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Transport Scotland consults on trunk road 20mph zones trial (+ video)

Five communities across the country to benefit - but campaigners say more places need them

Transport Scotland says it will open a public consultation on introducing 20mph speed limits in five towns and villages on the country’s trunk roads network to improve the safety of vulnerable road users including pedestrians, cyclists, children and people on horseback.  But cycle campaigner Pedal on Parliament are calling for the lower limits to be brought in at more locations.

The communities that will pilot the lower speed limits, with assessment annually for three years before deciding whether or not to make them permanent, are Maybole in South Ayrshire (which sits on the A77), Largs in North Ayrshire (A78), Biggar in South Lanarkshire (A702), Langholm in Dumfries & Galloway (A7) and Oban in Argyll & Bute (A85).

In Langholm, some residents have campaigned for a 20mph speed limit for several years and produced this video showing traffic making its way through the town, with lorries passing within inches of people’s homes. 

According to Transport Scotland, they were chosen “based on a clear and robust set of criteria relating to vehicle speeds, the safety record of the route within the town or village, with a focus on vulnerable road user accidents, and the physical characteristics of the route (traffic volumes, HGV levels, length of the section, carriageway width, parking provision).

It says there are no plans to pilot a 20mph speed limit elsewhere on the trunk road network, and that it decided against piloting it at a number of other locations where it considered it “would be ineffective or impractical.”

Those communities are Aberlour and Keith (both in Moray), Cromdale, Golspie and Nairn (Highland), Inveraray (Argyll & Bute), Callander (Stirling), and Crocketford and Springholm (Dumfries & Galloway).

Pedal on Parliament said it welcomed the trial at five locations, saying: “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.”

The campaign group continued: “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.” It went on to cite the locations Transport Scotland had rejected as well as the reasons given by for the decision in each case.”

It added: “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.”

As far as the five selected locations are concerned, Transport Scotland said:

A consultation process will now begin to develop more specific proposals for each location.  This will involve discussions with the local authority, community groups and other stakeholders. It will also involve statutory consultation.

It is expected that the 20 mph zones on the trunk roads will be largely self-enforcing with no need for traffic calming measures. Instead, the use of gateway treatments, signing and lining will reinforce the speed limit changes.

Transport minister Keith Brown launched the pilot in Biggar yesterday. He said: “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 villages where it is reasonable to do so.

“The five trials are being proposed that will seek to improve road safety generally, but we expect them to bring specific benefits for vulnerable road users, such as older people and cyclists.

“There have been a number of calls for lower speed limits and specifically 20 mph 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.

“In doing so, we considered the number of accidents and other factors such as traffic volumes and speeds as well as HGV numbers and the characteristics of the location.

“I know there will be some communities that are 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”

Councillor Chris Thompson, who chairs South Lanarkshire Council’s Enterprise Services Committee, commented:

“We are firmly behind any proposals which make driving safer in our villages and towns.

“We have already introduced 20mph limits throughout the town to improve road safety and the plans now being brought forward for the A702 would complement those improvements.”

You can find an FAQ about the speed limit trials on the Transport Scotland website.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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WolfieSmith | 10 years ago

Cost aside it's not physically possible to segregate in all cases.

Making some roads or areas 20 mph costs more than making whole towns 20mph as you need more signage between 20mph areas and other speed limit areas. Councils do not want to spend money on this and do not want to make whole towns 20mph as they worry about votes more then quality of life.

Until enough people demand it it will not become the norm.

As far as obeying the speed limit; as I keep saying - once 50% are obeying the limit everyone else has to too - especially in most urban streets. Concentrate on handing out real fines (3pts and £500) to those that don't and it will succeed. I do 20 mph. Have done for 3 years now. No ones overtaken me yet and pissing off my near neighbours who have to add up to 10 seconds to their journey stuck behind me is such fun.  36

a_to_the_j | 10 years ago

use the money to put segregated cycle lanes in, making the roads single-track, and therefore speeds will automatically come down. 2 birds, 1 stone. job done.

jarredscycling | 10 years ago

I don't really get 20mph zones. In the states anything in the center of town is already 25mph (that extra 5 doesn't make a difference) and outside of a city center they would just be horribly abused. So, protected bike lanes are much better for both cars and bikes

Matt eaton | 10 years ago

I can't help but think that the fact that no enforcement of the 20mph limits will undermine the value of the trial. If the limit was actually enforced then the statistics drawn from these trials would show what impact reducing traffic speed to 20mph actually has. As it stands the figures will only show the impact of putting up 20mph signs.

I'm on the fence a little bit on this issue as I do recognise the importance of making good progress when travelling on trunk roads and many of these roads pass through lots of towns and villages. On the other hand I see HGVs travelling on roads that were never designed to take such heavy traffic.

a_to_the_j | 10 years ago

 41  41  41

nowasps | 10 years ago

Why are all the bollards and sign posts and other street furniture always positioned on the pavement? They're for the "benefit" of the motor vehicles on the road. They should be on the road too, so the vehicles have to slow down and negotiate them, not the pedestrians having to squeeze past them on the already insufficient footpaths.

FluffyKittenofT... replied to nowasps | 10 years ago
nowasps wrote:

Why are all the bollards and sign posts and other street furniture always positioned on the pavement? They're for the "benefit" of the motor vehicles on the road. They should be on the road too, so the vehicles have to slow down and negotiate them, not the pedestrians having to squeeze past them on the already insufficient footpaths.

This has always irked me as well. Those blasted road-side "cattle" fences especially, not only coralling pedestrians in, but usually taking up most of the pavement as they do it.

But, at least in the case of 'temporary' signage, its not _always_ on the pavement. Sometimes they put it in the cycle lane!

ironmancole | 10 years ago

Constantly annoyed by the deeply ingrained label of 'accident' automatically attached to each collision. In the vast majority of cases the incident was wholly avoidable for want of numerous factors excused as being somehow unavoidable, hence the continual 'accident' labels.

If you took 500 people in a town centre and gave them iron bars to carefully walk about with any resultant 'accident' caused by one person hitting another where death or serious injury occurs would be considered assault.

Use a car though and yep, even if you were using it in a similar manner to swinging a bar around recklessly you'll be excused or essentially let off.

20mph is great but it will be ignored, those that do abide will have a bmw or Audi up their back end doing their typical aggressive thing and the resentment caused by having to slow in the 20 zone will just be vented on the rural stretches when yet again, a vulnerable road user will pay the ultimate price.

So, in reality thus tiny piece of the road safety jigsaw is kind of like peeing into the's just that those in authority are still so far off the ball as to the nationwide radical changes needed in motoring law that they actually think this will change anything.

Road safety has to be one of the most depressing aspects of overdue change at present. It's like watching your house burn down and along comes the government on a skateboard dressed in its finery eager to throw a eggcup full of water at the fire...and once they've done it they congratulate themselves and then look bemused as to why nothing has changed.

Utterly useless and in my opinion negligent in its duty to look at the cause of the deaths (cars for the most part) and actually do something.

Meanwhile, the vulnerable continue to be slaughtered 'accidentally'. Shameful.

peterben | 10 years ago

I presume that they hope in a 20 mph zone people will at least manage to do 30 as opposed to the 35/40 they normally do in a 30 zone

Guanajuato replied to peterben | 10 years ago

I reckon that's the general gist, and if it IS what happens, I'm all for it.
It would be interesting to see a study of speed distribution on roads before and after 20 limits are applied.
I suspect that a larger proportion of drivers would be above the arbitary speed limit with a 20 limit, but that the mean and mode speeds will be a fair bit lower.

a_to_the_j | 10 years ago

Great news - but commuting to and from these towns along major trunk roads (impossible) or the terribly surfaced, unlit, ungritted, rat-run back roads needs more funding and thought!

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