EDINBURGH’S citywide network of 20 miles-per-hour speed limits has yielded a number of positive results including a substantial drop in traffic collisions and casualties, according to new research.

A report evaluating the rollout of the policy three years after its implementation, which will be considered by the City of Edinburgh Council’s Transport and Environment Committee on Thursday, found that average traffic speeds have dropped, with the overall average speed down from 23.77mph in 2016 to 21.92mph in 2021 across the 65 streets surveyed, with the fastest drivers dropping their speeds most. For every 1mph fall in speed, the research indicates a 5% reduction in accidents, while those accidents which do occur at lower speeds result in less severe injuries.

Road traffic collisions have also fallen by 30% in the 36 months after the policy’s introduction, with an attendant 31% drop in casualties, while the percentage of residents cycling at least once a week has gradually increased.  

Although a downward trend in harmful NO2 emissions has also been noted, this reflects national statistics showing a reduction of pollutants around the country. Coupled with the atypical nature of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, results concerning air quality may be less than definitive.

Edinburgh’s Transport and Environment Convener Councillor Scott Arthur commented that he was committed to achieving “Vision Zero”, where traffic fatalities and severe injuries are eliminated, and hoped that the committee would agree to consult Edinburgh residents on the “biggest and boldest” expansion to Edinburgh’s 20mph network since its introduction.

Speaking to the National, Anna Semlyen, national campaign manager for the 20’s Plenty For Us campaign group, said: “Edinburgh has led in Scotland on 20mph limits. Speed reduction is at the cornerstone of better, safer, more sociable places for people out and about. 

“We congratulate Edinburgh’s Councillors, residents and visitors for taking care of what really matters – people and the climate.”

20’s Plenty For Us have called upon the Scottish Government to make 20mph the national default “as soon as possible”, following Wales, which implement the policy in September 2023.

Describing the findings as “very encouraging”, Green MSP Mark Ruskell told the National: “Every community in Scotland needs 20mph limits - no child should grow up on a street with unsafe speeding traffic."

Noting that the cooperation agreement between the Greens and the Scottish Government will see the expansion of 20mph limits across more communities in Scotland, Ruskell added: “It’s time that work now accelerated."