Evaluating the citywide Edinburgh 20mph speed limit intervention effects on traffic speed and volume: A pre-post observational evaluation

Glenna F. Nightingale, Andrew James Williams, Ruth F. Hunter, James Woodcock, Kieran Turner, Claire L. Cleland, Graham Baker, Michael Kelly, Andy Cope, Frank Kee, Karen Milton, Charlie Foster, Ruth Jepson, Paul Kelly

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Abstract

Objectives

Traffic speed is important to public health as it is a major contributory factor to collision risk and casualty severity. 20mph (32km/h) speed limit interventions are an increasingly common approach to address this transport and health challenge, but a more developed evidence base is needed to understand their effects. This study describes the changes in traffic speed and traffic volume in the City of Edinburgh, pre- and 12 months post-implementation of phased city-wide 20mph speed limits from 2016–2018.

Methods

The City of Edinburgh Council collected speed and volume data across one full week (24 hours a day) pre- and post-20mph speed limits for 66 streets. The pre- and post-speed limit intervention data were compared using measures of central tendency, dispersion, and basic t-tests. The changes were assessed at different aggregations and evaluated for statistical significance (alpha = 0.05). A mixed effects model was used to model speed reduction, in the presence of key variables such as baseline traffic speed and time of day.

Results

City-wide, a statistically significant reduction in mean speed of 1.34mph (95% CI 0.95 to 1.72) was observed at 12 months post-implementation, representing a 5.7% reduction. Reductions in speed were observed throughout the day and across the week, and larger reductions in speed were observed on roads with higher initial speeds. Mean 7-day volume of traffic was found to be lower by 86 vehicles (95% CI: -112 to 286) representing a reduction of 2.4% across the city of Edinburgh (p = 0.39) but with the direction of effect uncertain.

Conclusions

The implementation of the city-wide 20mph speed limit intervention was associated with meaningful reductions in traffic speeds but not volume. The reduction observed in road traffic speed may act as a mechanism to lessen the frequency and severity of collisions and casualties, increase road safety, and improve liveability.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0261383
JournalPLoS One
Volume16
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2021

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