The Scottish Government is being urged by a coalition of active travel charities to ‘seize the opportunity’ and support a Bill to make 20mph the default speed limit in urban areas.
The Restricted Roads (20mph speed limit) Scotland Bill was first introduced in September 2018 by Mark Ruskell, a Scottish Green Party MSP, who says making 20mph ‘the norm’ in urban areas would reduce injuries and deaths and cut air pollution.
The Bill is currently being scrutinised by the Scottish Parliament’s rural economy and connectivity committee ahead of its stage one debate later this year.
However, the Bill received a lukewarm reception from Michael Matheson, Scotland’s transport secretary, who said decisions about 20mph speed limits ‘were best left to councils’. Mr Matheson warned that the Bill could even jeopardise the Government’s active travel spending.
Meanwhile, chief superintendent Stewart Carle, Police Scotland’s head of road policing, told the rural economy and connectivity committee that enforcing the proposed 20mph limits would not be a priority for the force.
On 26 March, a coalition of charities – including Sustrans Scotland, Cycling UK, Living Streets Scotland and Paths for All – published an open letter to Nicola Sturgeon, which calls on the First Minister to support the Bill.
The letter says a Scotland-wide reduction in speed limits will save lives every year, not only ‘through reduced casualties’ but as more people ‘choose active forms of travel and the air quality in our communities improves’.
The letter addresses concerns over a ‘blanket’ approach to implementation, saying the method is equitable, cost effective and offers the greatest scope to reduce casualties.
The letter reads: “A Scotland-wide reduction in speed limits will save lives every year, not only through reduced casualties but as more people choose active forms of travel and the air quality in our communities improves.
“We cannot wait for individual local authorities to implement this in a few limited areas, as and when they have the resources. We cannot wait for more studies.
“We need Scotland to lead, as it did banning smoking in public places and reducing the alcohol limit for drinking and driving. The Safer Streets Bill offers the best chance of safer, fairer roads. The time to act is now.”