Twenty’s plenty for roads through Borders towns

All 30mph speed limits in the Borders are set to be reduced to 20mph.

Scottish Borders towns will have 20mph speed limits for 18 months.
Scottish Borders towns will have 20mph speed limits for 18 months.

Scottish Borders Council has announced the radical new plans as part of a bid to curb the severity and incidence of road traffic accidents, and to encourage more walking and cycling. 

As part of the ‘Spaces for People’ project, which is funded by the Scottish Government, the council will implement a 20mph speed limit on all council-adopted 30mph roads in the Borders, as part of an 18 month pilot.

The council has received £1.2m from the government in order to fund the pilot.

A report, sent to councillors ahead of a full meeting on Thursday August 27, explains the new speed limit is intended to ‘reduce the risk and severity of injuries as a result of collisions between vehicles and vulnerable road users, and to encourage more active travel and make active travel easier and more appealing by lowering speed limits, especially important considering links between obesity and Covid-19’.

The proposals, which councillors are being asked to approve at the meeting, also include plans to reduce speed limits on other roads: “A number of temporary measures are planned, such as temporarily reducing speed limits to 40mph on selected national speed limit roads, reviewing a number of town centres to improve cycling opportunities, temporary closure of certain roads and the most significant measure being the proposal to change all council adopted 30mph roads to 20mph as a trial for a temporary period of up to 18 months.”

The only exception to the new 20mph speed limits will be trunk roads, as Transport Scotland is currently carrying out its own research into lowering the speed limit to 20mph on sections of trunk roads that currently have 30mph speed limits.

This means the A1, the A7, the A68 and the A702 will be exempt.

The report further anticipates an initial backlash from Borders residents: “There is a risk that there will be a vocal minority who believe that being asked to slow down by 10mph is unacceptable and social media will likely be busy initially, however as schemes bed-in acceptance is expected to be generally forthcoming. 

“To mitigate such a response the roll out will be initially with communities that officers have worked extensively with previously who are keen to trial new measures, and those communities who have been proponents of reducing speed limits in their areas, such as Eddleston, Stow, Coldingham, Sprouston and Newcastleton. 

“There will likely be an increase in complaints of speeding as the schemes are rolled out, either perceived or real and Police Scotland will likely follow their 2013 policy and they will not carry out enforcement where there is a belief that compliance cannot be reached. 

“As the project progresses there will be monitoring and evaluation and where possible and realistic, traffic calming can be introduced as part of the Spaces for People funding or the speed limit revised back to 30mph.”

A report will be brought back to the council 12 months from the commencement of the pilot with suggestions on which schemes, if any, to retain and which to remove. 

The remainder of the trial will be used to implement any permanent changes.

Councillor Gordon Edgar, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for roads and infrastructure, said: “Coronavirus has changed the way we live and move around, and as a result we felt this was the perfect time to work with Sustrans Scotland to try out new measures that may shift the balance towards walking and cycling, which we may not otherwise do. 

“This trial will aim to help people in the Borders lead healthier lifestyles, and at same time help reduce CO2 emissions.

“If approved on August 27, the introduction of 20mph areas will be a hugely significant change for all of our communities, but it is worth emphasising this is a pilot which will be continually reviewed throughout its 18-month duration.

“The council is planning to work with a Scottish university to ensure an academic evaluation of the Spaces for People programme is carried out, which will show which of these temporary measures were successful, which were not, and which need to be improved.” 

Karen McGregor, director of Sustrans Scotland, said: “It’s clear that people across Scotland want to do the right thing during coronavirus. They want to look after their physical and mental health. 

“They also want to make sure that they are keeping to physical distancing guidelines while still being safe on our streets.

“Providing funding support to Scottish Borders Council through our Spaces for People programme will make it easier and safer for Borderers to travel around their area for essential travel and exercise.”