We welcome the announcement that Transport Scotland will be consulting on setting 20mph speed limits on trunk roads through five towns and villages in Scotland. Slower speeds where people live, work and play are a key point in our manifesto and an important part of building liveable places generally – and it shouldn’t matter if those places are on trunk roads or local authority routes.
Langholm is one of the towns affected – and has long had an active campaign for lower speed limits on the A7 which cuts right through the Muckle Toon.
While cutting the speed limits won’t do much for the heavy traffic through Langholm’s high street, it will at least mean that people can cross the road more safely, so this is a good start and we hope the consulation reaches a positive conclusion and the pilot goes ahead.
We hope too that the fact that’s it’s a pilot means that the plans are to spread this to all the trunk roads that cut through towns and cities if the outcome is successful. However, we’re not clear that this will be the case. The towns and villages that were excluded (Keith, Nairn, Inveraray, Golspie, Callander, Springholm, Crocketford, Aberlour and Cromdale) were ruled out on the grounds that ‘20mph limits in these areas would be ineffective or impractical‘ – the aim is to make the speed limits ‘effectively self-enforcing’. This implies that even if the pilot is successful, those areas where the road layout encourages speeding will remain at 30 mph at best (there are still many villages where speed limits are 40 or even 50mph). In other words, Transport Scotland will lower speeds, but only where it’s easy, not where real investment has to be made (contrast that attitude with the eagerness of the government to dual the A9, supposedly to improve safety for drivers on that road).
Furthermore, in some cases places were ruled out because ‘the numbers of recorded vulnerable road user accidents was low’ or in some cases none (although since then, there’s been at least one collision in Golspie). It seems to us that waiting for more collisions before acting (how many would be enough?) is rather shortsighted. In many of the places excluded from the trial, vulnerable road users (basically anyone not in a car, for those of you not fluent in policy speak) have voted with their feet and kept well away from the road in question. This might reduce collisions and injuries – but by reducing the freedom of people, and especially children, to use their own neighbourhood streets, it can only increase car dependency and all the ills that that entails.
We would urge Transport Scotland to have the courage of its own convictions and to extend the pilot not just to the easy cases, but to tackle the hard ones too. That would be a policy fit for Scotland’s future.