A call has been made for Lerwick’s proposed 20mph zone to be reviewed a year after its introduction, as consultation on the safety measure draws to a close.
Community councillor for the town, Andy Carter, says a keen eye should be kept on the effect traffic calming measures being put forward by the council’s roads department will have.
Last night it emerged that in the last 10 years only one out of 19 accidents in the proposed 20mph area – which stretches from the top of Church Road, along the Esplanade, and ends at the North Ness roundabout – could directly be attributed to speeding cars.
Last night’s community council meeting at the town hall was given an update by head of roads, Dave Coupe.
Mr Carter said he had heard from drivers who were “potentially unhappy” by the proposals.
“Do you have any plans to review the traffic calming a year’s hence, and if there is no difference, will you be removing them?” Mr Carter asked.
Mr Coupe pointed to an average of two “injury accidents” on the Esplanade per year over the last 10 years – a figure which, he said, was twice the national average for a road of that type.
The SIC says Lerwick has accounted for 31 per cent of injury accidents reported in the isles since 2009, with the Esplanade and Commercial Road accounting for a quarter of those accidents, or eight per cent of all injury accidents taking place in the isles.
“It puts us at a point where we, as a local authority, would need to instigate it,” Mr Coupe said.
He agreed to come back with figures in time, but said the measures would not be withdrawn after their introduction.
As part of the plans, a series of speed cushions and so-called “flat-top” road humps will also be introduced, as well as a raised “table” at the junction of Commercial Street and Church Road.
Mr Coupe said there was a possibility, depending on cost, of the plan receiving 100 per cent funding from transport body Sustrans, which – he said – showed the level of commitment the Scottish government were willing to put into road safety measures.
“Is it likely to reduce accidents? I would think so. I would fully expect that this will do exactly what it is we’re looking to do, and that is reduce pedestrian accidents.”
Avril Simpson asked how many accidents in the area were caused by speeding cars, Mr Coupe said there had been only one in 19.
He said “the bulk” of cars travelling in the area were already going at around 20mph in any case. The traffic-calming measures, he said, would ensure an element of self-policing.
A number of members were in support of the idea, with SIC councillors present at the meeting, Allan Wishart and Peter Campbell, insisting they had received a very small number of complaints about it.
Mr Wishart said he had received three complaints – a small percentage given the population of Lerwick. That was two more complaints than Mr Campbell was sent.
John Fraser favoured extending the zone further, highlighting a certain logic in bringing it out as far as the foot of King Harald Street to help drivers avoid drinkers as they spill out of the Marlex and the British Legion at closing time.
Mr Coupe said studies had shown a “cluster” of accidents from the North Ness junction to Church Road.
“We have no remit to go beyond it, and no necessity to do so.”
Mr Coupe was also keen to address concerns that the measures would dissuade people from coming into the town centre. He highlighted a study in Germany which had shown the opposite effect taking place, with more people coming in to town centres where traffic calming measures were in operation.
“Most areas ended up doing slightly better,” he said.
Mr Fraser added his support to the scheme.
“I understand where Andy’s coming from, in looking for evidence that traffic calming has an impact on road safety. But we have to look beyond that, to the perception of pedestrians who will feel safer, and would feel more encouraged to come and make use of the retail environment.”
The meeting also heard consultation will take place in the spring over the introduction of pelican crossings, as well as possible changes to the speed limit boundary on the Sound Brae.
Consultation on the 20 mph area is due to end on Friday. Roads officials will then examine any objections and will report back to the SIC’s environment and transport committee.