A Members Bill is being put forward to the Scottish Parliament by Greens MSP Mark Ruskell which seeks to reduce the default speed limit from 30mph to 20mph. According to press reports, the leader of Edinburgh City Council supports this initiative as it would enhance traffic calming and create a culture of “pedestrian priority”.
First things first, I am a car driver, pedestrian and sometimes cyclist. I have a 12-year-old son who also rides a bike, is a car passenger and either walks across town to school or walks to the bus stop to take a bus. So nothing out of the ordinary.
I make this point as all the above informs my opinion on traffic speed limits.
Edinburgh currently imposes a 20mph speed limit on residential and shopping streets along with a network of 30mph and 40mph for key arterial routes. This transpired after an extensive consultation programme which found that 60 per cent of respondents were either supportive or very supportive of the proposals.
As far as I am concerned, the major consideration is that of public safety, especially that of young children who play in and walk through our streets. The Department of Transport has already looked at the relationship between speed and fatal injury and established that the risk of fatal injury to pedestrians rose from under one per cent at an impact speed of 20mph to 5.5 per cent at 30mph.
The risk increased to more than 30 per cent at an impact speed of 40mph.
It has been argued that it is virtually impossible to travel at more than 20mph in the city centre anyway so further restrictions are not necessary.
While that may sometimes be the case, there is ample evidence to suggest that drivers speed up when they can to make up for lost time. This is when pedestrians are at their most vulnerable, especially during the summer when the city is awash with visitors.
Injuries expert Ian Roberts states that there is already good evidence to show that reduced car speeds will in turn reduce injuries.
However, he also states that what is most convincing is basic physics. A car colliding with a pedestrian at 20mph will cause less damage than at 30 or 40mph because it carries less energy into the collision. Stating that should be obvious I know, but it is no less convincing.
As well as a host of cities in the UK, other major European cities are introducing similar measures, such as Paris and Milan. Glasgow has implemented 20mph zones on 125 miles of its roads with a further 96 miles planned, with Edinburgh planning to introduce a 20mph speed limit on 80 per cent of its streets.
Mark Ruskell’s Bill has attracted support from many different forums including community councils, health charities, parents groups and local authorities to name a few.
According to the Department of Transport, there were 1,260 child pedestrians killed or seriously injured on British roads in the year ending September 2016. This Bill transcends politics and seeks to protect the most vulnerable child pedestrians. The principles of this Bill should garner cross-party support.
A knock on the door by the police to impart sad news of a child casualty is every parent’s nightmare.
If a small reduction in traffic speed means that fewer parents will hear that knock then I am all for it!
Raising a glass to friendship between cities
News that the Oktoberfest is to start this week in West Princes Street Gardens prompted me to take another look at the origins of Edinburgh’s Twin City agreement with Munich, home of Oktoberfest.
Reading signed the first twinning agreement with a German city after the Second World War when it formalised links with Dusseldorf. Edinburgh later followed suit with its agreement with Munich in 1954.
The modern concept of twinning was conceived after the Second World War as a method of healing divisions and fostering new relationships. This was to encourage friendship and understanding of different cultures between former “enemies” as an act of peace and conciliation.
In my column of August 22, I wrote that three City of Edinburgh councillors had been named in a report stating that they had outstanding financial arrears to the council. They were not alone in this regard as the report highlighted the fact that there were many other councillors throughout Scotland who were in the same boat. This would impose restrictions on the very same councillors when it came down to discussing and deciding upon council financial matters.
The issue has now been satisfactorily resolved in Edinburgh with all three councillors (from three separate parties) settling their debts, thereby freeing them to participate in the civic affairs that they were elected to do in the first place.
Keep an eye out for amendments to political parties’ vetting procedures and would-be candidates taking out bank loans to pay off any arrears that they may have outstanding.Development of reciprocal trade and tourism led to sporting and cultural exchanges including school links and joint projects and school exchanges. One of these sporting exchanges occurred when Bayern Munich played an Edinburgh select team comprising of Hearts and Hibs players in August 1985. The final score was 2-1 to Edinburgh with Willie Irvine of Hibs scoring the opener and John Robertson of Hearts netting the winner. So, if you are lucky enough to visit the event this week it is worth remembering that Munich is Edinburgh’s oldest twin city. It takes as much pride in being twinned with Edinburgh as we do with it. So raise a stein and toast to peace and understanding between all races and cultures and have a bloody good time!