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Edinburgh inches towards 20mph limits on most city streets - but Conservatives still say 'bad idea'

Widespread support for limits in public consultation - but rows contuniue over whether it's really safer...

The city of Edinburgh is edging ever closer to a 20mph speed limit on most roads, which would make it the first city in Scotland to do so.

The local authority this week produced detailed plans of the large scale changes, with approval next week contingent on them becoming law by later this year.

A consultation last year found around 60% of people supporting the changes, and Sustrans has given explicit support.

Six cyclists have been killed in road accidents in the city over the last five years.

Oppostion however comes from the Conservative portion of the city council, which said it was a “bad idea”.

The whole of the city centre and many other major routes are included in the plans, with only Queensferry Road, London Road and the West Approach Road, along with Minto Street and Dalkeith Road remaining 30mph.

Cllr Hinds told the Scotsman: “Edinburgh is taking a very bold step in introducing slower speeds for so much of its roads, and we’re aware that other cities in Scotland are watching our example keenly.

“There’s obviously a lot of work to be done to raise public awareness between now and the first new limits coming into ­effect.

“It’s undoubtedly a culture change for the whole city.

“Support for 20mph limits was already high before the pilot began but it increased even more once people tried out the slower speeds in practice.”

The cycling campaign group Spokes told "What we would now like is for the Scot Govt to change the rules such that 20mph becomes the default speed limit in urban areas, with councils having the power to adopt some roads as 30 or 40, rather than the reverse situation as at present. 

"That would make for a consistent approach across the country."

But Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said: “Blanket speed limits are a bad idea, because it means drivers don’t know in which areas it is most important to drive slowly.

“Speed limits must be variable, they have to reflect the conditions and surroundings of the road.

“That way, motorists are in no doubt that when driving past schools, these 20mph limits have to be observed.

“The job of the council should be to make it easier for people to get about town, not more ­difficult.”

Limits of 30mph and 40mph will be maintained on key arteries.

A 2010 Department for Transport study looked at how likely a pedestrian was to die from a collision at various speeds. It found that the risk of a fatality rose from under 1% at an impact speed of 20mph to 5.5% at 30mph .

Above 30mph risk increased very substantially, to over 30% at an impact speed of 40mph.

Following the pilot scheme last year, a report from the Transport and Environment Committee of Edinburgh City Council found that people felt safer, and that cycling and walking journeys had risen by 5 per cent and 7 per cent respectively, while car trips fell by 3 per cent.

The percentage of children riding a bike to school rose threefold from 4 per cent to 12 per cent, and by a factor of seven among older primary age pupils, up from 3 per cent to 21 per cent. The proportion of parents willing to let their children play outside more than doubled from 31 per cent to 66 per cent.

Extensive 20mph areas exist in cities including Oxford, Portsmouth and Brighton & Hove and in London Boroughs including Islington.

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