Perth city centre has been made a go-slow zone in a surprise move by council chiefs.
After years of deliberations, rejected pleas and a cautious trial scheme launched in March, the local authority has declared 20mph limits for more than 60 streets across the Fair City.
The traffic order, which aims to make roads safer as lockdown eases, came into “immediate” effect on Wednesday afternoon.
However, signs to alert motorists about the reduced speed limit have still to be installed.
The order, which covers Perth Bridge and Queen’s Bridge, is part of the council’s £1.1 million plan to make urban areas safe for pedestrians and cyclists after lockdown.
The plan also involves extra signs, widened pavements and new road markings.
The move has been welcomed by the local Liberal Democrat group, whose plea for a blanket 20mph limit was rejected by the then-SNP administration in 2016.
Councillor Peter Barrett said he had been pressing for lower limits in urban areas for some time. “These changes are to be welcomed, however the council needs to embrace a more radical and transformative approach to active travel and road safety than it has done up till now.
“We can’t go back to the old days where pedestrians and cyclists were the second class citizens to private motorists, commercial vehicles and HGVs.
“Now, with so many more people walking and cycling and fewer cars and lorries on our roads, we have to make sure that huge change in healthy active living isn’t reversed.”
He added: “Communities’ aspirations for safer, slower streets with more space for people has to be a major part of the Covid legacy which creates a healthier city and council area for the future.
“We have to ensure that the major air quality improvements that are now liberating communities from chronic NOx and particulate pollution and debilitating respiratory diseases aren’t snuffed out by surrendering our streets once again.”
Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Mark Ruskell, who proposed a bill last year to make 20mph the national default limit in urban areas, also welcomed the announcement.
He said it was great that Perth and Kinross was “catching up” to councils in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Fife which introduced similar speed limits.
“This will be an important step in making Perth city centre streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists,” he said. “More people and fewer cars going at safer speeds will be good not just for the environment, but for local businesses who rely on regular footfall, not cars whizzing past.
“Perth and Kinross Council should start the work immediately to make the new lower speed limit permanent. Making the city centre a space for people rather than cars will bring benefits that should long outlast the current social distancing measures.”
The council announced a trial 20mph schemes in five towns last year. It was expected that the result of the trial would determine if a similar limit could be introduced in Perth.
A council spokesman said: “Given the exceptional circumstances we are currently experiencing and the unprecedented nature of how we must respond, the council is able to accelerate the introduction of these measures.
“We have consulted with our elected members and the majority of the community councils across the region on these proposals and received a lot of positive feedback.”