40mph zones across Edinburgh would be axed under new plans being considered by transport chiefs. Around 25 main roads could be reduced to 30mph to safeguard pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
The proposals are part of a new blueprint to pave the way for radical changes to the city’s traffic network over the next five years. Measures are intended to make roads safer, cut congestion and improve air quality.
All ten key policies are new items on the city’s agenda and some are likely to be controversial, including closing off streets by schools in rush hour and setting up low emission zones to penalise polluting vehicles.
Funds raised from bus lane camera fines would also be used to subsidise key bus routes – like the No.18 and No.38 serving the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary – making services more frequent and starting earlier in the day.
Routes including Telford Road in north Edinburgh and Seafield Road in east Edinburgh would be considered for reductions from 40 to 30mph, as would Comiston Road in Morningside. Zones across the city, which number around 25 by recent estimates, would also be reviewed. But key arterial routes into the city such as Queensferry Road and Calder Road would stay at 40mph. Motoring groups backed improved safety measures but argued that problem roads should be targeted rather than a blanket ban imposed.
Luke Bosdet, spokesman for the Automobile Association (AA), also said that reductions in speed could have a knock-on impact on traffic flow around the city. He said: “We’re absolutely in favour of measures to improve road safety but you have to look at the implications of reducing speed on main roads which take traffic in and out of Edinburgh.
“If you cut the speed the city moves by a third that may extend journey times and extend rush hour. Traffic will already move more slowly in the week, but on Saturday and Sundays you want to encourage people to shop in the city centre to help businesses, so this has to be a consideration.”
He added: “We would urge people to take part in the consultation and if there is support for a reduction then the city council should pursue that.”
City leaders have stressed that they wish to hear the views of the public, and such groups as the transport body Sustrans, the AA and the Institute of Advanced Motorists. Proposals will be ready in August, after two rounds of public consultation, and could be adopted by December. Officials point to substantially higher survival rates for those hit at 30mph – around 80 per cent – compared to 10mph faster.
Neil Greig, director of policy at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, urged council chiefs only to consider speed reductions in areas with a history of accidents. He said: “We favour looking at this on a street by street basis. Drivers make their speed choices based on the road environment and if a road feels safe at 40mph then most will understand and stick to it.
“If a road feels 40mph but is a 30mph then inevitably speeding will take place and the calls will come for enforcement. If that enforcement is by safety camera then the council will open itself up to accusations that they are just trying to raise money.”
City transport leader Lesley Hinds said: “We want the main arterial routes like Queensferry Road to stay 40mph because traffic needs to flow. But in built-up areas we need to change drivers’ habits in terms of speed. We want people to enter a residential area and automatically think 20mph. You only have to look at the statistics from the government on someone being hit at 40mph to know the lower the speed, the better the chances of survival.”
Safer rush hour for pupils
SCHOOL streets would be closed temporarily to allow pupils safe passage to classes.
Radical new measures would shut roads for 20-30 minutes in the morning and afternoon.
East Lothian Council is trialling a scheme with the police to improve safety which feature 300-metre no-go areas outside primary schools in Haddington.
Transport chiefs admitted there was a risk of higher traffic and said it would only be proposed at schools with road safety issues.
Cllr Hinds said: “This is not an issue for all schools but we have had requests from parents, including at Ferryhill Primary in my constituency, where there was a bad accident some time ago.”
The scheme is separate to a crackdown launched in November where problem parkers at schools got fixed-penalty notices.
Nigel Bagshaw, transport spokesman for Edinburgh Greens, said: “School pick-up and drop-off times can resemble Wacky Races”, adding: “It may be time to look at special time-limited zones limited to disabled children.”
Neil Greig of the Institute of Advanced Motorists said: “Very few children get injured near schools where they are closely supervised and drivers can see the risks.”
Polluters would pay more
HEAVilY polluting vehicles would be taxed as a deterrent on routes where nitrogen dioxide levels are high.
Lorries, buses and heavier 4x4s would be covered by low emission zones.
CCTV cameras and a number plate recognition system could be used for enforcement. Areas such as Great Junction Street and Calder Road have been proposed in the past.
London has such a scheme but the AA’s Luke Bosdet said it uses the M25 as a barrier to avoid catching out drivers.
The scheme was considered before, but transport chiefs now must meet strict EU guidelines by 2015.
Extension to 20mph zones
A CONTROVERSIAL scheme limiting speeds to 20mph in south Edinburgh would be rolled out across the city under one option being considered.
A three-year project in The Grange, Morningside, Blackford and Prestonfield is now halfway through, but police found 40 per cent of drivers exceeded the limit by at least 5mph.
All residential streets could be included along with the city centre, transport chiefs said.
Zones are at present sign-only and some may need speed bumps to ensure drivers adhere to limits.
“A high proportion of pedestrian and cyclist casualties in the city occur on the busiest streets in inner parts of the city” officials wrote.
“In many of these streets average speeds are already fairly low, but a 20mph limit has potential to help rebalance these streets in favour of pedestrians and cyclists and to reduce the severity of injuries when people are hit or collisions occur.”
Charges set for Sundays
SUNDAY parking charges would be introduced for the first time to boost trade and deter “bay blockers” from abandoning vehicles all day.
As the Evening News revealed last week, officials believe free parking may clog up spaces where turnover is best for business.
The revenue raised from those who do take their car to town would go to Lothian Buses to introduce an enhanced service.
The move has proved unpopular with business leaders at Essential Edinburgh, which represents 600 traders, and the Federation of Small Business, who believe that Sunday is a lifeline for struggling firms.
Last week, Reverend Ian Gilmour of St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church, on George Street, warned that the moves by transport chiefs “would try to find ways to stop people gathering”, and would hit those who attend city centre places of worship.
Regardless of the outcome, some Sunday restrictions has alrweady been foreseen when the tram network becomes operational.
Subsidies boost for bus services
BUSES on key routes such as those serving medical centres and outlying villages would receive subsidies to improve frequency and reliability.
Funds from bus lane camera fines would be used to invest in routes such as the No.18, pictured, and No.38 which serve the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
Services would start earlier to allow staff to get to work. In the case of the No.18 – which travels between the Gyle and the ERI and is already being re-drawn – it may be extended to Fort Kinnaird to connect the south-west and south-east of the city.
Extra cash would be paid to firms such as Lothian Buses and First Group to improve access for those living in areas like Kirknewton and Ratho.
Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader, said: “We want to improve bus services and are prepared to subsidise important routes to produce a better service.”
Edinburgh City Council said the need for bus service support is likely to increase if trading conditions for operators deteriorate in future.
This could occur through a reduction in Scottish Government support via the Bus Service Operators Grant – the concessionary travel subsidy – or rising fuel prices.