Sara Dorman: 20mph zones will benefit drivers

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Edinburgh made an important decision recently: that our city should not be designed only for people driving cars, but it should be an environment safe for all people, no matter how they make their way around it.

However, Grant McCusker (“Council must understand opposition to 20mph”, February 9) is absolutely right, decisions about our future should not be based on emotion – they should be based on facts. And those facts are clear – 20mph on more roads would make them safer for all. Every day five children and 20 adults are killed or injured walking and cycling on the UK’s roads. Study after study shows that survival rates are higher when vehicles are moving more slowly, and at 20mph many collisions are avoided entirely. In London, the introduction of 20mph zones was associated with a reduction in casualties and collisions of around 40 per cent, with the largest benefits for the youngest children.

Mr McCusker claims that some cities that have rolled out 20mph have had an increase in collisions and fatalities. This is rubbish. In fact, half of the areas which have tried 20mph have seen significantly fewer casualties than previously, and only one has seen even a slight increase – and that is explained by a bus crash, with multiple victims.

But Mr McCusker’s main complaint is that the council “only” consulted 2500 people. Unfortunately, he’s wrong. The council held a massive consultation that we were all invited to participate in, via roadshows, radio, TV and social media. Those 2500 were the people who responded. Survey data shows 60 per cent of Edinburgh residents are in favour of a 20mph limit and only five per cent oppose it. While it’s disappointing so many people didn’t know about it, the thoroughness of the consultation can’t be blamed.

The anti-20mph campaign raises some fair concerns. They’re worried that there will be more congestion, that journey times will be increased, and that air pollution will increase. But studies show that slower speeds make traffic move more smoothly, reducing congestion and lowering air pollution as well as removing noise pollution. Some non-peak journey times may increase but in most cases this is measured in seconds or minutes – three minutes added on to a journey that already takes half an hour. This isn’t going to make Edinburgh grind to halt.

There are other gains too. In 20mph zones, more parents are happy to let their kids walk or cycle to school, which means fewer cars on the school run, which has got to make life saner for all of us. The 20mph roll-out is something that Edinburgh wants, and that Edinburgh needs. Bring it on!

Sara Dorman is a mum of two and a pedestrian campaigner with Living Streets Edinburgh