Lower speed limits

Why 20mph?

Spaces for People funding from the Scottish Government in 2020 has enabled councils to put in place temporary measures to make essential travel and exercise safer during Covid-19. In East Lothian, we moved quickly to create new 20mph limits in towns and villages across the county. This will:

  • allow more flexible use of our town centres and allow us to respond to requests for alternative uses of public space
  • make it easier to cross the road if necessary to maintain social distances
  • support walking and cycling to school

While it has been challenging to procure signage and contractors to erect it at short notice, most of the areas are now signed. Additional road markings will be necessary to reinforce the new limits, and these will be added as soon as possible.

Over recent years, there has been a growing demand from communities for slower speeds in areas where people live. The Spaces for People programme gives us the opportunity to trial these measures for a temporary period of six months initially.

Policy and background

East Lothian Council has a Speed Limit Policy, adopted in May 2018. The policy takes account of the national guidelines, and sets criteria for 20mph and 30mph limits.

In 2019 a bill to reduce the general speed limits on local roads from 30mph to 20mph was rejected by the Scottish Parliament, on the grounds that local authorities are best placed to make decisions on local speed limits.  

The Spaces for People 20mph programme

In the first instance, we proposed to change existing 30mph limits to temporary 20mph, where there is street lighting in place. However, in some cases, this would mean a speed limit change from 60mph to 20mph, which is not considered good practice and therefore where possible a ‘buffer’ area of 30mph or 40mph has been created. In some places, we opted to form this buffer by signing the 20mph within the current 30mph limit, while in others we introduced additional 40mph stretches.

We were more likely to choose the former option where there are few frontages and/or little pedestrian activity in the current 30mph area, and the latter where the road is a route to school or regularly sees high number of pedestrian and cyclists.

Work on the installation of the 40mph buffer areas is continuing. Additionally we are designing and looking to install temporary ‘gateway’ features incorporating road narrowing or textured surfacing at the start of each 20mph limit to reinforce the change.

40mph limits

New 40mph limits have been created where necessary to form a buffer to the 20mph areas, as explained in above, and also on additional routes to school where pupils might be looking to cycle on the carriageway.

There is currently no move towards wider 40mph limits on rural roads.


We are looking to install gateway features near the start of every 20mph area, in order to make it clear to drivers that they should slow down. Where the carriageway is already narrow, this will take the form of red surfacing and a 20mph roundel across the carriageway; in places where there the road is wider, we may use bollards or road markings to narrow it to 6m which should have the effect of lowering traffic speeds. The photo on this page shows an example of a similar gateway feature in Lasswade, Midlothian.

Lasswade gateway image as an example of this type of road feature with speed limits on the location roadsigns


Monitoring and adapting

Traffic speed measurements were taken in 40 locations in July 2020 before the new signs were erected, and these measurements will be repeated when the signage is complete in order to give us a measure of the change in driver behaviour. Where it is considered that speeds have not sufficiently reduced, further traffic calming features will be considered.

Public opinion is also sought though frequent online meetings with stakeholders for each town.

Before and after monitoring of traffic speeds will allow us to establish any changes in driver behaviour and inform a decision on whether to establish new general policy on speed limits.