Harrogate 20mph campaigners hail survey as county council trials new safety idea near schools

Harrogate campaigners say their battle for a 20mph default speed limit to be introduced across North Yorkshire has been boosted by the results of a new survey.

By Graham Chalmers
Friday, 13th May 2022, 2:59 pm
Updated Friday, 13th May 2022, 3:03 pm

Members of ‘20s Plenty’ for North Yorkshire claim a recent online vote reveals a “strong consensus” amongst the voters of Harrogate for 20mph zones outside schools as a matter of course.

Despite the findings from 439 voters in Harrogate who voted cumulatively 13,384 times on the Harrogate District Consensus website, North Yorkshire County Council says it is sticking to its own version of a ‘flexible’ approach .

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Members of ‘20s Plenty’ for North Yorkshire claim a recent online vote reveals a “strong consensus” in Harrogate for 20mph zones outside schools.

Allan McVeigh, the county council’s head of network strategy, said: “We are committed to making our road network as safe and accessible as possible for all road users.

“A revised 20mph speed limit policy was approved earlier in the year by the county council’s Executive.

“While decisions should be led by facts and both we and the police need to follow Department for Transport guidance, our revised policy for the county seeks to offer greater flexibility and provides a focus on place and community, particularly around schools.”

Founder of Harrogate District Consensus, Andrew Gray, argues the survey results show public opinion is behind greater safety controls for motorists when near schools.

“The consensus from 13,384 votes was clear: the people in Harrogate want to see 20mph zones outside all schools and they want to see them enforced with traffic-calming measures. Flashing street signs, warning motorists if they have broken a speed limit, were also popular,” said Mr Gray, who also launched the Crowd Wisdom Project online at the beginning of the year to encourage more civilised debate in Harrogate.

While there are already a large number of 20mph limits in place on the county’s roads, Harrogate members of the ‘20s Plenty’ group argue a new default 20mph speed limit would make it safer for people to walk and cycle and would bring benefits for drivers as well as residents.

If their campaign were to prove successful, the new policy would aim to to encourage parish councils and communities to decide which roads they wish to be the exceptions to the norm.

A total of 104 parishes in North Yorkshire have already voted in favour of a default 20mph speed limit, including 14 in the Harrogate district, say ‘20s Plenty’ campaigners.

Meanwhile, North Yorkshire County Council says it is happy to receive applications for 20mph speed limits and is looking at to improving road safety outside schools via a new pilot scheme called Schools Streets in two villages in the county.

Head of network strategy, Allan McVeigh, said: “We welcome new applications for 20mph speed limits. We are currently carrying out a School Streets pilot outside Seamer and Irton Community Primary Schools which involves placing a ‘road closed’ sign by the school at the appropriate times.”

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Roots of 20s Plenty campaign in North Yorkshire

Formed just over a year ago, ‘20s Plenty’ for North Yorkshire is part of a national not-for-profit organisation 20s Plenty which was formed in 2007.

The benefits of a default 20mph speed limit, they claim, would include:

Fewer injuries, both from car users and pedestrians and cyclists;

Lower fuel use, lower CO2 emissions and lower driving costs such as repairs and motor insurance premiums;

Less traffic congestion which would, in turn, boost cycling and public transport.

Figures posted by Edinburgh in January 2021 showed vehicle crashes fell by about a third in the two years following the lowering of the speed limit to 20mph in most of the city.

Further afield, after a 20mph default speed limit was introduced in Auckland in New Zealand in 2020, significant improvements in road safety were noted.

Auckland Transport’s Safer Speeds team reported that roads where speed limits were lowered experienced a 47 per cent reduction in deaths in the 18 months following the changes.