Safer Streets Bill will reduce speed in built-up areas and would benefit people who walk and cycle

By John Lauder,
man with pushchair and child on bike crossing road

Sustrans Scotland supports a nationwide default speed limit of 20mph on residential streets. ©2017, Colin Hattersley

The launch of the Safer Streets Bill to make 20mph the standard speed on residential streets in Scotland is great news for people who walk and cycle.

When it comes to saving lives and reducing injury on our roads, the benefits of 20mph speed limits are well known but worth repeating. Road casualty data from the Department for Transport shows significantly lower casualty rates on 20mph roads, and a 2009 study of London speed limits found that the introduction of 20mph zones was associated with a 42% reduction in road casualties.

Reduction in road casualties and accidents avoided 

Meanwhile, evidence from the South Edinburgh pilot area also points to a 20% reduction in casualties. These kinds of numbers cannot be ignored.

Just last week, a study by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health outlined how repeating the success of the South Edinburgh pilot nationwide would lead to a 9.5% reduction in injuries and deaths on our roads across the whole of Scotland, leading to a saving from accidents avoided of £27.1 million per year.

The city-wide roll-out of 20mph speed limits across the Scottish capital, supported by Scottish Government Funding through Sustrans Scotland’s Community Links Programme, underline the success of slower, safer streets.

We’re still awaiting the thorough evaluation of Edinburgh’s rollout of 20mph speed limits, but already we know that in the past year road casualties are down by 24% and those killed or seriously injured are down by a third. This is consistent with all the evidence that says that 20mph speed limits reduces both the number of collisions and their severity. We look forward to more detailed evaluation from City of Edinburgh Council in due course.

This is why Sustrans Scotland support a nationwide default speed limit of 20mph on residential streets. Local authorities will still be able to designate streets as 30mph if they think they are safe and there is a need for people to travel faster. But by making 20mph the new ‘normal’, it will offer a sensible assumption that streets are for people first and everyone has a right to be a feel safe.

Reasons to implement 20mph speed limits on a national scale

We think that 20mph is right for our streets. And there are a range of reasons why you would do this on a national scale.

Firstly, making 20mph speed limits more consistent across the country will make it clearer to people what the speed limit is, and help people in vehicles to adjust to slower streets.

This approach will save councils money. Currently, Scotland has a bit-by-bit approach to designating 20mph areas that can be expensive for local authorities to implement. A nationwide approach prevents local authorities from having to follow long-winded, complex procedure and allows Scotland to run a national public awareness campaign instead of multiple smaller campaigns as happens now.

We also know that 20mph streets also help to meet the national priority of getting more people travelling on foot or on a bike and that helps towns and cities thrive. Lower speeds on roads help people to feel safer and more likely to choose to walk or cycle for everyday journeys. Lower speeds also make retail areas more pleasant for journeys on foot or by bike, which can have a positive impact on trade. The Scottish Government is right to encourage people to walk and cycle more and this Bill enhances that aim.

Our vision is for active travel to be an easy, safe and attractive choice for everyone throughout the UK. Sustrans Scotland will support the Bill’s passage through Parliament and we hope as many MSPs as possible will support this, to ensure a safer and more active nation for everyone.

Contact your local MSP to tell them that you support the Safer Streets Bill