The local authority 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, presented to councillors at a full meeting of the council on Thursday August 27, explained 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 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.
Speaking in support of the motion, Tweeddale East councillor Robin Tatler said: “I’m absolutely, 100% in support of this report and the project.
“Over the years I’ve had a lot of emails from communities who are absolutely desperate for these restrictions to come into place.
“I’ve only had one email in advance of this motion, which I’ve responded to quite robustly, against the proposals.
“To me it’s an equalities issue, not everybody has access to cars and so this is levelling things up a bit for pedestrians and cyclists.”
Opposition councillors were broadly in favour of the proposals, but spoke out against the blanket approach to lowering the speed limits.
Fellow Tweeddale East councillor Stuart Bell said: “I am supportive of this but concerned about the details. While it is good to see that ideas have moved on, I remain concerned about the blanket nature of 20mph proposals.
“I fear a one size fits all approach, while simple to implement, potentially leads to problems.
“20mph zones make good sense in residential areas where priority should be given to pedestrians and cyclists. They make sense in residential areas where they can be reinforced by street architecture such as chicanes and planters to naturally slow vehicles.
“I stress residential areas and I stress it should be where appropriate.”
Councillors voted to approve the plans, meaning 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.