Default 20mph Proposal

Everything in this proposal comes under the NYC Portfolio of Highways and Transportation, Cllr Keane Duncan.

Residential areas should be places to relax, and mix with neighbours. Town centres should be places for the community to meet. Society became car dominated years back, and roads determine how a residential area feels to its occupants. Using a 30mph speed limit in a strictly residential area is a danger to pedestrian and cyclist safety, even though it became the fallback option many years ago. Nowadays we have cars parked in the road in residential areas, meaning that there is not a free flow of traffic anyway, hence even less need for 30mph as being the default. Whilst providing cycle paths (whether shared or segregated) is possible in some areas, we accept that it is sometimes impossible to retrofit cycle infrastructure to some existing areas, where road space is limited or there are no suitable greenways to utilise, and this particularly applies in residential areas.

Currently all primary schools offer Level 1 and 2 Bikeability training for children, however the absence of cycle paths close to home means they have nowhere to feel safe using what they have learned, and parents have reticence in allowing them out on bikes in residential areas for this reason. The fact is that even in a 30mph area, the majority of people consider riding a bike on a road as dangerous. This is reflected in the UK Government LTN1/20 guidelines, and exemplified in the figure below from that report (what cycle infrastructure to provide based on the road conditions) – for a low traffic road and for bicycles to be in “mixed traffic” (i.e no bike segregation) the speed limit has to be 20mph for it to be considered “safe”, otherwise a cycle lane of some form would be needed, so it would be best and simplest to avoid this infrastructure imposition.

Cycle Infrastructure (LTN1/20)
Cycle Infrastructure (LTN1/20)

We propose that all residential areas as well as town centre areas should be 20mph zones. This proposal compliments our proposal for a network of cycle infrastructure, that will allow travel between areas of Whitby and District. People need to be able to get from their homes, workplaces, retail venues to the nearest cycle path (once they are built in Whitby and District’s case), which is why we propose a default 20mph, meaning that people can cycle on roads with a level of safety without the need for specific cycle infrastructure over the relatively short distances needed, and pedestrians would be safer also.

The rationale behind this default 20mph proposal is

  • Safety : This would reduce the likelihood of any road collisions between motor vehicles and pedestrians / people on bicycles (2/3 of all serious collisions with people happen in 30mph zones). There are ample reports describing the safety benefits of a 20mph speed limit, such as this one from ROSPA, this one in the BMJ, as well as governmental analysis of the effectiveness. Roadwise UK estimate that the mortality rate for a pedestrian from a collision at 20mph is 2.5% whereas at 30mph it is 20%. Given that road collisions involving pedestrians or cyclists are on the rise, and that default 20mph could significantly reduce this, it should be a high priority for highways authorities. You can view road collision report history for North Yorkshire on this page.
  • Reduced pollution : Healthier places to live. Tests have demonstrated reduced emissions (CO2, Particulates and NOx) by moving to 20mph.
  • Reduced road noise : Makes neighbourhoods more pleasant places without the drone of traffic. Tests have shown that there is typically a 3dB reduction in noise by going to 20mph from 30mph.
  • Promote Cycling : It would make it more viable to utilise a bike within that area, as part of getting to a cycle path, and also children can make use of their Bikeability training and gain confidence in their own areas before going out on to bike paths.
  • Cost Effective : It would mean we wouldn’t need to provide cycle infrastructure in those areas (and in the majority of existing residential areas the roads are too narrow to provide infrastructure). Dropping a speed limit to 20mph from 30mph is significantly cheaper than providing bike segregation. Deployment across the UK has shown that this typically costs between £3 and £5 per head to implement, a one-off cost that pays for itself in months due to lower collision rates and fewer potholes.

This same measure is often effective around schools, but when it is solely for the extent of the school it usually results in people accelerating once they leave that small section; having residential zones would encourage more driving at a constant 20mph hence lower pollution. Changing to a default 20mph would align with the SBC Local Plan (9.12) which states “To improve the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, the Highways Authority will endeavour, where appropriate, to ensure all new layouts of residential streets restrict vehicle speeds to 20mph”; however the Local Plan advice is only for new developments so we need to cater for existing areas too.

There is a societal push for this measure in many places, with many groups getting together campaigning as “20sPlenty” for 20mph for urban areas, the UN General Assembly calling for it, WHO calling for it, Spain adopting it, Wales adopting it (from Sept 2023), Scotland starting to roll it out, and many towns and cities in the UK (40+% of the population) have already adopted it. Nearer to home, Middlesbrough rolled out default 20mph with observed drop in collisions, as has York, and Darlington. In the NYC area, >150 town / parish councils have voted in favour of default 20mph, and the Harrogate and Knaresborough, and Selby committees of NYC has voted for areas of Harrogate to be in Phase 1 of a rollout of default 20mph. It is only a matter of time before the UK Government will adopt it. The fact is that default 20mph will come to Whitby sooner or later, but we feel that councillors should be proactive and not hold their residents back.

To respond to some of the arguments against 20mph zones

  • Will the overall journey time be longer with such zones? Research by the University of Bristol calculated this to be only 10 seconds per mile of zone, so for the typical residential area in Whitby it would be inconsequential. The same has been found for journey times on buses operating in 20mph zoned streets.
  • Will emissions rise and fuel efficiency fall at 20mph? Research shows that maintaining a steady 20mph is the most efficient speed, and it is the speeding up and slowing down that causes the emissions and inefficiency. Features such as speed bumps can result in such speed up / down, and consequently they are advised against. Pollution reduction has been observed in studies. You can read more here.
  • Won’t drivers just ignore the limit without additional measures? No. The majority of drivers do comply in the places where these measures have been introduced. Where additional measures are necessary, the use of inexpensive measures like signs, lines, planters and staggered parking is effective. Many councils are implementing default 20mph without the need for enforcement, such as Scottish Borders, Oxfordshire, Cornwall, Kent, as well as Wales.
  • 20mph is not enforceable. Really? Maybe you can tell that to the 23000 drivers who received speeding fines for exceeding 20mph in Avon and Somerset area in 2021. A setting on a speed gun is all it takes, so a police force could enforce 20mph just like they could enforce 30mph.
  • A default 20mph is controversial. No, it isn’t. In surveys, it consistently comes out as having 70% or more support amongst the public, and this only increases once it is implemented in an area.

Example Implementation for Whitby

Declaring a “default 20mph” will mean that the highways authority (NYC in this case) will implement 20mph typically in all residential areas plus town centre. They will only retain 30mph where that speed is demonstrably safe for vulnerable road users. In terms of implementation of this in Whitby, it should be noted that there already are a few 20mph zones (Abbots Road/Abbots Walk, Stakesby School/Bylands Road, Fishburn Park, New Quay Road etc – marked red on the map below), so it is tried and tested, just that it now needs expanding. To see how a 20mph zoning could work here, the following map has particular areas marked for a default 20mph in particular zones. The map is provided as a guide to how it could be arranged. This outline leaves roads such as Mayfield Road, Stakesby Road, Upgang Lane, Helredale Road, Love Lane and Castle Road as 30mph; those could easily be included as well dependent on assessment of suitability for vulnerable road users. For this Whitby zone layout above, using solely signage this would be the order of 100 “20mph” signs (assuming 2 per road entry to the zones), but that would be the absolute maximum. Some of the existing 20mph signs could be removed and recycled where a zone is being extended, hence reducing that number. Additionally for minor side roads use of painted road “20” signage is more cost effective still, so the actual number would be significantly fewer. A Default 20mph scheme would be way cheaper than a typical cycle infrastructure scheme, and no additional calming would be required on the vast majority of the roads in Whitby, due to the design of the town and residential areas. If roads like Stakesby Road, from the junction of Love Lane towards town centre, was made 20mph, or a section of Upgang Lane, that would reduce the number of signs even further.

NYC 20mph zoning policy

If we look at NYC’s policy on 20mph zones, they apply a series of rules whether to approve an application to make a road 20mph. These are

  • 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 a 20mph limit
  • there is a school or community amenity on the road
  • a 7-day speed survey proves the existing average speeds are below 24mph
  • police enforcement won’t be needed
  • vulnerable road user concerns outweigh the disadvantages of longer journey times for motorised traffic
  • quality of life for residents likely to be improved
  • the scheme is unlikely to attract negative feedback
As we can see, these are rules for being against 20mph! There would be little chance of getting any zoning of residential areas with the current NYC policy; this policy needs rewriting, and besides many of these rules are invalid.

The Way Forward

Regarding the information to accompany the briefing pack (that you have previously received), and also the Whitby Community Network page with town-specific implementation of thisRegarding the information to accompany the briefing pack (that you have previously received), and also the Whitby Community Network page with town-specific implementation of thisAs we explained for Active Travel, our strategy is to have cycle infrastructure to provide for travel between areas, and a default 20mph for travel within areas. The 20mph aspect is just as important as the cycle infrastructure aspect; there is no effective strategy if you just implement one of the two components.

Introducing a default 20mph is not free; but the cost is typically just signage at all entry points to a zone; there is usually no need for any physical calming infrastructure. This means it would be significantly cheaper than trying to provide cycle infrastructure through every residential area, never mind the costs associated with collisions that would be reduced by a 20mph zoning. NYCC typically throw up cost as a barrier to providing this, quoting outrageous figures (as they have done for Harrogate). Basing things on facts, York apparently cost the order of £500000 for a city with population of 200000. The sample Whitby layout above would be much less, and way cheaper than providing cycle infrastructure in those areas. Such schemes typically pay back in under a year! Taking the above upper estimate of around 100 signs, with each sign costing around £100, and £200 to install it, then this comes to around £30000 for providing signage for Whitby (one-off cost), adding in public education campaigning it could reach £50000 – this would pay for itself in a few months (a serious road collision on average costs the economy £175000, whilst a fatality can be £1.7m). If someone was presented with a financial deal of invest an amount and get your money back in a few months and after that it is just constant profit, they wouldn’t hesitate.

Sustrans operate a two week campaign (Big Walk and Wheel) each year to get children to walk, bike or scoot to school rather than travelling by car. It is very noticeable that no schools in the Whitby area participated in this (nor Scarborough either for that matter). Similarly the first week in October there is Cycle To School Week, again little to no participation in Whitby. Having residential areas as 20mph zones would make these a more attractive option, and all schools should be encouraged to take part; contact should be made with Sustrans to see if they can assist in this direction. This may require schools having to invest in some form of bike storage, and so funding sources may be required. The School Travel Plan would be able to change for the better and the next generation would get a step change to a better future!

To start this process we urge all town and parish councils in the 4 NYC wards that we represent to publically support the 20sPlenty campaign.

We started a Whitby “branch” of 20sPlenty to further the cause. We presented an outline case for a Default 20mph at the Whitby Town Council (WTC) meeting on 8th November 2022, which was then referred to the Town Development and Improvement Committee (of WTC) meeting on 20th December 2022. They subsequently voted unanimously in favour of the 20mph motion. They join Lythe Parish Council and Mickleby Group Parish Council who previously voted to request Default 20mph in their parishes, and subsequently joined by Egton Parish Council (July 2023). This campaign now has support from all GP surgeries along the Esk Valley, as well as schools representing >65% of school children in the catchment area.

Status : Awaiting action from NYC to implement Default 20mph in Whitby and other parishes.

Representation : not one of the Whitby and District NYC councillors has done anything to press the case for the health and safety of their residents. Cllr Trumper has even gone as far as question the validity of the vote by WTC (at the NYC Transport Scrutiny meeting 26/7/2023) even though he himself has never knocked on doors and actually asked residents what they think after presenting the advantages and disadvantages (hint, we have, and there was consensus on the need for significant speed reductions, as also seen by the unanimous vote by WTC), and continues to present his view in Northallerton contrary to the concept that he is there to represent a ward. Cllr Chance simply says “20mph is wrong” without providing any rationale for that deeply thought out statement. What Cllr Swannick or Cllr Pearson think is unknown, which is peculiar, particularly in the case of Cllr Swannick since in his ward there are a large number of people asking for 20mph limits.

Road Collision List

In the meantime, we will collate some of the many road collisions involving pedestrians or cyclists occurring in Whitby and District while we wait for action. These could likely have been avoided or reduced in seriousness if NYC had taken action.

  • July 2022, Helredale Road, nr East Whitby School. 10 year old girl hit by car when leaving school (crossing between many parked cars picking up kids).
  • November 2022, Mayfield Road. 76 year old woman pedestrian suffers serious injuries.
  • July 2023, Helredale Road, nr McColls. 9 year old boy suffers facial injuries after collision with car (didn’t use crossing since it is badly positioned).
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