20mph: Edinburgh residents gear up for ‘life in the slow lane’

Have your say

There’s not long to go and whether you like it or not, one thing is for certain – 20mph is on its way.

Next Tuesday will see a vast swathe of streets take on the new speed limit as part of an ongoing effort to slow things down across the Capital.

It’s an issue which has set tongues wagging across the city and residents have been taking to social media in their droves to debate the pros and cons of the 20mph concept.

Now with just days left to wait until phase two arrives, the News has turned to its readers to hear what you think about the changes on the horizon.

And if our panel is anything to go by, opinion remains firmly divided on the subject, with residents coming out strongly on both sides.

Meanwhile, our online poll has attracted 7000 votes since Tuesday, and currently has 59 per cent backing for the scheme.

A sign telling Edinburgh drivers that more 20mph streets will be introduced on 28th Feb 2017. Picture; Lisa Ferguson

A sign telling Edinburgh drivers that more 20mph streets will be introduced on 28th Feb 2017. Picture; Lisa Ferguson

We spoke to a range of individuals to get their take on the impact they think it could have on Capital life – and we’ll go back to them to see if their views change after it’s implemented.

Those in favour of 20mph zones – which have already been widely implemented in a number of other UK cities such as London and Cambridge – have argued they make getting from A to B a much more pleasant experience.

Supporters who back Edinburgh’s scheme have welcomed the prospect of safer roads for cyclists and children.

Some have also suggested it could make the high-street experience less stressful, with shoppers having less to fear from fast-moving vehicles.

Adam Syme. a local in Edinburgh has had his say on the 20mph scheme. Picture; Lisa Ferguson

Adam Syme. a local in Edinburgh has had his say on the 20mph scheme. Picture; Lisa Ferguson

But there are others who feel the slower speed limit will not make much difference, with added claims that a lack of enforcement will limit it having any real impact on safety.

The slow-down marks the second phase of the 20mph scheme and will come into force at midnight on February 28.

It follows the introduction of phase one last year, which saw roads in the city centre and parts of rural-west Edinburgh brought under a 20mph limit from July 31.

Council chiefs are hoping the scheme, which is costing around £2.2 million to implement, will be fully rolled out by January next year.

Taxi driver Keith McCall is unconvinced about the new scheme. Picture; Lisa Ferguson

Taxi driver Keith McCall is unconvinced about the new scheme. Picture; Lisa Ferguson

It has been suggested it could also encourage more people to move around the city by bike, foot or public transport.

Lesley Hinds, transport leader at the council, told the News previously: “I appreciate that there are differing views about 20mph limits, but we know the many benefits its introduction on residential, city centre and shopping streets can bring to the local environment, sense of place and, most importantly, road safety. I hope this initiative will serve as an example for any town or city looking to do the same.”

Read more: All you need to know ahead of the 20mph rollout next week

‘It could be tricky to assess scheme’s impact’

City Couriers owner Adam Syme, 50, relies on the roads for his six-strong team to make deliveries all over the Capital.

Mr Syme explained he had mixed feelings about the 20mph rollout.

He said: “I think it’s a good measure to reduce accidents, there’s no question of that.

“The problem I foresee is many cars aren’t designed for travelling at 20mph in fourth gear which means increased fuel consumption and more air pollution.”

He said it was unlikely to affect delivery times, adding: “We do have vans and motorbikes in the business as well as cyclists. It’s all down to the time of day in Edinburgh. At rush hour you’re struggling to do more than 10 or 15 anyway, mid-afternoon the roads are quiet because most people are at work so the travelling time is drastically reduced.”

On the scheme’s impact, Mr Syme said it might be tricky to assess.

He said: “As time goes on there will be other things that come in – additional cycling infrastructure, more environmentally friendly vehicles – so it will be difficult to say five or ten years down the line whether it’s been the 20mph zones which have increased cycling.

“There will be other things which will come into play which will dictate what people do.”

‘Slower journeys could frustrate passengers’

Keith McCall, 48, works for Central Taxis and has been a taxi driver for 20 years – he remains unconvinced by the 20mph scheme.

He said: “I think it’s a bit of a horrendous waste of money by the council to be honest.

“From a safety point of view I can’t argue with it and especially for other road users like cyclists and pedestrians it’s a good thing because it slows traffic down.

“But [with] the council’s policy on pollution I don’t think it’s going to help that because when you’re driving in low gears at a slow speed your emissions will go up. It’s better to keep traffic moving rather than having it at a standstill.”

Mr McCall said he felt the signage was “confusing” and went on: “Obviously I’m all over the place as a taxi driver but as far as people who do the same routes every day go, I think until they get used to what roads are 20 and what are 30 it will cause problems for them.”

He said he doubted the lower speed limit would discourage people from driving and said it was unlikely to affect fares.

But he added: “It will frustrate passengers who are on an empty road and you are having to drive at 20.

“That could cause a bit of conflict.”

‘Scheme will need proper feedback and enforcement’

RBS employee David Baskill cycles to work from his home in Shandon on a daily basis.

Mr Baskill, 50, said it was a good idea to try out 20mph “as long as there was flexibility on both sides”.

He said: “As a cyclist it’s good that people are going to be a bit slower but I think some cyclists will have to slow down as well! If people are driving at that speed they will have more scope to think and react.”

However he said the changeover had been “confusing”, saying it wasn’t always clear which speed applied to different roads.

He said: “It wasn’t quite clear when you are coming out of a 20mph zone or going into one. I think the ideal would be when you enter the whole zone having a big sign saying the whole of this is 20, not lots of little signs because people coming to Edinburgh won’t know.”

Mr Baskill said the scheme would need proper enforcement, adding: “It looks like a good idea and appears to be working.

“It would be nice to have some feedback at the end of the summer period when they have had a couple of seasons with all the tourists around to see if it’s made a difference and to make changes if they wanted to.”

‘Cutting speed makes people more confident’

Former university lecturer Mies Knottenbelt, 56, said she felt safer when cycling in areas of the Capital which have already taken on the lower 20mph limit.

She said: “It feels like you have more confidence about taking your place on the road and that the road isn’t just for cars.

“It feels like everybody slows down because there’s a concern for all users on the road rather than just the cars.

“That brings about a sense of belonging on the road rather than having to squeeze in the gutter and make yourself invisible.”

Ms Knottenbelt, who moved to Edinburgh in the 1980s, said the rollout had been to the benefit of families with young children.

She added: “I live near Sciennes school [and] there are a lot more kids out on the road and parents are less manic about how safe they will be.

“I think we already see how people have got used to it – even on streets where it hasn’t been enforced we can see that traffic has generally slowed.

“I drive as well and we can feel it has slowed. The whole thing has just been calmed down, it’s a completely different feel.

“I think it’s a really good idea.”

‘Slower limit unlikely to attract more shoppers’

Mae Douglas, 49, is the owner of Raeburn Place stationery store The Write Stuff and is also chair of Stockbridge Traders’ Association.

She reported mixed feelings about the scheme, telling the News: “The transport along Raeburn Place never moves very fast anyway, so for me 20mph is reasonable for here but the feeling is nobody is enforcing it anywhere.

“My gut feeling is Edinburgh is just anti-car and is doing anything they can to stop people taking their car anywhere.

“I don’t think dropping from 30 to 20 is going to do anything.”

As to whether a slower speed limit would attract more shoppers, she added: “I absolutely don’t think it’ll make a blind bit of difference.

“Throughout Stockbridge the traffic tends to be at a standstill anyway and a big issue for people in Stockbridge is the amount of traffic and a lack of parking. I’ve never heard anybody complaining about the speed. There’re plenty of pedestrian crossings and they are quick and efficient.

“I don’t think it will make a difference to people coming into the area and thinking this is nicer because the cars are going a bit slower. My gut feeling is people will just ignore it.”

‘We need to protect children on the roads’

Mum-of-one Eilidh Troup, 39, backed the 20mph move, saying it would make the roads safer for her seven-year-old daughter.

She said: “I think it’s a really good idea.

“There’s been 20 zones outside the schools but I don’t feel that’s enough because the child has to get from home to the school safely so just directly outside the school doesn’t protect the child as they walk from their house.

“It should make the roads safer for the child as they walk to school.” Ms Troup said she felt the Capital might have to undergo “a bit of a culture change” for the lower speed limit to become the norm.

She told the News: “I heard when the drink drive laws came in people weren’t necessarily in favour of that and now it’s not socially acceptable, so I hope that it will become not acceptable to drive too fast in town.

“We need to protect children and the vulnerable people on the roads and prioritise them – the priority shouldn’t be on traffic racing through an area.

“I’d hope to see a calmer approach to driving.”