20mph signs on Pannal Ash Road
20mph signs on Pannal Ash Road

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) is planning to implement a new county-wide policy on 20mph limits and zones (Appendix 1 of this document).

In practice, the new NYCC policy is the same as the old NYCC policy – the exact opposite of the Man from Del Monte. North Yorkshire says ‘no’.

The policy was developed by the council’s Transport, Economy and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee and is to be put to councillors on Tuesday 11th January 2022.

Warm but Insincere Words about a Sense of Place and Active Travel

The policy has some warm words about 20mph and a sense of place and community, particularly around schools (para. 3.1).

It also states (in highly caveated terms) that 20mph can help deliver the “ambition” of modal shift, and so NYCC commits to “investigating” the need for 20mph limits and zones (3.10).

Despite these words, the detailed policy puts in place hurdles to new 20mph limits and zones that can never be overcome, so the words are meaningless.

Police Support for a 20mph Zone Required, but Police Enforcement must be Unnecessary

In a twist of logic, police support for 20mph is required, but police enforcement of 20mph must be unnecessary.

NYCC states that 20mph zones will have to be supported by North Yorkshire Police:

‘…without [the support of North Yorkshire Police] it would be remiss of the County Council to implement a 20mph (or other) speed limit.’

Para. 3.3, NYCC 20mph policy

North Yorkshire Police will always say that they can’t enforce a 20mph limit, so that will be an effective veto on all new 20mph zones.

On the other hand, according to the new policy the proposed 20mph limit or zone must be be self-enforcing without a reliance on police intervention (3.4). Why then give the police a veto on new zones?

NYCC Still 100% Focused on Motor Vehicles

Paragraph 3.6 refers to a local authority’s duty to ensure the expeditious movement of traffic, but the authors of the policy appear to be unaware that traffic includes people on bikes and on foot.

Unfortunately, NYCC is still stuck in the 1970s – wedded to the idea that moving motor vehicles around the county is the only thing that matters. In this mindset, journeys by car are vital for the economy, while active travel is somehow unserious and optional.

In reality, the biggest single purpose of trips by car is leisure.

Purpose of car trips, National Travel Survey 2019
Purpose of car trips, National Travel Survey 2019

Existing Speeds and Traffic-Calming

NYCC has taken the view that 20mph zones (a whole area) always require traffic-calming features (4.1). Although this may seem like a positive, in practice it is used to refuse requests: there’s never any money for traffic calming.

20mph limits (signs only, no traffic calming) will only be implemented where speeds are already 24mph or lower (4.2). This is logic worthy of Joseph Heller’s Catch 22: you can only have a 20mph limit if you don’t need it.

Applying for a 20mph Zone

The applicant should set out the reasons why a 20mph zone or limit is needed (5.1), and have parish or town council and councillor support (5.2).

Even if the idea passes NYCC’s initial desktop assessment, it is likely to fall at the next hurdle – finding a budget to pay £6-10,000 for a speed limit scheme, or more for a 20mph zone.

The Killer Paragraph

The killer paragraph is 5.13. It sets out criteria that officers will check before supporting an application. They are:

  • NYCC policy on active travel
  • the road is not Category 2
  • low traffic flow
  • there is a record of speed-related personal injury collisions over the last 3 years
  • there are pedestrian and cyclist movements and more will be encouraged by 20mph
  • suitable highway environment
  • there is a school in the area
  • existing average speeds are 24mph or below
  • police enforcement will not be required to achieve compliance
  • vulnerable road user concerns outweigh longer journey times for motor vehicles
  • improved quality of life for residents
  • the scheme is unlikely to attract negative feedback

Requiring serious injuries in the last 3 years is just daft and wrong. Yes, if there’s an accident blackspot, take steps to improve safety. But much of the time, the reasons for wanting 20mph will be sense of place or more active travel; it’ll be about allowing people to do things they are too scared to do because of speeding cars.

People who are too frightened to ride bicycles on roads won’t appear in injury statistics, because they were never there in the first place.

A Piece of Paper to Wave at People who Request 20mph

The policy is effectively just a piece of paper to wave at people who request 20mph zones or limits. It will be used to justify a refusal – which will always be the outcome. There will always be a reason for NYCC to apply its default setting, nihil facere – do nothing to change the status quo. Not enough people have been injured. Speeds are too high. It would cost too much to put in traffic calming. Some people might complain.

At the same time, there’s enough wiggle-room for NYCC to put in a 20mph zone if if they decide they want to, for example because they need to in order for a bid for government funding to succeed.

NYCC Policy Contradicts their Commitments on Climate and Active Travel

Yorkshire & Humber Climate Action Plan

Yorkshire & Humber Climate Action Plan
Yorkshire & Humber Climate Action Plan

NYCC Council Leader Carl Les signed a Statement of Support to the Yorkshire & Humber Climate Action Plan. On transport, the plan is to enable active travel through 20-minute neighbourhoods and the delivery of ambitious, joined-up plans for walking and cycling; and to minimise the need for private car ownership. Lower speeds ought to be a large part of that.

In practice, NYCC is not prioritising place over transit. This new (/same as the old) 20mph policy demonstrates that it is still prioritising moving cars from A to B, to the detriment of people and places.

LTN 1/20 Cycle Infrastruture Design

In theory, NYCC is committed to the new LTN 1/20 Cycle Infrastructure Design guidance. In practice, the 20mph policy shows that NYCC refuses to apply LTN 1/20 whenever it wishes.

LTN 1/20 states that people should only be asked to cycle in mixed traffic (i.e. without segregated cycle facilities) where traffic flows are low and speeds are 20mph or below (para. 7.1.1 and Fig. 4.1).

Para 7.1.1 LTN 1/20
Para 7.1.1 LTN 1/20

NYCC simply ignores this provision. For example, Beech Grove is a designated mixed traffic cycle route, and as such it should be 20mph. NYCC has point-blank refused to apply a 20mph limit.

NYCC 20mph Policy is not what People Want

20mph zones and limits are popular before and after implementation. 58 Parish Councils in North Yorkshire have voted for default 20mph, but they are being ignored.

We are badly served by a regressive highways authority.

20s Plenty for North Yorkshire will continue making the case for a default 20mph limit throughout the county.

Catch 22 in North Yorkshire: You Can Only Have a 20mph Zone if you Don’t Need One

Leave a Reply