SPEED limits across swathes of the capital will start being cut to 20mph by the end of the year after Edinburgh city councillors approved the scheme yesterday.
Hundreds of streets, including some 80 main roads, will have their speed reduced from 30mph in a three-year programme to increase safety.
Transport and environment committee members voted 11 to three for the plan, rejecting a Conservative move to block it and improve road surfaces instead.
Implementation of the new speed limit, which will cover four in five streets, will be considered in March. The project will make Edinburgh the first city in Scotland to have widespread 20mph zones, although they operate in some towns such as Cromarty in the Highlands.
It follows a pilot 20mph zone on 25 streets in south Edinburgh, which cut casualties by 20 per cent and average speeds by 10 per cent since it started three years ago.
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Scottish Government agency Transport Scotland is already committed to encouraging local authorities to consider 20mph zones in all residential areas.
The only streets in central Edinburgh to remain 30mph will be Queensferry Road, London Road and the West Approach Road, along with Minto Street and Dalkeith Road.
Main routes becoming 20mph include Gorgie Road, Mayfield Road, Morningside Road, Rosburn Street, Portobello High Street and Leith Walk.
Superintendent Phil O’Kane of Police Scotland said it would not “routinely enforce” the new limit, but that was no different from any other speed limit.
Lothian and Borders Safety Camera Partnership – which comprises the police and other public bodies – said it was in talks with the council over replacing three speed cameras in the planned zones with new models that could enforce the new limit. A spokeswoman said: “It is a developing situation and there are ongoing discussions with the council.”
A council spokeswoman said it hoped signs, including electronic vehicle-activated ones, would cut speeds without enforcement. She said traffic-calming measures, such as speed bumps, would be considered only if speeds remained significantly above 20mph. Measures on main roads could include central islands or road markings such as cycle lanes.
The council yesterday hit back at critics circulating “misconceptions” about the plans, such as that it covered every street, would increase congestion, journey times and emissions, would not improve safety and be bad for business. Transport convener Lesley Hinds said: “There have been a number of claims flying about to do with the ins and outs of the 20mph rollout which are quite simply untrue.”
She said research showed vehicles travelled through junctions more smoothly at lower speeds and emissions may be cut by reduced acceleration and braking. Ms Hinds claimed 20mph limits should have a “relatively modest” effect on journey times of less than 25 seconds per mile – a 20 per cent increase. She said businesses would benefit from the improved “liveability” of areas with slower speeds.
Conservative spokeswoman Joanna Mowat said: “This was voted through without financial implications or timescales being available for scrutiny. The department shows a £5.3 million gap in budget due to not delivering planned savings – it seems foolish to approve a significant scheme with no idea of costs when there is a funding gap.
“It would be better to properly repair potholed roads and cracked pavements which would deliver a definite improvement for pedestrians and cyclists.”
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