Easy does it: Edinburgh makes stately progress at 20mph


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The Independent Online

Liveability has become the watchword of the modern city, the quality that the greatest store is set by because without it the people won’t come and the city won’t prosper. For city dwellers to be able to function – and there are more and more of them – they need the city to work for them as much as the other way round.

The result is a very welcome pattern of re-prioritisation that has seen the modern urban planner come to realise that people must be put first, as the slogan has it. Edinburgh provides the latest example, with the announcement today that speed limits throughout the centre of the Scottish capital are to be lowered to 20mph, and it makes such sense that it has to be asked why this isn’t the policy in every major UK city, and indeed not-so-major ones.

Reducing speed limits in environments that are properly the domain of the pedestrian is not just a matter of safety, although the statistics bear repetition: a pedestrian hit at 40mph has a 31 per cent chance of death; hit at 30mph and that risk falls to 7 per cent; at 20mph the risk of death is negligible. It is also a matter of asserting whom the city is for.

Drivers are people, too, of course, but cars in cities are an unsustainable option. Congestion and pollution are blights – offsetting this by imposing charges goes only so far. Cycling is booming and those in charge of our cities have generally responded well to the trend, improving the infrastructure for those on two wheels and taking pride in the numbers opting for that mode of transport.

After a long and painful gestation period, Edinburgh’s tram system is finally up and running. With its 20mph speed limit the city has further burnished its transport credentials, and one of the most beautiful cities in the world to walk around just became even more attractive.