SPEED limits on major roads in five towns and villages will be cut to 20mph to improve safety, Scotland’s transport minister Keith Brown has said.
The pilot project will force drivers to slow down on trunk roads in Maybole, Largs, Biggar, Langholm and Oban, with the new limits set to be in place by spring or summer in 2014.
A consultation has now been launched to come up with detailed proposals for each of the different locations, where the limit will be reduced from the existing speed of 30mph.
Mr Brown said the new pilot would help “establish the benefits of lowering speeds in towns and villages where it is reasonable to do so”. Announcing the pilot on a visit to Biggar, Mr Brown also suggested the pilots could be used to examine having lower speed limits in other parts of Scotland.
The five locations where the lower speed limits will be trialled have been chosen after considering accident rates, the type of traffic in the areas and the vehicle speeds.
Maybole, Largs, Biggar and Langholm all have high accident rates, while a high proportion of the traffic in Maybole, Biggar and Langholm is made up of HGVs.
Oban has a high proportion of accidents involving vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and elderly people. Maybole, Largs and Biggar also have a large number of such accidents.
Government agency Transport Scotland believes the lower limits will be “largely self-enforcing” and that traffic calming measures will not be needed to cut drivers’ speeds.
The transport minister said that the “key objective” of the scheme was to improve road safety for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, children, cyclists and motorcyclists.
Mr Brown added: “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 and villages where it is reasonable to do so.
“There have been a number of calls for lower speed limits, and specifically 20mph 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.”
Mr Brown added that the government would look at other anti-speed measures for some areas that are not part of the pilots. He said: “I know some communities will be 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.”
Tory transport spokesman Alex Johnstone warned that the measures may not be enough to reduce traffic build-ups and the risk of accidents, and he suggested the government should look at setting up alternative routes at major roads with high casualty rates.
He said: “The 20 miles per hour speed limit plans are a move I back in principle, but there needs to be physical changes to roads as well.”