The average speed on Edinburgh’s roads has dropped by 1.6mph since the introduction of the 20mph limit on 80 per cent of the city’s streets.
And, according to an expert evaluating the scheme, public hostility to the lower limit has fallen from 25 to 20 per cent after its first year.
Dr Ruth Jepson, reader in public health at Edinburgh University, said: “One year after the full implementation of the 20mph across Edinburgh results indicate a decrease in the average speed of 1.6mph, from 24.3mph to 22.7mph.”
She said the figures were in line with expectations for the 20mph scheme.
Giving evidence to the Holyrood committee considering Green MSP Mark Ruskell’s member’s bill which aims to make 20mph the default speed in built up areas throughout Scotland, she said a quarter of the public had initially been against the Capital’s speed cap.
“A year later that’s reduced to one in five. People think they’re not going to like something but when it happens to them it’s not as bad as they thought it was going to be.”
Mr Ruskell said it was still early days for the Edinburgh 20mph roll out, but added the figures showed a significant drop in average speeds.
“We know a 1mph average speed reduction results in a six per cent reduction in casualties, meaning lives will be saved.”
The speed reduction was revealed as it emerged that a speed camera van is to be deployed to enforce the 20mph limit for the first time next month. It will operate in Ocean Drive in Leith from the first week of April for three months.
But police made clear to MSPs that enforcing 20mph limits would not be a top priority even if the bill is passed.
Chief Superintendent Stewart Carle, divisional commander for road policing, told the committee: “20mph zones will not be a priority because the majority of casualties are on faster speed roads so we will continue to focus finite resources on those areas.
“We will uphold the law as passed, but it will be done proportionately.”
Green MSP John Finnie asked: “What would it take by way of child injuries, child fatalities – heaven forbid – to change the priority that would ensure there was more rigorous enforcement in existing 20mph zones never mind new ones?”
Chief Supt Carle said: “I must prioritise where I can have the biggest impact with the finite resources I have.”
Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said the initial results were “extremely encouraging”. She said: “Even one or two miles per hour can result in a significant reduction in the rate and severity of accidents. Motorists are clearly taking heed of 20mph limits.
“What’s also great news is a reduction in the number of people opposing the scheme. This has always been about garnering the support of the community, encouraging people to spread the word about slower speeds to help make Edinburgh’s roads safer and more pleasant for everyone.”