How views on Edinburgh’s 20mph speed limit have changed

Support for Edinburgh’s 20mph speed limit has fallen since it was introduced, according to a council survey of residents.

Saturday, 18th May 2019, 7:00 am
Cars and 20mph speed signs in Edinburgh. Pic: Greg Macvean

Some 55 per cent now back the speed cap compared with 59 per cent in 2016 when roll-out of the lower limit began.

But the Edinburgh People Survey revealed a big variation in the level of support in different parts of the city.

Almond ward, which includes South Queensferry and Kirkliston and was one of the first areas to experience the 20mph limit, was the least enthusiastic at the start of the scheme with 48 per cent support, but backing has now grown to 58 per cent.

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In contrast, Southside/Newington recorded the highest level of support at the start at 68 per cent, but that has now dropped to just 53 per cent.

Strongest support now comes from City Centre ward (62 per cent) and Leith (60 per cent) while the lowest support is in Colinton/Fairmilehead (44 per cent) and Liberton/Gilmerton (50 per cent).

Almond Lib Dem councillor Kevin Lang said there were strongly-held views on both sides of the debate in his ward, but he suggested increased traffic since the opening of the Queensferry Crossing might help explain the rise in support.

“We have some streets which were quiet residential roads but now have significantly more cars driving along them, so many people who were previously quite relaxed about speed limits are now more supportive of efforts to keep speed down.”

The 20mph limit was first introduced in the city centre and rural west Edinburgh in July 2016 and gradually extended, now covering 80 per cent of the Capital’s streets.

The survey found 19 per cent said strongly supported the speed cap, 36 said they supported it, 14 per cent neither supported nor opposed it, 15 per cent opposed it, 11 per cent strongly opposed it and four per cent didn’t know.

Green councillor Chas Booth said: “Overall, more than half of people in Edinburgh continue to support 20mph and I’d say that, even for those who have reservations the heat seems to have gone out of it.

“That is backed by the survey where only 11 per cent are strongly opposed. Edinburgh seems to have accepted that 20mph is the right thing to do and the conversation needs now to move away from the merits of the scheme, for or against, and onto the day to day work of making sure drivers stick to it.”

But Conservative transport and environment spokesman Nick Cook seized on the survey findings to criticise the council’s 20 mph policy.

He said: “These figures, showing big city-wide variation in satisfaction with the council’s blanket 20mph scheme, expose the folly of the council’s lazy, one-size-fits-all approach to road safety.”

“The diverse communities of Edinburgh are all unique in character, meaning that what’s right for Almond perhaps doesn’t always work in Newington, for example.”

“Rather than an ineffective blanket scheme, the council should have made targeted investment in tackling accident black spots.”

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes defended the scheme. She said: “I am confident in the positive effects of 20mph on the city – since completing the roll-out people have indicated that they are enjoying the safer, more relaxed environment it creates while we have also received a number of requests for additional streets to be included in the network.

“Our own recent roadside education events have been further spreading the word, demonstrating to drivers the impact a reduction in speed can have – a drop in average speed of just 1mph can result in a 6 per cent reduction in casualties.

“We are currently carrying out a comprehensive monitoring programme to assess the effectiveness of the 20mph network, which will be reported later this year, including an independent, detailed analysis of public perceptions.”

A Survation survey earlier this year found a similar level of support across Lothian for the 20mph limit. Just over 50 per cent either strongly supported or somewhat supported the limit, while 19 per cent neither supported nor opposed it, 9.2 per cent opposed it and 19.3 per cent strongly opposed it.