Will Edinburgh Council send HGVs thundering past primary school to please cycling lobby? – John McLellan

It might only be one location, but today’s council transport committee is set to illustrate once again the influence of cycling campaigners in the City Chambers… and send up to 30 heavy goods vehicles past a primary school every day.

By John McLellan
Thursday, 14th October 2021, 4:55 am
The cycling lobby looks set to get its way over a diversion that will send lorries past a primary school (Picture: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
The cycling lobby looks set to get its way over a diversion that will send lorries past a primary school (Picture: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Anyone who has been along the appropriately named Northfield Broadway knows how fast cars can go along this wide boulevard, breaking the old speed 30mph limit, never mind the new one.

Once when out on patrol in an unmarked police car doing the regulation 20mph, we were overtaken near the Royal High Primary School, and what a fright the driver got when the blue light went on and he saw a uniformed cop behind the wheel. Thankfully it was a Sunday.

Just after the new limit came in four years ago, the school’s parent council asked whether flashing speed warning signs could be maintained on the Broadway because of drivers breaking the new restriction.

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I put down an official question and the answer from the council’s transport convener Lesley Macinnes was that such signs were illegal where the speed limit was constant, and in any case reports of speeding were only anecdotal.

The regulation, she said, “only permits the use of flashing speed limit signs of this type to denote part-time speed limits. In streets where a full-time 20mph speed limit is now in place these signs are no longer legally permitted”.

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I argued the legislation wasn’t as clear as that, but now it seems the council does indeed believe flashing speed signs are allowed on Northfield Broadway. Why? Because it’s part of an option before councillors today to allow work on Portobello junction which will divert up to 30 HGVs a day past the school.

The diversion is in one of two schemes to allow much-needed work to improve safety at the horrible junction at the end of Sir Harry Lauder Road where two cyclists were killed by heavy lorries. Strangely, there’s only passing mention of the safer cycle route along Fishwives Causeway.

There is no question change is needed, but the proposal will stop trucks turning left onto Sir Harry Lauder Road from Portobello High Street, instead sending them up Portobello Road and Northfield Broadway.

This plan is opposed by police precisely because it diverts heavy vehicles past a primary school, rather than keeping them on the grim Sir Harry Lauder Road, but it’s supported by the Spokes cycling pressure group because the other option involves cyclists going into town having to change lanes.

No prizes for guessing the recommendation is to follow Spokes’ advice, not the police’s.

The report to today’s meeting recognises concerns about speeding haven’t disappeared and to deal with that as well as the trucks a series of safety measures are proposed.

“In recognition of existing concerns over traffic speeds and the presence of Royal High Primary School, additional mitigation measures including road humps and speed-limit signs/road markings would be installed on Northfield Broadway,” it says, “along with socketed foundations near the school to allow the use of vehicle-activated speed signs.”

So flashing signs were possible and while, thankfully, no-one has been killed, nearly four years have elapsed when parents could have had more peace of mind and the satisfaction of knowing they’d been listened to. Now the price of flashing signs is articulated lorries.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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