it, but we are concerned about how it’s going to be policed.”
Her views were echoed by David Buchanan, chair of Kirkliston Community Council. He also said locals supported the move, but added: “The only concern, if we have a concern, is who will enforce it.”
And despite high levels of support for the introduction of 20mph limits, there has been some high-profile opposition.
Lothian Buses previously warned imposing a 20mph speed limit across the Capital could lead to higher fares and poorer services.
The firm argued slower bus journeys could undermine the viability of services and work against the objective of getting more people to use public transport.
But bus chiefs yesterday insisted there would be no changes to timetables or services and it was “business as usual”. A spokeswoman said: “Lothian Buses has been working in consultation with Edinburgh Council throughout the development of the 20mph scheme.
“We have suggested a number of measures which when implemented we hope will mitigate any negative affect on bus journey times across Edinburgh.”