Get in touch: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting YORK to 80360 or send an email»
Blanket speeds just suffocating
So it’s perhaps not a surprise that another significant decision was made last week without a great deal of fanfare.
The move towards adopting a presumption in favour of 20mph speed limits in “residential areas” of York was included in the Labour manifesto at the last council elections, so can hardly be considered a shock. However, since it could affect so many people the decision is surely still worthy of comment.
Regular readers of this column, assuming there are any, will know that I’m against this move. There are so many reasons why I object to it that I really don’t have space to address them all, but I can sum a couple of them up relatively briefly.
I object to “the authorities” dumping new rules and regulations on people without good reason. To my mind the only good reason for moving towards a blanket 20mph speed limit would be if there was a major, citywide safety problem posed by excessive speed on our residential roads.
Is there such a general problem? If there is I haven’t heard of it, which is odd because this sort of thing is usually meat and drink to local newspapers.
Since I don’t believe getting motorists to cut their speed from an already relatively low figure to an even lower one has any great point unless a safety issue is being addressed, it follows I don’t see much benefit in what’s now been approved.
On the contrary, I fear it will merely be yet another burden on the law-abiding and an irrelevance to those who flout the rules.
There are areas of York where specific problems exist relating to traffic speed, but it’s been possible for some time to address those with equally specific measures. Indeed, residents also had the option of asking for traffic changes, including new speed limits, if they felt their community life and activities were being inhibited by vehicles.
So what’s made it so important to move to a citywide, blanket policy? I suspect this isn’t about a groundswell of opinion within York, but a national, one-size fits-all campaign with vocal adherents within our city.
This may explain why the stats they quote – and I shall mention stats again – tend to be about the effects of collisions at different speeds or of speed limit changes elsewhere in Britain rather than anything specific to our own streets.
These people will naturally disagree with virtually everything I’ve said, and may well suggest I’m distorting the facts.
So to widen the debate a little I would like to recommend readers to check out, if they are able, the item on the council website relating to the decision; go to york.gov.uk, click on “council and democracy”, then “calendar of meetings” and find the “cabinet member for transport, planning and sustainability” meeting for May 21.
The report isn’t particularly strong on detailing how the policy will affect us. It reads as though it was designed to offend as few people as possible, with much emphasis on “winning hearts and minds”.
One of the appendices includes a bunch of stats which suggest 20mph zones don’t actually work very well; I mention that merely to make the fairly obvious point that you can always find stats to oppose a proposition as well as to support it.
The report also quotes policies from the Department for Transport (DfT), including one that says local authorities are “encouraged to introduce 20mph zones or limits into streets which are primarily residential in nature”.
But the DfT is also quoted saying local authorities have flexibility in the matter and should apply the “option best suited to the local circumstances”.
Maybe there’s a hint here that our highways officials intend to look at specific measures to suit specific sites with specific problems, much the way they did previously. Let’s hope so.