Executive supports revised 20mph speed limit policy

This story was published 11 January 2022

Executive county councillors today unanimously supported a revised 20mph speed limit policy for North Yorkshire that will place a greater focus on active, sustainable travel, such as cycling and walking, and encouraging a sense of place.

Bainbridge in North Yorkshire

The revised policy, which follows a review and recommendations by our Transport, Economy and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee, will continue to support 20mph limits and zones where appropriate, taking a targeted, evidence-based approach, while broadening its scope to recognise the importance of community and social interaction. 

The Executive heard from campaigners seeking a default 20mph speed limit or zones in all built-up areas in the county.

Cllr Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Access and the County Council’s Road Safety Champion, said: “Saving people’s lives and making our roads as safe as possible are of the very highest priority. While every casualty is one too many, the number of people killed or seriously injured on the county’s roads is heading firmly downwards.

“But there are areas where we have road safety challenges and I believe we should focus our attention and spending on those areas. These include motorcyclists – too many are killed or injured on our roads – newly qualified drivers, older drivers and drunk or drugged drivers.

“One area where the incidence of accidents is relatively low is those caused by speeding in built-up areas. That is why I do not support the introduction of default 20mph limits or zones on all roads in built-up areas. A blanket approach to 20mph speed limits would be costly and would divert resources away from dealing with the key safety issues in the county.”

Cllr Mackenzie addressed a claim that air quality would be much improved by a lower speed limit. He said that while there might be a marginal improvement, the issues at all of the eight air quality management areas in the county were caused mainly by standing traffic and idling engines.

He also feared that widespread flouting of default 20mph limits, if they were not self-enforcing and introduced without engineered methods of traffic calming where speeds were higher, would lead to the public perception of a loss of control of highways safety management.

“I believe that our newly adopted policy on 20mph limits, supported by our cross-party transport scrutiny committee, is appropriate,” he said. “It sets out a clear rationale and assessment process and includes the opportunity for greater focus on the sense of place and community, particularly around schools.”

Councillors were assured that speed limits would continue to be considered where appropriate and that should investigations reveal locations with a history of speed-related collisions that would benefit from a reduced limit, including 20mph speed limits, such measures would be taken forward. our approach remains consistent with national Government guidance and the Government’s latest report into the effectiveness of 20mph limits and zones.

There was also an assurance that for new developments, lower speed limits and enhancing the sense of place was built into our approach as local highway authority, as part of the planning process.

It was recognised by the Executive that this was a matter on which the new single council for North Yorkshire, which will come into being in April 2023, might decide to conduct a further review of the policy.