Volunteer of the Year for Scotland - Bill Telfer
Bill has always maintained that cutting the relative speeds between motor vehicles and cyclists is probably the single most important thing that can be done to make cycling safer and more attractive.
He started to volunteer after he realised that few people were prepared to get around by bike on Langholm’s streets, even though cycling should be a natural choice in such a small town (pop 2,200).
The A7 trunk road bisects the town, creating a real sense of danger and severance in the community. Many vulnerable road users are frightened to walk along some sections of pavement adjacent to this kind of motor traffic.
In 2011, Bill and a local shopkeeper decided to launch a 20mph speed limit campaign and it gained huge support. They launched a petition in autumn 2011 calling for 'Dumfries and Galloway Council and the Scottish Government to introduce a 20mph speed limit on all residential roads in Langholm, including the High Street'. It now has more than 600 signatories.
Bill has written leaflets, made posters, advertised, had letters to the press published, and circulated a massive amount of information explaining the benefits of slower speeds to Council and Government officials, to South of Scotland MSPs.
He brought Rod King, founder of '20's Plenty for US' to Langholm and organised a meeting chaired by MSP Elaine Murray.
Bill also encouraged a local councillor to draw up his own ‘survey’ because he insisted that his survey would ‘’give the community the opportunity to really express its view on whether it thinks ‘20 is plenty’ for Langholm or not’’. The result was that 71% residents voted ‘’Yes.’’
However, a major obstacle has been Transport Scotland priorities for trunk roads. They say ‘’Due to their strategic importance, it is general practice that trunk roads should be kept free from obstruction to permit the efficient movement of goods and vehicles.’’ Up until now they have adhered to a dogma that they could on no account reduce the speed limit to 20mph.
Bill has persistently refused to accept this, and Transport Scotland has now agreed to trial 20mph on trunk roads in four Scottish towns, including Langholm. These trials suggest they can admit they were wrong. The campaign, however, continues, since the Local Authority may still have to be convinced that all the other streets in the town should also be 20mph.