Campaigners warmly welcomed Edinburgh 20mph zones [1] but caution that more needs to be done to tackle air pollution and encourage active transport.

Friends of the Earth Scotland air pollution campaigner Emilia Hanna said:

“We welcome Edinburgh Council’s decision to introduce 20mph zones across the city. 20mph zones will create safer, more attractive and more enjoyable streets for everyone. They will encourage more cycling and walking and help to fight dangerous air pollution.”

“One of the biggest barriers to walking and cycling is fear of speeding traffic so 20mph zones, if accompanied by greater investment in active travel infrastructure, could transform how people move around the city.”

Figures released by Friends of the Earth Scotland on Sunday demonstrated that streets in Edinburgh are still breaking Scottish and European standards for clean air. [2] Official research estimates the Scottish death toll from air pollution at over 2000 people per year including 205 deaths in Edinburgh alone. [3]

It is a common misperception that that vehicles pollute more if they are driving at 20mph than if they are driving at 30mph. Research shows that in urban environments with 30mph limits, traffic speeds up and slows down more whereas in 20mph zones, traffic flows more smoothly. Vehicles which accelerate and brake more produce more emissions than those which are driven at a constant, smoother speed. [4]

“Traffic fumes in urban areas are the main source of air pollution. Breathing in polluted air increases your chances of having a heart attack, a stroke, or developing cancer. Children, the elderly and those with existing health problems are particularly vulnerable to its impact on their health.

“20mph zones are just one of several measures which the Council needs to introduce to tackle air pollution. It also must introduce a Low Emission Zone for the city and commit to a greater investment in walking and cycling.”

Low Emission Zones are where the most polluting vehicles are banned from key areas of cities and have proven to be successful in several major European countries including London.


Notes to Editors

1) Edinburgh City Council’s Transport and Environment Committee approved the introduction of 20mph zones across the city.

2) FOES Press Release – Sunday 11 January 2015 – Revealed: Scotland's most polluted streets http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/air-pollution-streets-2014

3) Public Health England’s research is available at http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317141074607. The Scottish figures are in Table 3.

4) Transport and Environmental Analysis Group, Centre for Transport Studies Imperial College London “An evaluation of the estimated impacts on vehicle emissions of a 20mph speed restriction in central London”, (April 2013) http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/business/environmental-health/environment… quality/Documents/speed-restriction-air-quality-report-2013-for-web.pdf

5) Friends of the Earth Scotland response to Edinburgh Council’s 20mph consultation. http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/node/1907

6) Friends of the Earth Scotland is
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 77 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups. www.foe-scotland.org.uk