News / Town centre could get 20mph speed limit

Zebra crossings could replace some of the Esplanade's traffic lights.

DRIVERS in Lerwick’s town centre may have to slow down to 20mph if plans going before SIC councillors next week reach fruition.

Members of the environment and transport committee are being asked to back a consultation on reducing the 30mph speed limit along the Esplanade and part of Commercial Road.

The 20mph zone would stretch from the approach to the top of Church Road in the south part of town to the roundabout at North Ness.

A report by roads engineer Colin Gair also advocates consulting the public – specifically vulnerable people – about replacing some pelican crossings in the area with zebra crossings.

The latter measure is being proposed as a result of frequent problems with traffic lights not working – prompting regular complaints from Lerwick Community Council.

Gair’s report says the introduction of zebra crossings would only be safe in zones where driving speeds are lower than the present 30mph limit.


The initial cost of introducing the scheme is estimated to be somewhere between £100,000 and £150,000. But it would result in savings in the long run: removing some sets of traffic lights would eliminate the cost of maintaining and replacing them.

Gair’s report states:“The council have been approached at various times over the last few years regarding the possibility of introducing a lower (20mph) speed limit along the Esplanade.

“The approach is now being discussed at national level as possible government policy to make town centres and shopping areas more pedestrian friendly.”

The Esplanade and Commercial Road area has a “small but regular” rate of around two accidents a year. Gair describes that as “statistically significant” given the population.

Pedestrians have been involved in around two thirds of those accidents in recent years, during which time there have been four “rear end shunt” incidents where vehicle speeds are “particularly relevant to the severity of the accident”.

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There have also been complaints about the speed at which vehicles travel up and down Church Road, particularly at lunchtimes and in the evening.

Gair’s report does acknowledge safety concerns in replacing traffic lights with zebra crossings, particularly for the blind or partially sighted.

But even taking that into account, roads staff believe their introduction – twinned with traffic calming measures and a reduced speed limit – will reduce the rate of accidents in the area.

Environment and transport committee chairman Allan Wishart said he was hopeful members would back going out to consultation on the traffic measures.

He has been encouraged by increased footfall on Commercial Street in the build up to Christmas, boosted by the Living Lerwick campaign, and sees this as “another step in the right direction” which should “help make the town centre a safer place”.

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