The council is facing calls for another review of its road safety policy just days before councillors consider a series of nine recommendations to update its 20mph speed limit policy.
The authority’s transport scrutiny committee will examine proposals to make its policy more explicit in considering 20mph speed limits around schools, as well as extending the distance traditionally considered around schools in order to encourage greater use of active modes of transport.
Other key changes it will consider include the production of 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.
However, a meeting of the council’s Thirsk and Malton constituency committee heard campaigners remained unhappy with the recommendations.
Campaigner Ian Conlon claimed the support of Philip Allott, the county’s police, fire and crime commissioner, “for default 20mph zones in all towns and villages”. He also cited surveys showing how support for the zones increased once implemented and told councillors a blanket 20mph policy would tie in with the Local Enterprise Partnership’s ambition to increase the number of people cycling by nine times.
He added children, elderly and vunerable people were being “disproportiontely excluded from public space” by allowing cars to travel at 30mph in towns and villages.
Mr Conlon said the council was not addressing the positive impacts of 20mph zones, such as people feeling safer and children playing outside. He said: “It does not assess the evidence from other area that have developed 20mph speed limits. It is only looking backwards, at what North Yorkshire has done, rather than what it could do.”
Malton councillor Lindsay Burr, who has campaigned for safety action outside schools, called for the policy to be reviewed again, saying if a blanket speed limit was introduced it would end the need for lengthy assessments of numerous areas.
Nevertheless, councillors heard North Yorkshire Police would not support a blanket 20mph limit and that they needed to be self-enforcing, either through driver behaviour or physical measures. In addition, ahead of being elected in Mr Allott pledged he would only “support and implement 20mph in urban locations, where local authorities are prepared to support it”.
Highways officers told the meeting the recent and extensive review of the authority’s 20mph zones policy had led to the development of a policy which would enable more of the zones to be introduced, but on a case-by-case basis.
One officer told the meeting: “Applying a speed limit to a road or roads that drivers consider inappropriate will highly likely result in it being disregarded and the cause of enforcement problems and complaints. Furthermore. it may result in drivers filing to comply with a lower speed limit where it has appropriately been applied and it is essential to do so.”
The council’s deputy leader and former highways boss Coun Gareth Dadd told the meeting it “would be foolish to usurp the findings” of the inquiry, while a member of the investigating team, Coun Roberta Swiers, said although she had initially believed a blanket 20mph limit would be a good idea, the evidence had proved it was not “the safe answer”.