Popular backing for Edinburgh’s 20mph limits increases

Support for Edinburgh’s 20mph speed limits has increased since their introduction, according to research by the universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

Thursday, 9th December 2021, 4:55 am

Their study of nearly 3,500 people showed more of them understood why the limit had been reduced from 30mph a year after its implementation, and more said they complied with the lower limit.

Fewer thought the change was a bad idea or that it would make journeys longer than when the limits were brought in.

However, the vast majority said the new limit would not encourage them to walk or cycle more, with the number saying it would increasing only marginally.

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The study found more drivers were complying with the 20mph limits. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

The research focused on the last areas of the city to have 20mph limits, the north west, west and south, in 2017 and 2018.

It follows a University of St Andrews study published in January which showed vehicle collisions in the capital fell by one third two years after the speed limit was cut on most streets.

The new research, published in the journal Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, concluded: "Levels of public support and resistance to 20mph speed limits in Edinburgh appear to have changed in favour of the policy in the three implementation regions receiving the intervention that were investigated, while perceptions of safety did not change.”

Those thinking it was a bad idea fell from 45 per cent to 34 per cent, with those saying they complied with the limit increasing from 61 per cent to 69 per cent.

The proportion who understood why it had been introduced went up from just over half to two thirds.

The study stated: “These findings indicate that the public in Edinburgh became more positive towards the policy once it was implemented.

“However, more extensive policy or ongoing communication of the safety benefits of 20mph limits are needed to increase perceptions of safety that might lead to increased walking and cycling.

"It has long been recognised in public health that large population effects can result from fairly small individual changes.

"Consequently, people’s resistance may alter when they experience the extent of the changes they need to make, and perceptions like longer journey times or reduced fuel efficiency are proven unfounded.”

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The IAM RoadSmart motoring group said segregated lanes were needed to increase cycling and walking.

Neil Greig, its Scotland-based policy and research director, said: “We welcome these positive reports which show that overall attitudes to 20mph blanket limits in Edinburgh are becoming more supportive as residents get more used to them.

"City of Edinburgh Council should note, however, the new limits have not led to an increase in walking or perceptions of safety for children.

“We have always believed high-quality segregated facilities for cycling and walking are much more likely to lead to more active travel than 20mph limits alone.”

Council transport convener Lesley Macinnes said: “Findings around increased support for 20mph limits reflect previous research commissioned as part of our own evaluation and this, along with a rise in compliance, demonstrates that once changes like these are actually made, people generally become more accustomed to them.

“Of course, that public perception of child and walking safety hasn’t changed shows that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the significant benefits lower speed limits can bring."

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