Life in the slow lane: Readers react to Edinburgh’s 20mph zones

Phase two of the rollout happened in February. Picture: Neil Hanna
Phase two of the rollout happened in February. Picture: Neil Hanna
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As the dust settles on the second phase of 20mph, it’s fair to say the latest rollout has proved quite a talking point.

Since its arrival on February 28 road users across Edinburgh have been adjusting to the new limit and its implications for day-to-day travel.

The council-led scheme is costing £2.2 million to implement and is set to be fully rolled out by January next year.

With almost three weeks of the rollout now under way, the News has caught up with its readers panel to find out how they think it’s gone.

‘Passengers don’t seem very convinced’

Cabbie Keith McCall spoke of his opposition to the 20mph initiative as the Capital prepared itself for the arrival of phase two.

Mr McCall has 20 years of experience and currently works for Central Taxis – he said the new speed limit had been a talking point among passengers.

Commenting on the second phase, he said: “I’ve been stuck behind a couple of very slow motorists and then realised I’m in a 20 zone and that’s why they are going slow.

“I have noticed people slowing down a bit [and] I’ve also noticed some police patrols out.

“One chap was saying he thinks it’s ridiculous and ‘I won’t be sticking to it’, he was quite adamant.

“I’ve been having a good chat with a lot of passengers about it.

“The majority of the opinion about it in the back of the cab is it isn’t a good idea.”

Mr McCall said on one occasion a driver who was travelling at 20mph along Inverleith Road quickly ended up with a number of cars following closely behind.

He added: “It did look like the drivers behind her were getting a bit frustrated.

“It will be interesting to see how it plays out over the next few weeks.”

Before phase two’s arrival, Mr McCall said he “couldn’t argue” with 20mph from a safety point of view but felt it would increase pollution.

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.”

‘Most drivers still seem to be going over the limit’

City Couriers owner Adam Syme and his six-strong team of delivery drivers use the roads of the Capital every day.

Reflecting on phase two, he said: “I would say most people aren’t adhering to the limit at the moment.

“I have also read as well online that people think the council have been ill-advised going down this route because it’s been proved in other places that bringing the speed limit down to 20 only reduced the average speed by 1mph.

“I’ve been observing near my office with the traffic and you can gauge a car’s speed if you are knowledgeable and most drivers are going over the limit.”

Mr Syme said signage still seemed to be a concern for some, adding: “I think people are finding it a bit confusing.”

Mr Syme previously said he had mixed feelings about the initiative and said many cars weren’t designed for driving at 20mph.

He said he doubted the new speed limit would affect business, adding: “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.

“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.”

‘New limit is worth trying if it makes roads safer’

Shandon resident David Baskill cycles to work at RBS on a daily basis.

Mr Baskill previously told the News he thought trying out 20mph was a good idea “as long as there was flexibility on both sides”.

He said: “As a cyclist it’s good that people are going to be going 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.

“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.”

Since the second phase came into force, Mr Baskill said he had started to notice a difference and that roads were slower-moving.

However he added this was a worthwhile price if it meant the roads were safer.

He added: “It does take longer to get around. When the roads are clear you could drive at 30 but it’s a good price to pay for it being like that.

“I still think they need to have some enforcement to remind people then it will sink in.”

‘People seem to be catching on’

Cyclist and former university lecturer Mies Knottenbelt is a supporter of the 20mph scheme.

She said she had definitely noticed a difference since phase two came into force at the end of February.

She said: “Walking along Blackford Avenue you can see the cars are going much more slowly.

“I think that’s good news because that means people are catching on.

“There’s definitely people who will ignore it but there’s others that don’t.

“It’s expected to take a little while to settle in but you can see it’s now so widespread the first assumption would be that you have to slow down.”

Ms Knottenbelt said she also uses a car in the Capital from time to time as well as a bike.

She said speeds such as 30 and 40mph now felt “really fast” since the second wave of 20mph roads came into force last month.

She added: “You start becoming aware of how easy it is to stop at 20.

“If you see that happening around you as a cyclist you feel so much more comfortable.

“People say where’s the evidence that it’s worked but those are all very clearly answered.

“They did lots of work to create a solid grounding for this work.

“I think some of those are just [people] getting used to it.”

Ms Knottenbelt moved to Edinburgh in the 1980s.

She previously explained her hope that slowing roads down to 20mph would help cyclists gain a “sense of belonging on the road rather than having to squeeze in the gutter”.

‘We need more time for people to get used to it’

Mum-of-one Eilidh Troup was a backer of the new initiative when the News caught up with her before the arrival of phase two.

While she continues to support the scheme Ms Troup said she hadn’t yet noticed much of a difference following its arrival.

However, Ms Troup said this was most likely because it felt “a bit too soon to say”.

She said: “It’s hard for me to judge if people are doing the 20 limit or not because I’m not used to what it looks like.

“Some people seem to be going faster. I feel like drivers perhaps haven’t got used to it yet.”

Ms Troup explained she remained optimistic that the new measure would reduce the number of accidents on Edinburgh’s roads.

She said she hoped it would make life safer for everyone, for example her seven-year-old daughter while on the school run.

She added: “I would hope that that sort of thing reduces and you see more people walking and cycling but I think it will take time for anything exciting to happen. It will be interesting to see the numbers both for how people get to school and for the casualties.”

‘I felt slower than those around me’

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

Ahead of the second 20mph rollout, Ms Douglas said she had mixed feelings about the zones.

She told the News a lot of traffic in Stockbridge never got near the speed in the first place and so wasn’t sure if people would notice the change.

She said: “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.”

And following phase two’s rollout on February 28, Ms Douglas said she hadn’t noticed any difference when it came to other people’s speed – although she did feel conscious when driving to work after its arrival.

She said: “I was conscious of going at 20 and thinking nobody else is paying attention to this.

“It certainly didn’t feel any different. I felt I was perhaps going a bit slower than others around me.

“I wasn’t aware of anything different but I was conscious that I was keeping an eye on my speedo because I knew the 20 had come in.”

Her comments come after Ms Douglas said she was unconvinced that lowering the speed limit would do much to increase numbers of shoppers.

She said: “I absolutely don’t think it will make a blind bit of difference.”