Langholm, or the ‘Muckle Toon’ is campaigning to get lower speed limits, particularly on its High Street, which doubles as the A7. As the Google Street View shows the town is bisected by this major trunk road, slicing through its heart. Dumfries and Galloway is slowly beginning to introduce 20mph speed limits on some streets but it’s falling behind places like Edinburgh where 20mph is rapidly becoming the norm. There’s plenty of research that shows introducing lower speed limits is an easy, cheap and effective way to make a place walking and cycling friendly.
But what about trunk roads? The Scottish Government’s guidance at the moment is that the needs of ‘vulnerable road users’ (that’s ‘people’ to you and me) should be taken into account – but at the moment such needs are set aside on major routes. After all, we can’t be delaying traffic, can we?
But are we? Just 0.4 miles of the A7 passes through Langholm, and currently it has a 30mph speed limit for that stretch. It currently takes a driver 48 seconds to cover that distance – as against 72 seconds if the speed limit was dropped. Is 24 whole seconds really going to make the difference to Scotland’s economy? Is it too much to ask that lorries and cars drop a gear and slow down to let shoppers and schoolchildren cross the road? We don’t think so.
It’s not just Langholm either. All across the county there are towns and villages cut through by too fast roads. I visit Crocketford every day and witness the postman sprinting for his life across the A75 as the Stranraer traffic thunders through the town. How many people will really miss their ferries if they have to slow down for the fraction of a mile it takes to pass through the village? How much more pleasant would it be for the people who live in it if they can visit their shop or pub or catch the bus without taking their lives in their hands?
There are objections to 20mph zones, the main one being that they would be widely flouted if they’re not accompanied by more expensive (and less popular) measures like chicanes, speed bumps or cobbled road surfaces that encourage slower driving. But surely they would be more widely observed if they were consistently applied. Making every residential or shopping road a 20 mph road would be easier to understand than a patchwork of measures. And throw in a few speed cameras and a bit of enforcement and the message would soon get across.
You can find out more – and support Langholm and other areas in their campaign for lower speeds on the 20’s Plenty website.