Burden of bureaucracy hampers road safety bids

The council’s roads team have defended their handling of speed signage after criticisms that attempts to have tighter restrictions imposed at Mid Yell, Tresta and other areas were knocked back by red tape.

Community councillors at their bi-annual association meeting on Saturday agreed to invite roads department specialists to explain their decision making process at their next meeting.

Yell Community Council chairman Laurence Odie said that requests to the roads department to move the 30mph speed limit on the Sunnyside road further out of the settlement had been knocked back.

Mr Odie quoted a letter from the department to the effect that traffic that was moving too fast would not slow down and therefore moving the speed limit was pointless. “The whole thing goes against common sense,” he told his fellow community councillors at the Shetland Museum Auditorium.

His views were echoed by representatives from other districts who said their efforts to have speed signs put up had been confounded by “red-tape and rigmarole carry-on.”

Dunrossness Community Council chairman Raymond Mainland said there was a similar problem in Levenwick where the community council had a number of requests for 30mph signs. “We have an issue where the speed of cars on main road is considerably in excess of the speed limit,” he said.

Sandsting and Aithsting’s Ian Isbister said that the “very fast stretch of road at Tresta” for a time had smiley face signs but these had been removed and the community council informed that they would not be allowed to erect their own signs. “We got an emphatic no from the roads department. What we want to discuss is what can we do to reduce speeds where the community feels they are too high,” said Mr Isbister.

Sandwick Community Council’s Denise Bell said that in the South people erected their own “please drive carefully through our village” signs and that communities had “taken ownership” of that situation. “As community councillors we need to look at other options. It’s about what we could do as well,” she said.

Ex-officio Lerwick community councillor Michael Stout, who is also chairman of the SIC environment and transport committee, said that it was important to understand it was not a question of red tape “What they are saying is that shifting the signposts does not make traffic slower. It is not a simple matter because people will ignore it,” he said.

Michael Stout urged Loganair to "cut the waffle".
Michael Stout.

Mr Stout said that an exercise in Scalloway where school children had been given speed guns to track cars had proved very effective because they were in the hands of some of the people most at risk from speeding traffic.

Speaking later SIC traffic and road safety engineer Colin Gair said that moving the Mid Yell Sunnyside speed limit could be justified neither on grounds of location or accident history and that the department closely followed national guidelines and considered all the relevant factors when making a decision.

Mr Gair said that Mid Yell had not expanded as a development though there was one new house built well away from the road and speed data did not back up any change.

According to Mr Gair, the average speed of traffic 60 metres outside the 30mph limit was 33mph while 85 per cent of the traffic was within 42mph. While that would be unacceptable inside the 30mph limit, it did not justify shifting the sign. It was also a straight piece of road with good visibility for half-a-mile.

The department is, however, going to shift the 30mph limit at Hillside further out the road. Engineers would be assessing exactly where to put the sign shortly.

Roads executive manager Dave Coupe said that smiley face signs had been proved only to have a short term effect and that as well as involving time consuming site inspections for roads staff, permanent signs at Tresta would have a detrimental effect on their use elsewhere.

Mr Coupe added: “We are not being awkward at all. We absolutely prioritise road safety. It is a duty of ours under the road traffic act and we take safety very seriously.”

He said that that the purpose of the smiley faces was to give drivers, who were usually unintentionally breaking the speed limit, “one short, sharp little shock.” It had been proven the smiley faces lost their impact after a week as drivers began to ignore them. This meant that they would be moved around different locations and would be returning to Tresta again.

The department was buying two new smiley face signs with much better battery life and the intention was to replace the existing two signs which required more frequent attention and recharging.


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