Speed limit campaigners receive a boost

The 20mph zone in Holyrood Park. Andrew OBrien photography.
The 20mph zone in Holyrood Park. Andrew OBrien photography.

Campaigners for a 20 mph default speed limit in urban areas have received a boost, with an opinion poll showing most Scots support the idea, while a quarter say the lower limit would make them more likely to walk or cycle.

It came ahead of the launch, on Monday, May 15, of a consultation by Green MSP Mark Ruskell on his proposed member’s bill to switch the default urban speed limit from 30 to 20 mph to make streets safer and cleaner.

The poll of 1,000 Scots by Survation shows that of those expressing an opinion, 65 per cent support a 20 mph speed limit in urban areas, while 35 per cent oppose.

It also shows, when don’t knows are removed, that 24.4 per cent are more likely to cycle with a lower limit. 7.9 per cent say they are less likely to cycle, while 67.7 per cent say they are no more or less likely to cycle.

Mark Ruskell MSP said: “There’s real momentum behind a 20 mph default limit. A wide range of interests from transport and health experts to environmental campaigners back the idea. And it’s great that we now know that a majority of the Scottish public are behind it.

“We have a great opportunity to make a small change that will have huge benefits for pedestrian safety, especially children and the elderly. It’s also good news for public health generally, as lower limits reduce air pollution and as this poll shows it will encourage more people to cycle along their streets.

“30 mph limits date back a century and in that time the volume and speed of traffic has increased. A lower limit will help us reclaim the streets where we live, shop and go to schools or day centres.

“The idea that 20 mph is only for drop off and pick up times immediately outside a school gate is thoroughly outdated. We need safer streets for all, and I look forward to launching the consultation on my member’s bill.”

Stuart Hay, Director of Living Streets Scotland said: “We know that many communities across Scotland are concerned about the speed of vehicles in their streets. We also know that if speed is reduced then people of all ages are more likely to walk and cycle to school, to work and for local journeys. Streets with low speed limits become more liveable spaces.”

Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, the road safety charity, said: ”We’re backing Mark’s proposed bill to introduce 20 mph limits in areas where people live and work. The evidence shows that such a move reduces collisions and casualties, and enables residents to live healthier, active lifestyles, whilst reducing pollution.”

John Lauder, National Director, Sustrans Scotland, had this to say: “Sustrans Scotland welcomes the launch of this consultation on Safer Streets. It is well evidenced that people feel safer walking and cycling in 20mph areas. 20mph areas help to increase social interactions and physical activity levels, they make it easier for people, particularly children and older people, to cross roads and they reduce traffic noise levels.”

Currently, the default speed limit is 30mph in built-up areas, but local authorities can embark on a cumbersome process to change the limit to 20mph zones. In Edinburgh, where the majority of streets now have 20mph speed limits, the process took five years. However, Scottish Government policy favours 20mph limits in built-up areas.

Friends of the Earth’s Air Pollution Campaigner Emilia Hanna, said: “Driving at 20mph means safer roads, cleaner air and reduced emissions from traffic. The proposal is an important step towards helping Scotland’s children breathe clean air.

“There are huge air quality and public health gains to be made from 20mph speed limits. Research shows that 20mph limits result in fewer accident rates and lower traffic levels. Crucially, 20mph limits will also tackle a key barrier to cycling which is fear of fast, dangerous vehicles.

“Children growing up in our town and cities should be able to feel safe to walk, cycle, and play in their neighbourhoods, and slowing the traffic to 20mph is just the way to help achieve friendlier, safer, and cleaner neighbourhoods. If you want cleaner air and safer streets, you should back this plan.

“Air pollution in Scotland remains a public health crisis, and has been linked to cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and around 2500 early deaths every year. Levels of air pollution remain dangerously high in all of our major cities.

“While 20mph speed limits are a welcome step in tackling air pollution, much more needs to be done. The Scottish Government must also fund a network of Low Emission Zones in each of our major cities in Scotland, it must tackle the dwindling bus sector head on through re-regulation and it must invest in safe walking and cycling routes.”