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Transport / Community councillor dubious over likelihood of active travel boost from reduced speed limit

Photo: SIC

QUESTIONS have been raised over whether reducing the speed limit past the south end of Lerwick by 10mph will actually encourage people to cycle or walk more in the area.

Lerwick Community Council chairman Jim Anderson said at a meeting on Monday that he was not sure if reducing the limit to 50mph between the north access to Gulberwick and the Black Gaet junction will have any impact on what is described as “active travel”.

“But we might well be pleasantly surprised,” he said.

Speed limits were lowered in December in phases from Sound Brae in Lerwick to the Black Gaet junction, as well as the straight in towards Gulberwick, to look at what impact it has on active travel over its 18-month trial.

It missed out on starting during the summer months, when walking and cycling would naturally be more common, due to delays with monitoring equipment.

Speaking in response to Anderson’s concerns, Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee chairman Ryan Thomson said the number of pedestrians and cyclists using the road will be monitored to determine whether lower limits has encouraged more active travel.

“Only then will be see if these reductions have made any significant difference,” he said.

“Shetland has seen a substantial increase in active travel during the Covid pandemic, so it would be wrong not to do everything we can to encourage this.

“Of course, there are further reductions of 40mph and 30mph on the Sound Brae, something local residents have been calling for for quite some time, so it’s good to finally get these implemented.”

Monitoring is also taking place in Tresta, where the speed limit has similarly been decreased to 50mph as part of a trial.

Encouraging more people to cycle is not a new topic, having been discussed at the Lerwick Community Council before.

A recent transport survey carried out in Shetland highlighted that safety and a lack of segregation with vehicles are two key factors discouraging people from cycling more in the isles.

At Monday’s meeting Karen Fraser said she would like to see cyclists be able to use pavements more, when safe to do so.

She described it as “really ridiculous” when you have a cyclist holding up a queue of traffic in the town when the pavement remains empty to their left.

“I would like to see us make use of pavements in a better way,” Fraser said.

Anderson also said he felt it would not be practical to have cycle lanes in Lerwick unless a lot of money was stumped up.

But community council member Andrew Emmerson said it was “depressingly unambitious” to write off new cycling infrastructure already.

And Arwed Wenger pointed to the success in countries like Denmark and Germany when it comes to long-term investment in cycling facilities.

He suggested nothing will change without more encouragement from local and national government.

Meanwhile Gary Robinson – a cyclist himself – pointed out some changes to the Highway Code which come into effect on 29 January.

They include pedestrians having priority over vehicles when cars are turning at junctions, and that cyclists should position themselves in the centre of the lane in certain situations to make themselves more visible.

These situations include on quiet roads or streets, with the cyclist moving to the left to enable faster vehicles to overtake, and approaches to junctions where it would be unsafe for drivers to overtake.

There is a new hierarchy of priority which sees pedestrians followed by cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists. Cars/taxis then follow, with vans and minibuses after that and large passenger vehicles and HGVs last.

More information on the changes can be found here.