A long-running inquiry has concluded introducing a blanket 20mph speed limit across all settlements in England’s largest county would be “unrealistic” in terms of cost and enforcement and could also be unnecessary.
While a growing number of authorities launch 20mph zones across a majority of built-up areas, such as in neighbouring Leeds, the North Yorkshire County Council study found speed limits should reflect the nature of the road and be “self-explaining”.
The findings of the study instigated some 18 months ago stated slowing vehicles down and extending journey times would have an economic impact and that ongoing improvements in driver safety aids, such as automatic braking and speed limiters, has lessened the need for 20mph zones.
The inquiry’s conclusions, which will be reported at a full meeting of the authority next week ahead of them being considered by its transport, economy and environment overview and scrutiny committee, state the council’s existing policy on 20mph speed limits enabled communities to introduce 20mph speed limits in their areas.
The document states: “The policy though would benefit from some updating and to be promoted. Some communities might not be aware of the policy, but could benefit from the introduction of 20mph speed limits.”
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It recommends the council’s policy be made more explicit in considering 20mph speed limits nears schools, supporting behavioural change among drivers and alternative modes of transport as well as shaping the built environment.
The study states: “This is so that the wider policy focus is not exclusively constrained by historical accident statistics in determining 20mph speed limits, if an otherwise strong case can be made for a 20mph speed limit to be introduced in a specific area.”
The inquiry was launched in 2018 by the Conservative-run authority’s then Transport Scrutiny Committee chairman, Councillor Mike Jordan, just weeks before he defected to the Yorkshire Party.
Coun Jordan said the inquiry appeared to have missed the point he had been trying to pursue and that he agreed the cost of a county-wide 20mph limit in all settlements would be prohibitive.
He said: “Once you get off the main road it should be 20mph. This should only be introduced where parish councils want it. This was about giving parish councils options.”
Coun Don Mackenzie, the council’s highways boss, said incidents of people being injured on urban roads were rare in North Yorkshire, so the authority targeted its resources towards groups with higher accident rates, such as motorcyclists and old and young drivers.
He added: “I would share the opinion that a blanket 20mph limit is unrealistic for many parts of North Yorkshire, bearing in minid that North Yorkshire Police will not enforce them.
“We follow national guidelines which suggest 20mph limits should be self-enforcing. If mean speeds are much higher, such as 24mph, then we have to introduce other methods to reduce the speed of traffic, such as chicanes or speed humps. However, these are expensive and can prove unpopular.”