Category Archives: Road Safety

Slower Speeds, Safer Streets for Edinburgh: An Action Plan

Action Points for the City of Edinburgh Council

1  CEC  should set a ‘Vision Zero’ target of no deaths or serious injuries on its roads, within its new Road Safety Plan, with a target of 2030 for realising that vision.  (A more ambitious target than the national one is realistic in Edinburgh, where speeds are lower and road  safety problems are less diverse.)  

2   Excessive speeding is the principal source of the collisions that result in casualties. Realising this vision will require stronger and more comprehensive actions to reduce speeds on the city’s roads. Stronger measures both to enforce speed limits, and to redesign streets are essential. 

3   Maximum use should be made of both fixed and mobile speed cameras, and red light cameras for enforcement.  Suitable technology should be employed to ensure that the breaking of all speed limits (from 20 to 70 mph) can be enforced. Successful schemes on main roads using average speed cameras, such as that on Dalkeith Rd, should be rolled out across the city. But camera deployments must also be targeted by evidence of highly excessive speeds, not just by whether these have yet resulted in collisions.

4  Enforcement of 20mph limits across the city is never likely to be a priority for the police however, and CEC initiative and support will be essential. Involvement of the public and community groups, through initiatives such as ‘Speedwatch’, is vital for the identification of speeding problems and targeting of enforcement efforts on residential streets. 

5  With the necessary legal powers, the council could readily undertake enforcement actions, alongside and co-ordinated with the police, under a system analogous to that for parking offences. Lesser speeding offences should be subject to fines issued by council wardens, with evidence of more serious abuses passed on for action by the police. CEC should seek the necessary devolved powers for such an enforcement system, with the fines set to fully fund the costs of enforcement. 

6   A renewed emphasis on street redesign is needed, with the full range of traffic calming measures flexibly used wherever required. More use of soft measures such as speed indicator signs can be helpful, but they are no substitute for the hard engineering measures such as humps, cushions, and speed tables that effectively curb speeds. A single road hump on the approach to a sharp bend for example can eliminate a serious risk. Perceptions of safety are also very important for pedestrians and are an additional benefit on traffic calmed streets.

7   Raised crossings should become the norm on residential streets with 20mph limits. There should be a presumption that all new crossings, whether formal or informal, should be raised, with appropriate tactile paving, making them safer and easier to use for pedestrians.  Especially where located at the approaches to junctions the slower speeds would have additional traffic calming benefits. 

8   The current CEC safety review of major junctions is very welcome and needs to be made comprehensive. There are also still a multitude of more minor junctions with dangerous wide splay entrances that need to be redesigned. A new targeted review and investment programme is needed to systematically improve them, with tighter radii, build outs and raised entrances, as appropriate.

9   School safety plans are needed that provide for safer routes and for the safer school entrance areas that are needed at many of the city’s schools. Wider pavements should be provided that allow for the concentration of pedestrian activity these areas inevitably attract, with reduced parking and less use of guardrail.  

10   Many pavements in the city are sub-standard, and often far too narrow.  A comprehensive review and investment programme is needed to widen pavements and meet minimum design standards wherever possible. Where narrower carriageway widths result this will often also help to slow traffic speeds.

Action Points for the Scottish Government

1   ‘Vision Zero’ has strong public support, but to be realistic it requires more resources to support camera enforcement of speed limits at national and local level. Fines should be set at increased levels to ensure that finance will be available to support sufficiently comprehensive enforcement efforts, independent of the more general state of public finances.

2    Fines and license penalties should be graduated by the degree of excessive speeding involved and should be applicable to employers as well as individual drivers, where there is evidence of repeat offending.

3   Powers should be devolved to local authorities to allow them to undertake proportionate enforcement actions through wardens and levy fines for offences including speeding, red light jumping, pavement cycling and illegal use of e-scooters in co-ordination with the police. This will be vital for effective enforcement efforts where 20 mph limits apply across residential areas, with police resources and priorities necessarily being stretched.  

4   National driver and employer education campaigns should be undertaken on the consequences of speeding, aimed at making speeding as socially unacceptable as driving with excess alcohol has become.

5   More advice and resources should be made available to local authorities to support the creation of safer streets through redesign and traffic calming. There is still a massive design deficit in terms of safety, but local authority road safety budgets and teams have been severely cut over recent years. Without strong and prioritised central government support, ‘vision zero’ will remain a mirage on many local authority streets. 

Living Streets Edinburgh Group

November 2021

Slower Speeds, Safer Streets summit, October 2021

Living Streets Edinburgh Group held an online summit on ‘Slower Speeds, Safer Streets’ on 23 October 2021. Chaired by, and the brainchild of Mark Lazarowicz, former MP and Edinburgh Transport Convener, the event aimed to put the spotlight on how we can make traffic slower and streets safer, especially for pedestrians and cyclists. Some 60 people participated in lively discussion, hearing from Cllr Lesley Macinnes (Transport and Environment Convener of City of Edinburgh Council), Steven Feeney, (Head of the Scottish Safety Camera Programme, Transport Scotland), traffic expert Professor John Whitelegg and Action Zero campaigner Jeremy Leach.

Among highlights of these talks were Cllr Macinnes describing the administration’s ambitious £118 million Active Travel Programme over the next five years, while Steven Feeney described how the Safety Camera partnership works. Professor Whitelegg pointed to much more radical approaches in Sweden and Germany, which reduced road casualties and appeared to have high levels of community support and involvement.  Jeremy Leach described a lot of the detailed work to reduce traffic and traffic speeds in London, much led by Living Streets activity there.

The event also allowed representatives of political parties to comment on their approach to making streets safer. In addition to Cllr Macinnes (representing the SNP) the panel was joined by Cllr Scott Arthur (Labour), Cllr Chas Booth (Scottish Green Party) and Christine Jardine, MP for West Edinburgh (Scottish Liberal Democrats). The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party weren’t able to be represented.

Several themes attracted widespread support among participants including:

Street Design: It is not enough to set speed limits, the engineering of the road (for example, to introduce narrow traffic lanes and ‘tight’ corners at side roads) needs to be changed to ensure driver compliance.

Enforcement: there is a widespread perception that 20 mph limits, while welcome, are widely broken; the traffic camera regime especially faced criticism for the number of ‘bagged’ cameras and inability of fixed cameras to be used in 20mph zones.  There was a lot of scepticism that the national Scottish approach to deciding when and where to locate cameras (based on average speeds) was appropriate as this can mean tolerating significant levels of speeding traffic.

Budgets: The meeting was told that across Scotland, the Safety Camera Partnership had an annual budget across Scotland of £5 million; a proportion which was widely felt to be out of kilter with Transport Scotland’s overall £2.5 billion budget. Locally, residents report being told that road changes can’t be made because of council budget constraints.

Community Speedwatch: there was significant interest in – and support for – communities being involved in measuring and enforcing speed limits; in promoting awareness (eg through stickers on wheely bins) and in being involved in decisions on where to deploy speed cameras.

Cycle infrastructure: there was significant support for providing segregated cycle infrastructure as part of safer street environments.

Technology: there were a number of interesting ideas about the use of new technology to achieve safer streets, for example, the potential for more use of Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) to control and limit the speed of council vehicles, buses and taxis; or to deter ‘rat running’ behaviour (eg to avoid speed camera or through satnavs).

The meeting concluded with lots of positive feedback from participants and speakers alike, and thanks were expressed to Living Streets Edinburgh Group for organising the event. LSEG is preparing an ‘Action Plan’ to reduce speeding and traffic danger and this event will help to inform it. Hopefully, it will also influence the City of Edinburgh Council’s next statutory Road Safety Plan, the last one (2010-20) having expired. Of course,  time will tell how these aspirations, ideas and plans will translate into action to make streets safe from traffic danger.

You can view the presentations here

Deterring speeding – enforcement and compliance; Empowering individuals and community groups with data

Slower speeds…safer streets

Safety Camera Presentation – Current programme and future plans in Scotland

WALKING CAMPAIGNERS URGE COUNCIL TO STEP-UP 20MPH ENFORCEMENT

Following the announcement that the City of Edinburgh Council’s 20 mph programme has reduced average vehicle speeds by 1.3 mph (about 6%), local walking campaigners have called on the Council to step-up enforcement and to introduce traffic-calming measures at key speeding blackspots across the city.

Don McKee, the Convenor of Living Streets Edinburgh Group [1] said:

‘We strongly support the 20mph initiative which has already made a significant improvement to Edinburgh streets. However, because there is so little chance of being caught by the police, in free-flowing traffic situations too many motorists are able to drive at excessive speeds. We can’t rely on signage alone to eliminate this kind of antisocial behaviour. We want to see more enforcement action by Police Scotland, including wider use of speed cameras, and traffic calming measures introduced on particular problem streets.’

 

1] Living Streets Edinburgh Group is the local voluntary arm of the national charity campaigning for better conditions for ‘everyday’ walking. See: http://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/about/about-living-streets/

Tram safety review – what about pedestrians?

16th August letter to Councillor Lesley Macinnes

Dear Councillor Macinnes

We are very pleased to see some real debates starting in earnest about a vision for Edinburgh where people (pedestrians!) take precedence over traffic and look forward to participating in these discussions over the coming months.

Meanwhile, there is one important matter to which we wanted to draw your attention, concerning the motion on tram safety which you put to full Council of 29 June last year. This essentially called for a “thorough infrastructure review…to improve pedestrian and cycling safety”. A consultation was carried out by the Council in response to your motion, but this dealt with cycling safety alone.  Our response focussed on the need to respond to your motion by also considering pedestrian safety:  http://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/2018/04/10/edinburgh-tram-route-cycle-safety-consultation-comments-by-lse

We were then further disappointed to see walking safety considerations and improvements once more entirely ignored in the Council’s summary of the consultation responses, which again dealt solely with cycling safety:   https://consultationhub.edinburgh.gov.uk/sfc/tram-route-cycle-safety-improvements/

We subsequently raised these concerns directly with the Active Travel Team; however, we were unable to convince them that a wider remit for the project to include the safety and convenience of pedestrians was as necessary as that of cyclists. Discussion on the walking aspects of the project seem purely incidental.  So far the sole focus has been on managing the potentially negative impacts for pedestrian movement as a result of cycling improvements, eg loss of footway space.

While we recognise how important it was to respond to the tragic death of the cyclist Zhi Min Soh, we don’t regard the overall Council response to your motion as acceptable. There are considerably more pedestrians injured on Princes Street and other roads than cyclists. We would therefore like to request two actions:

  • Could you ask officials to revisit the review to highlight measures which address pedestrian safety and convenience along the tram route, as required by your motion to Council?
  • Would you consider appointing a councillor as a ‘walking champion’ for the Council, in a similar role to the cycling champion? We feel that this might be a useful measure to ensure that pedestrian interests are given more attention than is often the case currently, where ‘active travel’ effort focuses principally on cycling, and does not give sufficient weight to walking.

Kind regards

David Spaven

Convenor, Living Streets Edinburgh Group