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Community / Councillor keen to see more focus on lower residential speed limits

AN ELECTED member says he would like to see Shetland Islands Council do “much more” to improve road safety by lowering speed limits in residential areas.

Alex Armitage, who represents the Scottish Greens, used the analogy of prevention being better than the cure when the issue was raised at a meeting on Monday.

He also supported the idea of local communities being more involved in the decision making around speed limits.

At Monday’s environment and transport committee meeting Shetland West member Mark Robinson also advocated all residential areas being 30mph.

He suggested there was a lack of parity in residential areas around Shetland, such as Brae being 30mph but Cunningsburgh set at 50mph.

The topic was raised after Shetland Islands Council’s latest iteration of its road strategy and safety strategy and action plan was presented to members.

Shetland South councillor Alex Armitage.

Roads manager Neil Hutcheson said there has been a reduction in casualty figures over recent years, meeting government targets, and looking ahead they remain “promising”.

This includes a reduction between 2010 and 2020 in fatalities on Shetland’s roads, from an average of two per year to less than one.

But Hutcheson noted that due to low baseline figures more accidents could result in a failure to meet new targets for fatal and serious injuries.

He told councillors there is a long-term “vision zero” approach underpinned by a desire to have no fatal or serious injury accidents on the roads.

The strategy also warns that “there is no room for complacency as the knock-on effects of any accident can spread across the whole of Shetland, affecting in one way or another on all members of the community”.

“We need to maintain the effort made towards making our roads safer. Indeed, we need to take stock and see what more we can do,” it added.

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Hutcheson said the council on average introduces three speed limit changes a year.

Among the newest to be passed include reductions on the outskirts of Lerwick and Tresta, while a 50mph limit is in line to be introduced between Whiteness and Weisdale.

Councillors back permanent reduced speed limits south of Lerwick and in Tresta

There was praise in the council chamber for the road safety education that continues to take place in Shetland, particularly with youngsters.

But Armitage said he believed there needs to be a greater focus on reducing speed limits, highlighting the lower risk to pedestrians with lower speeds.

“I think if we’re talking about reducing road danger, we need to be concentrating on the speed,” he said.

“Yes, education is important and everybody should be educated, but if we don’t control speed we’re doing to get more casualties.”

He used the example of Cunningsburgh, where children may be walking or cycling on a pavement next to vehicles driving at 50mph.

Armitage said that as a parent himself this type of situation left him uncomfortable.

He added: “I accept we’re going by national guidance in terms of speed limits but I would really appreciate involving local communities in our decision making about what speed limits we set and where.”

Robinson said he had sympathy for Armitage’s views and suggested speed limits in residential areas were not uniform.

“I would like to see every built up area reduced to 30, to be absolutely honest,” he said.

In the strategy’s foreword chairperson of the local road safety advisory panel Councillor Robbie McGregor said the document shows that Shetland has exceeded targets set by the UK Government in 2010.

“We must remember that even the low numbers of casualties on Shetland’s roads are people with family and friends who love them,” he wrote.

“We must never be complacent, must build on our efforts and must continue to work hard at reducing death or injury on our roads. 

“This plan will further improve the joint approach between Shetland’s road safety partners and communities and as a result we should continue to see good progress being made on the reduction of those killed or seriously injured.

“This can be achieved through our commitment to and promotion of the 5 E’s of road safety, namely education, engineering, enforcement, encouragement and evaluation.”

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