A CAMPAIGN backed by the Sunday Herald to cut the normal speed limits on roads in residential areas to 20mph has won overwhelming backing from the Scottish public.

The Green MSP, Mark Ruskell, is proposing a new law to make 20mph the default limit in residential areas instead of 30mph. He polled people to find out what they thought of the idea.

Three-quarters of more than 1,500 groups and individuals who have so far responded said they were in favour. Now Ruskell says he is extending the deadline for responses an extra month to September 15 to give more people a chance to submit their views.

Loading article content

Amongst those backing a 20mph limit are parent groups, environmental campaigners, community councils, local authorities and eminent health bodies. They argue that slower speeds will prevent children and adults being killed or seriously injured by cars and other vehicles.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health says that road traffic injuries are a “major cause of preventable death” amongst children and adolescents. An average of six under-16-year-olds were killed every year on Scotland’s roads between 2011 and 2013.

In its submission the college argues that legislation is the best way to deliver change. Making 20mph the legal norm would “ensure that it is enforceable by law and that it is applied wholesale through all built up areas in the country,” it says.

According to a joint submission by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, there is robust evidence that a 20mph limit will reduce the risk of accidents and serious injuries.

“We need strong political leadership in Scotland through legislation supported by communication and social marketing campaigns to normalise slower traffic speed in urban settings, change our car-dominated culture and encourage more of our population to walk, cycle and use public transport,” their submission argues.

Ruskell was “delighted” by the high level of public support for his proposed bill for the Scottish Parliament. “Even among those sceptical of the bill, there has been little outright opposition to 20mph speed limits in urban areas,” he told the Sunday Herald.

“To those who are yet to be convinced, I want them to know that I’m not proposing a blanket approach to 20mph. Councils will still be able to keep key roads at 30mph if it’s appropriate.”

Ruskell argued that a 20mph limit would make Scotland’s streets safer, and could help cut road casualties and deaths to zero. “With a new speed limit, we can also reduce pollution and any harm being done to children’s growing lungs,” he said.

The Sunday Herald reported in May that a poll of over 1,000 Scots by Survation showed majority support for a 20mph limit. Some 53 per cent said they supported the idea and 28 per cent said they opposed it, with others not expressing a view.

Ruskell’s bill has also been backed by the campaign group, 20’s Plenty for Us. “Across the world progressive communities and cities are setting 20mph and 30kmh limits for most roads to make their places better places to live and travel,” said director, Rod King.

“The global standard has been set by the World Health Organisation with a call for a 20mph/30kmh limit wherever motor vehicles conflict with pedestrians and cyclists,” he added.

“Scotland would join other countries where 20mph or 30kmh is the norm and this bill enables it to be done the smart and cost-effective way by setting a national default that still allows exceptions where appropriate.”

The Scottish Government pointed out that Transport Minister Humsa Yousaf had met with Ruskell and was looking forward to considering the outcome of the consultation.

“There are no current plans to lower the 30mph limit to 20mph on a national basis as decisions on urban speed limits are best taken at local authority level,” said a spokesman for Transport Scotland.

The Scottish Government was committed to reducing risk on Scotland’s roads, he stressed. “Our road safety partners agreed a commitment to encourage local authorities to introduce 20mph zones or limits in residential areas and places with a high volume of pedestrians and cyclists.”