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Five communities across the country to benefit - but campaigners say more places need them

Transport Scotland says it will open a public consultation on introducing 20mph speed limits in five towns and villages on the country’s trunk roads network to improve the safety of vulnerable road users including pedestrians, cyclists, children and people on horseback.  But cycle campaigner Pedal on Parliament are calling for the lower limits to be brought in at more locations.

The communities that will pilot the lower speed limits, with assessment annually for three years before deciding whether or not to make them permanent, are Maybole in South Ayrshire (which sits on the A77), Largs in North Ayrshire (A78), Biggar in South Lanarkshire (A702), Langholm in Dumfries & Galloway (A7) and Oban in Argyll & Bute (A85).

In Langholm, some residents have campaigned for a 20mph speed limit for several years and produced this video showing traffic making its way through the town, with lorries passing within inches of people’s homes. 

According to Transport Scotland, they were chosen “based on a clear and robust set of criteria relating to vehicle speeds, the safety record of the route within the town or village, with a focus on vulnerable road user accidents, and the physical characteristics of the route (traffic volumes, HGV levels, length of the section, carriageway width, parking provision).

It says there are no plans to pilot a 20mph speed limit elsewhere on the trunk road network, and that it decided against piloting it at a number of other locations where it considered it “would be ineffective or impractical.”

Those communities are Aberlour and Keith (both in Moray), Cromdale, Golspie and Nairn (Highland), Inveraray (Argyll & Bute), Callander (Stirling), and Crocketford and Springholm (Dumfries & Galloway).

Pedal on Parliament said it welcomed the trial at five locations, saying: “Slower speeds where people live, work and play are a key point in our manifesto and an important part of building liveable places generally – and it shouldn’t matter if those places are on trunk roads or local authority routes.”

The campaign group continued: “We hope too that the fact that’s it’s a pilot means that the plans are to spread this to all the trunk roads that cut through towns and cities if the outcome is successful.

“However, we’re not clear that this will be the case.” It went on to cite the locations Transport Scotland had rejected as well as the reasons given by for the decision in each case.”

It added: “We would urge Transport Scotland to have the courage of its own convictions and to extend the pilot not just to the easy cases, but to tackle the hard ones too. That would be a policy fit for Scotland’s future.”

As far as the five selected locations are concerned, Transport Scotland said:

A consultation process will now begin to develop more specific proposals for each location.  This will involve discussions with the local authority, community groups and other stakeholders. It will also involve statutory consultation.

It is expected that the 20 mph zones on the trunk roads will be largely self-enforcing with no need for traffic calming measures. Instead, the use of gateway treatments, signing and lining will reinforce the speed limit changes.

Transport minister Keith Brown launched the pilot in Biggar yesterday. He said: “The safety of the trunk road network is a priority for Transport Scotland and managing speed is an important part of our strategy.

“It is essential that speeds are appropriate to conditions and these pilot zones will help us establish the benefits of lowering speeds in towns villages where it is reasonable to do so.

“The five trials are being proposed that will seek to improve road safety generally, but we expect them to bring specific benefits for vulnerable road users, such as older people and cyclists.

“There have been a number of calls for lower speed limits and specifically 20 mph limits and we have had to whittle these down to a number that will give us a meaningful overview of how this will work in a variety of locations.

“In doing so, we considered the number of accidents and other factors such as traffic volumes and speeds as well as HGV numbers and the characteristics of the location.

“I know there will be some communities that are disappointed that they missed out but we will be looking at how their specific concerns can be addressed as part of our wider approach to speed management.

“The proposed pilot is an important step in our work to reduce accidents and casualties on the trunk network.

“The proposed pilot areas should not require significant engineering or police enforcement to support their operation and we hope to begin the wider consultation processes early next year.

“If these are completed successfully, the 20mph zones may be in place by the spring or early summer”

Councillor Chris Thompson, who chairs South Lanarkshire Council’s Enterprise Services Committee, commented:

“We are firmly behind any proposals which make driving safer in our villages and towns.

“We have already introduced 20mph limits throughout the town to improve road safety and the plans now being brought forward for the A702 would complement those improvements.”

You can find an FAQ about the speed limit trials on the Transport Scotland website.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.