Dear Orkney News,
Two centuries ago, when David Phinn started selling toddies, Finstown’s traffic wasn’t the heavy volume it is now. Finstown – like many places – wasn’t built for anything more than horses and carts, so the road is narrow and pavements are missing in places.
Finstown is part of West Mainland ward, so I’ve been canvassing there recently, and the main concern of residents – especially, but not exclusively, for those living next to the main A965 – is the traffic: specifically the amount, the type, and the speed. I’ve listened to stories of near misses when trying to cross the busy road, of parents with little ones in buggies being swept over with the updraft from high-sided vehicles, and of folk being drenched if they happen to be walking too near to a puddle when a lorry passes by. Then there’s the constant noise, not least when cars drive over loose utility (‘man hole’) covers.
Given the typography, a bypass isn’t going to be viable unless any new road crosses high hills. The A965 is Orkney’s main artery, there isn’t much provision of alternative routes for the heavy freight, buses, and utility vehicles to take. The morphology of the village means that some garden walls and porches encroach on the pavement, so compulsory land purchase orders to widen the road will probably be resisted. Instead some creative decisions will need to be made to improve safety and quality of life. Finstown resident Jean Stevenson has already raised a petition (https://www.change.org/p/orkney-islands-council-slow-down-traffic-in-finstown) and I welcome OIC’s current on-line consultation (https://finstowntrafficstudy.co.uk/contact/ – closes 21 March – paper copies of the survey are also available from OIC on request by emailing email@example.com or telephoning 01856 873535 ext 2362).
I have, of course, responded to the on-line consultation myself but the suggestions are rather limited in my opinion. Residents are concerned that speed ‘bumps’ will hinder ambulance drivers, narrowing the road will only present difficulties for larger vehicles (which already struggle to pass each other), whilst other traffic calming schemes, such as additional signage and road markings, tend to work for those already driving safely. Based on what residents have been feeding back to me (and please, OIC, have this information as a no-cost survey), speed limits need to be extended and enforced.
It is Scottish Green Party policy to promote a 20mph speed limit in all residential areas. This may sound draconian but it has been successfully applied elsewhere (my colleague John Ross Scott informs me it works well in the Scottish Borders) and drivers will naturally adapt as it becomes habit.
What happens when people drive at 20mph? The most important thing is that anyone hit by a car at 20mph is much less likely to suffer a fatality. That alone should make it a ‘no brainer’ but here are some more advantages: less energy is used and the miles per gallon (or kwh) increases, roads suffer less wear and tear (so a win for the private and the public purse), and vehicular noise is reduced.
If a 20mph zone was implemented along the A965 for a maximum of 2 miles – say from Binscarth Cottages to the Atlantic Lodges (this stretch is currently 30mph, but with a slight extension) – this would increase a journey time from Kirkwall to Stromness by just 2 minutes.
However, this zone is currently 30mph and residents report that if only traffic kept to that speed, it would be an improvement. So, any speed limit needs to be enforced too and that might take some collaborative thinking with our local police. Perhaps even average speed cameras could be considered? These might be unpopular but they are proven to work.
Whatever methods are implemented, it’s clear to me that the community is concerned about the issue and solutions are urgently required. If elected on 5 May, I’ll make the implementation of speed reduction through Finstown village a priority issue.
Helen Woodsford-Dean, Co-convenor Orkney Greens and Scottish Green Party prospective candidate for West Mainland ward in forthcoming OIC elections
See also: Finstown Road Safety Consultation
Yes, a 20 mph limit would be a simple, easily actioned step to take.
I don’t drive, and don’t pay as much attention to road signs as maybe I should. I had presumed that stretch of road was 20 mph anyway. Time for it to became so.
An excellent piece. One solution in addition to a 20 Mph zone could be making the A965 one way at it’s narrowist section, a roundabout at the junction with the Old Finstown Rd, and widening the link road from Holm Point on the A965 up to the OF Rd.