Active Travel and Road Safety in the Esk Valley

To date Whitby Town Council, Lythe Parish Council, and Mickleby Group Parish Council have voted in favour of “default 20mph” speed limits in urban areas (“where people are”) backing the 20s Plenty campaign. However those councils are still waiting on North Yorkshire Council (NYC) to implement this in their areas, with no current prospect of any change.

Whitby Community Network (WCN) wants to provide the opportunity for residents to voice support for active travel and 20mph speed limits in all areas of Whitby and District. With this in mind we have contacted all primary schools, secondary schools and all GP surgeries in the Esk Valley from Castleton through to Whitby, asking them whether they would like to back this basic message :-

“Vehicle speed is a disincentive to active travel. In areas where 20mph has been implemented walking and cycling rates have increased. We are hoping to see a reduction in road speeds around schools, and all of the evidence supports a change from 30mph to 20mph ‘where ever people are’ (‘20splenty for us’). In all road collisions 2/3 happen in 30mph zones, and the mortality rate for a pedestrian from a collision at 20mph is 2.5% whereas at 30mph it is 20%!

Walking or cycling to school has been shown to increase mood, energy levels, alertness and self esteem. Children have been found to be more relaxed and ready to start the day than those taken by car (Mental Health Foundation). Active Travel (walking, cycling, scooting) has been shown to reduce the rising obesity problem in children 10.1% of reception age children (age 4-5) are obese in 2021/22, with a further 12.1% overweight. At age 10-11 (year 6), 23.4% were obese and 14.3% overweight. Four out of every five obese children will become obese adults and consequently at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancers and of losing 10-20 years of good quality life.

The target of the UK Government, and North Yorkshire Council, is to see a 48% reduction in car journeys by 2027 along with a 900% increase in cycle journeys. A significant shift in behaviours is clearly needed, and that will not happen while residential roads remain at 30mph. A majority of North Yorkshire local councils already support the 20s Plenty campaign. We hope that you will support it too. Please encourage your residents to sign the petition. More support from residents will help to persuade North Yorkshire Council to make changes necessary to
achieve these aims.”

We have started online petitions in the 6 villages along this route that do not have 20mph in residential areas currently, as follows : Sleights, Egton, Glaisdale, Lealholm, Danby, Castleton. These accompany paper-based petitions for the same thing, held by the schools in those villages. Please back these petitions and give children (and adults) the opportunity to walk and cycle safely in their villages.

To accompany these petitions, a few WCN members will be holding a bike ride campaign (provisionally on Monday 12th June), starting at Castleton, and heading back to Whitby, calling in at all primary schools and GP surgeries. We will be picking up the paper-based petitions, as well as, hopefully, getting a signature from each school / surgery backing the general campaign for 20mph speed limits in residential areas and for promoting more walking / cycling. The statement we are asking them to sign will be as follows :-

We, the undersigned, request that, with some urgency, North Yorkshire Council prioritises:

  1. The roll out of default 20mph speed limit “where people are” in Whitby and District. Firstly to address the significant road safety concerns particularly for children, and secondly to encourage active travel (walking and cycling) in Whitby and the surrounding villages. The current focus on secondary schools in Whitby highlights the significant danger that children are exposed to, walking alongside the busiest roads in Whitby that still do not have 20mph speed limits despite NYC scrutiny committee voting to require it.
  2. The development of the Local Cycling Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) for the Whitby area, so that the development of cycle infrastructure in Whitby and District can happen with greater urgency, so as to encourage more active travel and provide the significant benefits to the physical and mental health of the population.

There is abundant evidence that these measures are desirable for the community’s health and well-being and as part of our response to the climate and nature crises. Both are totally aligned with the North Yorkshire Council executive’s aspiration for carbon net zero by 2028.

Signed :

Organisation :

In related news Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale MIND started a campaign for people to get active to benefit their mental health. To reinforce our campaign we have enquired as to whether they will be willing to back the above campaign message for 20mph speed limits in residential areas and for promoting more walking / cycling because, as we see it, these 2 targets would directly complement what they are hoping to achieve.

The results of this, and the online petitions above, will then be presented to NYC.

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