Today, I moved a motion in the Scottish Parliament on Road Safety in Falkirk, following many local residents raising concerns about speeding cars in their neighbourhoods. The two areas I mentioned in the text, Airth and Reddingmuirhead, were areas where local campaigns focus heavily on getting speed limits reduced to 20mph on Main Street and Shieldhill road respectively. However they are far from the only areas where residents have spoken to me about their concerns.
I was surprised to see SNP Constituency MSP for the area Michelle Thomson come out strongly against a 20mph speed limit, finding every excuse she could not to back it. Her argument is fundamentally undermined by the fact that there is a 20mph on the same road, just over the county border in Stirling.
Watch what Michelle Thomson had to say about a speed limit in Airth by clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2n-ChfB2pE
Regardless of the lack of support from the SNP for this motion, I will work across parties to get road safety made a priority, and the campaign for 20mph in Airth and Reddingmuirhead continues.
The full debate including contributions from Michelle Thomson, Richard Leonard, Tess White, and the Minister Graeme Day can be seen by clicking here: https://youtu.be/MoybReLMhDw
Text of Stephen's speech:
Thank you, Presiding Officer,
I am delighted to have the opportunity to bring forward this motion about Road Safety in Falkirk. Road safety is of paramount importance, saving lives when properly enforced. One of the most important factors in Road Safety is speed. The Road Safety Charity, Brake, states that 1 in 3 fatal road crashes can be contributed to excess speed, and that an average speed reduction of 1 mile per hour reduces crash frequency by 5 percent.
Since becoming a member of the Scottish Parliament in May, I have been made aware of various community-led campaigns to improve Road Safety in Falkirk by reducing or enforcing speed limits.
One of these campaigns is in the village of Airth, led by Airth Community Council. For many years, residents have been complaining about the noise pollution and increased risk caused by cars, vans, lorries and even some farm tractors ignoring the 30 miles per hour speed limit on the main street.
Earlier this year, over 100 residents recently took part in a survey which showed that 87% of people living in Airth backed proposals to reduce the speed limit of the main street to 20 miles per hour. Despite this support, the people of Airth are no closer to the introduction of a 20 miles per hour speed limit becoming a reality.
Reddingmuirhead and Wallacestone Community Council have also been leading a campaign to enforce the 30 miles per hour speed limit on Shieldhill Road. There is a school beside this road but no continuous pavement on either side, resulting in children crossing the road back and forth on their walk to and from school.
This by itself is incredibly dangerous. But taking into account data that shows 75% of the traffic on Shieldhill Road ignores the 30 miles per hour speed limit, we can see just how dangerous this daily walk is for the pupils of Braes High School.
After writing to Falkirk Council to highlight speeding on Shieldhill Road, Russell Steedman, Falkirk Council’s Network Coordinator, responded by saying that “The Road Traffic Act 1998 requires local authorities to carry out studies into accidents that occur within their areas and, in light of those studies, take such measures as appear appropriate to prevent accidents.”
Mr Steedman then went on to say that there had been three personal injury accidents on the section of Shieldhill Road subject to a 30 miles per hour speed limit within the last 10 years. However, vehicle speed was only recorded as a “possible” contributory factor in one.
I am thankful that the recorded personal injury accidents on Shieldhill Road are relatively low, though I must put on record that local residents believe that the actual number of accidents is much higher.
Residents who use Shieldhill Road regularly are worried about safety on this road and are anxious that measures to enforce the speed limit will only be taken if a serious accident does occur. I share these concerns.
Can I therefore ask the minister if the Road Traffic Act 1998 allows the police and councils to take preventative measures to enhance road safety, rather than simply relying on recorded accidents in the past 10 years?
Since putting forward this motion, many constituents have got in touch to highlight the issue of speeding across Falkirk. Talking about Kemper Avenue, one constituent said that “cars fly up there”, describing it as a “nightmare” for elderly people trying to cross the road. With retirement housing nearby in the form of Glenbrae Court, this nightmare is being lived on a daily basis.
Another constituent emailed me to say that the “speed of some cars going from Gartcows Road onto Windsor Road is frightening”. With many family homes on Windsor Street, this speeding is increasing the anxiety of parents when children go outside to play.
Reflecting on why they believe this speeding is prevalent, my constituent wrote: “I believe the main contributor to speeding is a lack of enforcement of speed limits.”
Commenting on Slamannan Road, which is a 30 miles per hour road, another constituent said: “people seem to think it is a 40 to 50 area…it is only a matter of time before an accident happens”.
It is clear to see, Presiding Officer, that Road Safety is a concern for people throughout Falkirk.
Rather than waiting for serious accidents to happen, it is my belief that police and councils across the country should be proactive tapping into the knowledge and understanding that local communities have about their roads.
That way we could prevent accidents, rather than simply reacting.
To conclude, therefore, I would like to ask the Minister the following questions which I hope he will address at the end of this debate:
- What steps has the Government taken to support efforts to introduce 20 miles per hour limits in places where local residents support an introduction, such as Airth?
- What steps has the Government taken to enforce speed limits where residents have consistently voiced concerns about road safety, such as in Reddingmuirhead?
- What steps has the Government taken to ensure that the safety of pedestrians, such as school children and cyclists, is at the heart of developments to promote active travel in Falkirk?
- What steps has the Government taken to empower local residents in promoting Road Safety in their local communities?
People in Airth, Reddingmuirhead and Falkirk are voicing their concerns loud and clear about Road Safety in Falkirk. It is our responsibility, as well as the job of Falkirk Council and the Police to listen to them and act accordingly.
I beg to move the motion in my name.