Fewer casualties and positive data ‘winning the argument’ for 20mph zones

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THREE years ago if you mentioned Edinburgh’s pioneering plan for 20mph limits across the city, you could find yourself in a jam.
Drivers snarled, passengers fumed, businesses predicted the end of days.

Facebook pages appeared and harnessed the support of thousands demanding the move be put into reverse.

The 20mph scheme has been rolled out across the Capital

The 20mph scheme has been rolled out across the Capital

Others vented their opposition in the pages of this very paper, letters were written and column inches furiously bashed out, about the folly of it all.

But City of Edinburgh Council, often maligned in some quarters for not acting swiftly enough on its environmental targets and ambitiouns, stayed the course.

READ MORE: Almost 1000 drivers caught breaking 20mph limit in Edinburgh

It began rolling out the sceme in 2016, even as opponents still belittled the £2.5m costs for changing signs, layouts and more gnashing of teeth over confusion and conflicting priorities.

Yet today, as the limit covers 80 per cent of the capital making it Scotland’s first 20mph city, data has finally began to emerge suggesting the move has benefits after all.

Serious road casualties are down. Last month official statistics showed there had been 24 percent fewer casualties between October and December last year – down from 1067 to 809.

Of that, nearly a third fewer had also been killed or seriously injured.

The timeline had the city’s acting top police officer Chief Superintendent Richard Thomas convinced driver behaviours have changed.

He said: “The 20mph speed limits may well have played some part in that. They’re not always being adhered to, but they’ve modified driving in the city – we’re seeing more careful driving in the city.

“They’re having a calming effect on driver behaviour and we’ve seen fewer casualties.”

Some had questioned whether or not the limits could be policed effectively. On Friday it was revealed around 1000 drivers had fallen foul since July 31.

Just 55 drivers were fined, but as the new scheme beds in, a further 960 warnings were issued.

All of which is some kind of vindication for those who supported the idea from the get go, and who hope to see it progress.

Councillor Chas Booth, Edinburgh Greens transport spokesperson, said: “Edinburgh’s 20mph roll-out has already seen success in cutting casualties on Edinburgh’s roads, creating a better environment for walking and cycling, and is meeting with increasing support and acceptance from residents.

“It was right that the enforcement of the new speed limit was fairly light-touch at the start, to focus on informing drivers of the new requirements.

“But with the roll-out complete I hope the police will now take a more robust approach to those breaking the speed limit, in particular in speeding black spots.

“The vast majority of drivers are now respecting the new limits, so firm action is needed to tackle the selfish minority who don’t.”

Other cities, notably Glasgow, are now looking east for lessons learned, while MSP Mark Ruskell is pushing through a Scotland-wide Bill in Parilament.

Councillor David Key, Cycling Champion, said: “Now that 20mph limits have been rolled out to the vast majority of the Capital’s streets – excluding a strategic network of streets maintained at 30mph and 40mph – it will be far clearer for road users that lower speeds are now the norm in residential and shopping streets. Communities right across Edinburgh have told us they really value the benefits of calmer traffic in their areas and we have had requests from all over the city for additional streets to be included in the rollout.

“We will carry out a comprehensive review of the scheme over the next year, looking at all aspects and impacts including traffic speeds, road casualties, public perceptions and walking and cycling walking stats.”

shaun.milne@jpress.co.uk