20mph plans for Edinburgh 03 | 09 | 2010

    IN A MOVE which is sure to enrage drivers, the City Fathers in Edinburgh have revealed that the capital is poised to become one huge 20mph zone. The reason for the radical new plans? It will cut accidents.

    Inspired by the introduction of a similar scheme in Portsmouth, Edinburgh City transport leader Councillor Gordon Mackenzie confirmed the initiative — if it gets the green light from the council's transport committee later this month —will be rolled out across the city early next year.

    The average speed of traffic in the city is already one of the lowest in Scotland

    "In Portsmouth, there was a 15% reduction in accidents resulting in injuries," he explained. "The evidence is that it's largely self-policing and it appears to be a lot more cost-effective because instead of putting speed bumps on every street, you can target them on areas where there is a pattern of problems.

    The controversial new plans

    "We've seen what's happened in Portsmouth and we know other cities in England are looking to introduce 20mph zones. The results are encouraging in terms of the reduction in accidents and the reduction of speed.
 There's no new speed bumps as a result of this scheme, but we can follow up with speed bumps where there is a particular concern."

    The controversial new plans — part of a range of measures including the Streets Ahead initiative, which is a new road safety partnership between the council, police, fire service and NHS Lothian — appear to ignore completely the fact the average speed of traffic in the city is already one of the lowest in Scotland.

    It also runs the risk of creating a city full of drivers whose eyes never leave the speedometer for fear of nudging over the 20mph limit, thereby concentrating more on the limit rather than concentrating on the road.

    Police will have to enforce 20mph limit

    Of course, there's the financial cost. The new pilot scheme — covering 25 miles of city roads stretching from Blackford Hill in the south to Holyrood Park — will set the city back £100,000. And yes, if the trial is successful — cynics might question how it would ever be allowed to fail — it could be extended across the city permanently.

    Not surprisngly, given its trackrecord of hitting motorists, Edinburgh will become the first Scottish city to attempt the move and one of the first in the UK. It will be down to the police to enforce the new 20mph limit, though they will have to do so without any new speed bumps or cameras.

    There are currently 20mph limits on parts of roughly half of Edinburgh's streets, although they rely on traffic calming measures. In the new zone, around 12 miles of major or secondary roads will remain as 30mph limits, including Melville Drive, Marchmont Road, Charterhall Road, Liberton Road, Gilmerton Road, Morningside Road and Home Street.

    Jim McGill

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