July 2011

Council to backtrack on 20mph?

Edinburgh City Council is proposing to retreat on its South Edinburgh 20mph plans, but you can help prevent this …

Last autumn the council held an initial consultation on a wide-area 20mph zone for much of south-central Edinburgh.   [This project is separate from, but related to, the Council’s planned Quality Bike Corridor between Mayfield/Kings Buildings and Princes Street].    Spokes commented on both projects, giving strong general support but seeking improvements.   Both projects are important as part of the Council’s Active Travel Action Plan.

Following the consultation, the Council agreed to include in the 20mph zone several of the ‘through’ roads which were originally to be kept at 30mph.  These were…

  1. Ratcliffe Terrace and Causewayside between the junctions with Fountainhall Road and West Preston Street, which forms part of the Quality Bike Corridor
  2. the north-south Marchmont Road-Kilgraston Road-Blackford Avenue West Mains Road-Esslemont Road route
  3. the east-west Churchill -Strathearn Road-Grange Road route.

The Council has now completed the formal legally-required consultation on the TROs [Traffic Regulation Orders] needed to implement the scheme.   There were 21 letters in support and seven which had ‘concerns’ including from Lothian Buses and from the Police.   Lothian Buses argue that buses will be delayed, and so their costs will be raised, whilst the police argue they don’t have enough resources to enforce the speed limits.

Now the Council is planning to revert to 30mph for routes 2 and 3 above (Marchmont Road to Esslemont Road; and Churchill to Grange Road).   Only the short section (1) on the Quality Bike Corridor will become 20mph.  [For the full Council report see item 23 of the August 2 Committee Papers].

The plans for 20mph in the residential/ minor roads in the zone will of course continue unchanged.

A final vote will be taken at the Council’s Transport Committee on Tuesday 2 August.   If you wish to retain 20mph on all the above roads, please email your councillors urgently!   Find them at www.writetothem.com.  Spokes hopes to have a deputation at the meeting – this will be taken more seriously if councillors have also heard from concerned constituents.

In addition to the arguments about making conditions safer and more welcoming for walking and cycling, the following points are important…

  • There were 21 letters in support of the TROs and only 7 against – this is even more significant considering that TROs are advertised for objections and rarely attract many positive comments.
  • Any bus delays are likely to be quite limited.  One member did the following calculation…  “The sections of the route of all the buses that pass through the area is relatively short. The 5 for example covers 1.3 miles from Newington Road to Church Hill. The maximum theoretical loss of speed caused by the speed limit change would be to be forced to drop from a continuous 30mph down to 20mph. For that, the time taken would change from 2.6 to 3.9 mins – in other words a loss of 78 seconds. Since there are three sets of traffic lights, several pedestrian crossings, and eight or nine bus stops on that stretch, it is highly likely that a typical bus will spend less than half its time going at 30mph.  And time spent at 20mph on approach to a red light isn’t even “lost”.  So it is certain that actual losses are going to be well under a minute.  Do Lothian Buses really think that is enough to cause them timetabling difficulties?
  • Other schemes in the area are benefiting bus times, which should help counteract any losses from the 20mph scheme.  First, the Quality Bike Corridor which will be implemented around the same time as the 20mph zone, introduces new bus/cycle lanes.  Second, bus speeds should have increased due to new waiting restictions following the expansion of the parking meter zone to Beaufort Road and Kilgraston Road.
  • The Scottish Government is watching this proposal, as it is innovative, so if it is cut back this will set a bad precedent for other parts of Scotland.



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