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Transport / Fifty limit set to be put in place on A970 at Levenwick

Meanwhile councillors have relayed more concern over speed limits across Shetland

Photo: Shetland News

COUNCIL officers will look at introducing a 50mph speed limit on the A970 above Levenwick until longer term road improvements there are installed.

The lower speed limit was successfully proposed by chair of Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee Moraig Lyall at a meeting on Monday.

The 50mph limit had been suggested by council officers as a possible interim option on the road, which has drawn safety concerns over the years.

Meanwhile there was continued concern from elected members about speed limits in many parts of Shetland, particularly in areas such as Cunningsburgh, Voe and Whiteness/Weisdale.

Infrastructure director John Smith suggested further discussions in more depth on the issue, with members keen for the views of community councils to be fed into the process.

A report presented to councillors on Monday said the SIC should continue to follow national guidance on speed limits.

But Shetland South councillor Alex Armitage felt that local people should have a say on speed limits in their area.

His ward colleague Robbie McGregor also said he made “no apology” for echoing views of his constituents and pressing yet again for a lower limit in Quarff, a 60mph area where there is no pavements or street lighting, and where schoolchildren get the bus.

But the meeting heard that Quarff did not meet the national criteria for a lower limit.

Roads manager Neil Hutcheson suggested that one avenue could be to look at source of the concern over pedestrian safety, such as introducing better bus laybys or infrastructure.

During Monday’s meeting Shetland West councillor Mark Robinson reiterated his view that rural villages on a main road unfairly have higher speed limits than some outlying areas.

He used examples such as Bixter, Voe and Whiteness/Weisdale, compared areas like Aith, Skeld, Walls, Sandwick and Toab, where there are lower limits.

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Armitage also spoke about Cunningsburgh, which is 50mph and has pavements.

Referring to the Highway Code about the potential for pedestrians to step onto the road, he suggested the speed limit for areas with pavements – such as Cunningsburgh – needs to be lower to create less risk.

But Hutcheson said the Cunningsburgh road had been designed with visibility and sightlines with footpaths in mind, and suggested that a competent driver should be able to reduce their speed accordingly.

He said speed limits was about balancing safety and pedestrians with efficient movement of vehicles, and that limits which are unrealistic or too low potentially pose problems.

Hutcheson added that accident statistics in Shetland are relatively good.

The meeting heard that the mean speed of vehicles in Cunningsburgh is 40mph to 50mph, and in Quarff it is towards 60mph.

During debate Armitage, who represents the Scottish Greens, made reference to a “car culture” in today’s society and the negative impact it can have on health and the environment.

He felt there was a “bit of a democratic deficit” on the issue of speed limits in Shetland.

“People in Shetland don’t feel that this national road safety guidance meets their needs in a good enough way,” the councillor said.

Armitage added: “I really think that local people should have a voice in deciding how fast vehicles should be travelling through their communities.”

Robinson suggested there was also a “lack of common sense” among drivers these days, which sees people trying to get from A to B as quickly as possible.

He also believed reducing speed limits in villages would be accepted over time.

“I think we need to set realistic limits that will keep the pedestrian population in our rural villages safe, and moderate the speed of the traffic,” Robinson added.

Shetland North councillor Andrea Manson also noted the continued concern from communities in areas like Voe and Hillswick when it comes to road safety, with folk in the latter keen to see a pavement installed.

Committee chair Moraig Lyall added that there is a desire to see more people cycling, but some people want to see speed limits lowered before they cycle on the road.

Shetland Central member Catherine Hughson also noted what was being discussed was guidance, not policy.

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