Otley Road, which is among the areas in the improvement package
Otley Road, which is among the areas in the improvement package

A new approach to managing speed limits in North Yorkshire

26 June 2023

An ambitious new approach to managing speed limits across England’s largest county is set to be approved.

A new speed management strategy will be drawn up to guide a countywide review of speed limits across towns, villages and rural roads, subject to approval by North Yorkshire Council’s executive members on Tuesday, 4 July 2023.

This will generate a rolling pipeline of safety improvement schemes for delivery, with local communities and their elected representatives involved from the outset and placed at the heart of proposals.

North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for highways and transport, Cllr Keane Duncan, said:

The new council is taking an ambitious, proactive approach to setting speed limits, built on evidence and community empowerment.

This will move away from setting limits in a piecemeal fashion, where we look at one road in one location at a single point in time.

By taking a strategic view of a town or village we will ensure speed limits there are effective and be able to identify positive changes in partnership with local communities.

We cannot review all locations immediately, and resources will need to be prioritised, but our approach will deliver real improvements across all parts of the county over time, addressing concerns, improving safety and saving lives.

The proposed strategy follows an extensive review of the council’s 20mph limit and zone policy, approved in January 2022.

Cllr Duncan was asked to review this policy in November following a request by Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee. He pledged to consider factors including road safety, the environment, value for money and enforcement.

The review consulted with all 90 elected North Yorkshire councillors, with most supporting lower speed limits around schools and high-footfall areas.

Concern was expressed by councillors about a suggested default 20mph speed limit, while those in favour of this were not unanimous about where a default limit should apply.

Cllr Duncan added:

What started as a review into 20mph limits became more encompassing, as we looked seriously at ways to improve the way we set speed limits generally.

Following cross-party feedback and a review of experiences elsewhere, we are not proposing to introduce 20mph as the default speed limit in every town and village.

However, we recognise the key role 20mph speed limits and zones play in terms of road safety, active travel and wellbeing, and our new approach will allow more of these to be introduced over time.

In all cases, new 20mph limits and zones will comply with Department for Transport guidelines and have community support after public consultation.

20mph limits will be fully embedded into our new approach, while ensuring these are not the only option that can be considered to improve road safety.

In summary, our approach appreciates the diverse nature of North Yorkshire’s communities rather than assuming one size fits all locations.

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