Police issue warnings on first day of Edinburgh's new 20mph zones

Police issued 'several' warnings to drivers on the first day of Edinburgh's new 20mph zones as readers flooded social media to share their experiences of the latest stage of the city-wide scheme.

Wednesday, 1st March 2017, 6:53 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st March 2017, 8:33 am
Edinburgh Council 20mph mascot with PC Ben Wray to launch the new zones on Tuesday.

Officers confirmed that motorists had been stopped and warned as they carried out speed checks to enforce the new limit in the city centre area.

Many took to social media to vent their frustration, complaining the new lower speed was exacerbating their commute and enraging fellow motorists. Others were supportive but said it was too soon to tell what impact the move to become a 20mph will have.

The initiative, which is costing around £2.2 million to implement, comes as part of an on-going push from council chiefs to make the roads of Edinburgh safer by reducing the number of accidents.

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Phase two covers a vast swathe of the Capital’s roads including Granton, Portobello, Duddingston and Morningside and follows the arrival of phase one in central and rural west Edinburgh last July.

Yesterday’s launch saw the 20mph scheme mascot, “The Reducer”, join its Hearts and Hibs contemporaries for a special appearance at Meadowbank Stadium. They were joined by council transport leader Lesley Hinds and Chief Inspector Mark Rennie to kick off the next stage of the 18-month project.

Readers of the News were quick to have their say.

Steph Shardlow said her commute had been affected, complaining it had taken her an hour to drive from Craigmillar to the Western General Hospital following the arrival of 20mph.

She added: “An absolute joke is what it is, slowed down unnecessarily for no reason.”

Mark Leadingham meanwhile said he had received abuse from other motorists.

Commenting on the News’ Facebook page, he said there were cars “flashing lights” behind him and added a driver “swore” at him while overtaking him on a previously 30mph road.

The project, which is the first of its kind in Scotland, will eventually cover 80 per cent of the city’s streets, with the phased completion set to be wrapped up by the end of January next year.

Taxi driver Keith McCall said it was “very noticeable” that motorists were driving more slowly as he transported customers yesterday morning.

He said: “I’ve been stuck behind a couple of motorists and then realised I’m in a 20 zone and that’s why they are driving so slow.

“I have noticed people were slowing down a bit. I also noticed some police patrols out at 10am on Princes Street – they had the speed gun so they were checking traffic there.”

One aim of the council-led initiative, which was approved in January 2015, is to get more people out and about in Edinburgh either on bike, foot or by public transport.

Ian Maxwell, of cycling campaign group Spokes, said he had noticed lots of people out on two wheels but said it was too early to tell if this related to the new 20mph limit.

However he added: “I cycled to work and I saw a lot of other cyclists. I think Edinburgh is becoming a cycling friendly city and the more the merrier.

“It’s truly good to see a lot of people out on the roads. It’s a good time to do it because the weather is improving and also the daylight is lengthening so now is the time to persuade people to start cycling because it gets better from here.”

Police Scotland has said it will be carrying out “proactive” checks to ensure drivers adhere to the new limit.

According to the latest figures, 18 people having been either charged, issued a fixed penalty ticket or reported to the procurator fiscal since the start of phase one last year.

Chief Inspector Rennie stressed speed reduction remained a “priority”, saying: “Since the launch of 20mph speed zones in the Capital, officers have monitored these roads and taken appropriate action whenever motorists were observed travelling at excessive speeds.

“In particular, we have focussed our attention on the areas around schools and this will continue as more 20mph zones are rolled out across the city. Whenever we are alerted to areas where the speed limit is not being observed we will respond accordingly with the appropriate resources.”

While a host of roads will take on the new limit, a network of key arterial roads across Edinburgh remain at 30mph and 40mph.

Transport leader Lesley Hinds insisted “in-depth public consultation” showed support for slower speeds.

She said: “While understandably it’s taken a bit of time for everyone to get used to the new limits, public opinion is still clearly very much in favour..”

But Nick Cook, the Tories’ transport spokesman on the council, poured cold water on these claims, saying the move had not yet heralded “any immediate, significant change in driver behaviour”.

He added: “However, even in the longer term, evidence suggests 20mph schemes produce a reduction in speed of just 1mph.

“This again raises questions on whether Edinburgh’s blanket 20mph rollout is a prudent use of £2.2 million of taxpayers money, which could have been targeted on more effective road safety measures.”

The arrival of phase two means all roads in the Holyrood Park area are now included within the 20mph zone, something staff said would improve access and safety for visitors.

Stuart Hay, director of Living Streets Scotland, also welcomed the fresh rollout and said it was a “big step” towards making Edinburgh a more pleasant environment.

He said: “The 20mph scheme must be part of a wider package of measures to make streets easier to walk. Further work may be needed on some streets to bring speeds down and make people feel truly safe.”

Greens transport spokesman Cllr Nigel Bagshaw added: “I have had very few people against it. Overall the sense I’m getting is most people support it and I’d hope they would because the whole idea behind it is to make the city a more pleasant, livable place and to bring down accidents. People will look back and wonder why we hadn’t done it earlier.”

However John Hein, chair of Leith Central Community Council, said he did not yet feel more safe on the streets.

“I would have liked to have seen the results of the first phase. I certainly haven’t seen any statistics on road accidents. I certainly don’t feel any safer.”