Blanket 20mph speed limit across North Yorkshire branded unrealistic
A long-running inquiry into introducing a blanket 20mph limit across all settlements in North Yorkshire has concluded it would be “unrealistic in such a diverse and vast area” - but found more action is needed to improve safety outside schools.
North Yorkshire County Council’s transport scrutiny committee said while campaign groups had claimed a groundswell of support for the road safety measures, it should not be assumed that all residents would want to see 20mph speed limits introduced in every village or town.
The findings follow road safety ministers from 130 countries adopting the Stockholm Declaration in February, which calls for a focus on speed management, including the strengthening of law enforcement to prevent speeding and mandate a maximum 20mph limit in areas where vulnerable road users and vehicles mix in a frequent and planned manner.
The declaration stated efforts to reduce speed in general would have a beneficial impact on air quality and climate change as well as being vital to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries.
The North Yorkshire inquiry’s conclusions follow numerous hearings since councillors agreed to review the county council’s 20mph policy dating to 2006, amid claims that introducing lower limits off main roads in villages and towns would save lives.
While the authority’s leading members have highlighted how North Yorkshire Police would not enforce 20mph zones, campaigners, including 20s Plenty, told the inquiry that the authority’s policy of restricting 20mph zones to residential areas, main shopping streets, roads fronting schools and spots where there is a high number of pedestrians, was outdated.
The inquiry’s report states that people might in theory be supportive of reducing speed limits, particularly in their local area, but in practice might be less likely to be so especially in other areas that they have to drive through with the increase in their travel times – the reverse of the ‘not in my back yard’ effect.
The councillors’ report states they felt there was a need for pragmatism and a need to keep road users moving as efficiently as possible.
It also highlighted the “need to continue to balance the interest of the full range of road users and the use of our highway network for leisure and work purposes”.
It states: “Regardless of whether there is now or in the future public support for lower speed limits, in order for speed limits to be effective they should reflect the nature of the road and in essence be ‘self-explaining’.
“It is unrealistic therefore in such a diverse and vast area as North Yorkshire for there to be 20mph speed limits existing in all settlements where there are vulnerable road users, even if some exceptions were introduced.
“In North Yorkshire there is a downward trend in the number of killed or seriously injured related-collisions even though the amount of traffic on our roads is increasing.
"Ongoing improvements in car technology are seeing the introduction of enhanced driver safety driver aids such as automatic braking and speed limiters which should reduce killed or seriously injured rates further.”
The inquiry also found that some communities might not be aware of the council’s existing policy, which allowed a degree of flexibility to allow communities to introduce 20mph speed limits in their areas.
Among its recommendations, the inquiry called on the council to draw up a list of high-risk collision areas using three years’ worth of data to examine whether an area would benefit from a 20mph speed limit.
It added: “We believe though that there is a specific focus required around schools and where there have been personal injuries in areas with 30mph speed limits, with a view to reducing the speed limit down to 20mph.
“20mph speed limits around schools should cover a wider area in order to encourage greater use of active modes of transport.
"20mph speed limits around the immediate vicinity of a school are not going to be as effective in this regard as parents are likely to still feel that it is not safe for their child to walk or cycle to school.”