Editorial: The Need For Speed

This week councillors in Orkney got themselves in quite a fankle debating whether or not there should be a 20mph speed limit in Finstown.

For anyone who doesn’t know Finstown, it’s quite a busy village with lots of new houses. There’s a car park with an excellent take away van, constantly busy when it’s serving hot food to the many drivers who stop there. There’s a garage on a junction. That junction was deemed so busy that the Orkney Men’s Shed was told by council officials that they had to move out of premises they had put huge effort and time into renovating because the entrance to it is very close to that junction.

There’s a shop, a pub, another takeaway, a layby where people can park on their way to a delightful walk in Binscarth Woods. Yes, Finstown, even without the considerable increase we have in traffic: visitors, tour buses, cyclists etc. is a busy place.

You have to wonder how many of the councillors on the OIC Development and Infrastructure Committee have ever walked on the pavements in Finstown ? where there are pavements? Have these councillors ever experienced being on a bike and tried cycling in Finstown, including negotiating the turning to the school?

How much time does a driver lose out of their journey by passing through Finstown at 20mph ?

The councillors on the committee will be recommending to the full council a partial introduction of limits.

•  40mph speed limits should be put in place on Old Finstown Road, Heddle Road, and at either side of the village on the A965 Kirkwall to Stromness road

•  the 40mph speed limit on the A966 road should be extended

•  an existing part-time 20mph limit on the A966 should be extended to cover a section of A965 main road through Finstown

Commenting on the decision by the committee, Councillor John Ross Scott, Scottish Greens, said:

“I sympathise with the residents there who have made good representations on the dangers of speeds in built up areas and I see no reason why a blanket 20-mph zone could not be introduced even on a temporary basis as a pilot 20mph zone scheme in Orkney.

“It should be noted that the Welsh Government is imposing 20mph on all its restricted roads from September 2023, turning most of its 30mph zones into 20mph zones at a cost of £33m, and Transport Scotland is currently carrying out assessments on whether it too can follow. As has been proved in the Borders, where all 90 towns and villages are now permanent 20mph zones, drivers know what they need to do. I’m not saying that all drivers stick to the 20 mph but speeds are significantly reduced.

“Finstown has that same perception for drivers who taking heed of persistent messaging, do slow down. As a trial 20mph zone it would be ideal and take away from the confusion of having different speed limits within the village. In Kirkwall East at election time speeding traffic was the Number One complaint around the doors so I would welcome a similar restriction there. Yes, there would be a cost attached with speed indicator devices, road markings and the like but if it reduces accidents and makes people feel safer then it would be worth the cost. Folk sometimes forget that when they jump into their cars they are potentially taking control of a lethal weapon.

” As well as the safety aspect, 20mph zones studies are also showing that reducing speed assists us on the journey to Net zero and reducing the carbon impact on communities.”

It is intended that traffic calming measures will also be put in place but the timescale for that is a few years on. These additional measures will cost money. Would not extending the 20mph with the relevant signs not be cheaper than putting in traffic calming measures?

And do we really need a pilot scheme as Councillor Scott suggests, when so many Finstown residents have indicated that they want slower speeds through their village?

There is a clear need for driver education to take place and their responsibilities to drive safely, within the legal limits and with due consideration for pedestrians and other road users. I would urge OIC to engage in a public information campaign on safe driving on our roads taking into consideration the new guidance published in the Highway Code which many seem unaware of.

Click on this link to download the Finstown Traffic Management Study on which the discussion and recommendation was based.

Fiona Grahame, Editor, The Orkney News

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