20 mph speed limits flop – road accidents increasing in west York

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the York Council has published updated figures indicating the effect that the revised 20 mph speed limits have had on average vehicle speeds and accident levels.

The figures reveal that the new limits have had little or no effect on average vehicle speeds while some accident levels have actually risen.

The data updates that published in March 2015 which showed similar results.

The data covers the 20 mph wide area limit in western York implemented in 2013/14. The project cost £600,000 to implement and was widely criticised for failing to recognise that such limits were unenforceable and, in any event, would have a negligible effect on accident levels.

Opponents wanted the money spent directly on safety improvements at accident black spots.

On some 20 mph roads such as Alness Drive the maximum speed recorded this year has been as much as 68mph – well above levels seen before the speed limit change

Overall there has been a reduction of only 1.3 mph in mean speeds.
Accident levels in the area have increased from 62 recorded in 2012 to 78 in 2015

On a related issue, North Yorkshire police are to be asked to justify their decision to increase the number of mobile speed enforcement cameras vans to six.

The Police responded to an FOI inquiry indicting that they only held information relating to the total number of offences which had been recorded when a van visited a particular location. This information had been published on their web site for couple of years now.

The police also publish how they they are dealing with specific speeding complaints raised by members of the public (although there is a backlog). click here

However, it doesn’t provide a measure of how effective the vans have been in controlling vehicle speeds or in reducing the number of accidents on the roads being monitored.

The number of drivers exceeding the prevailing speed limit is only a crude reflection of the “success” of the cameras.  Changes in offender numbers may simply reflected changes in traffic volumes.

Against a background of increasing numbers of road casualty’s, residents need to be convinced that roads are now safer as a result of police investment.

A further request for the information is now being drafted.

Comparative vehciels speeds in west York pre and post 20 mph limits

Comparative vehicle speeds in west York pre and post 20 mph limit change

Road accident trends in west York

Road accident trends in west York

20 mph speed limits

Confusing 20 mph signs Green Lane 24th June 2015

The reasonable suggestion by the new York Council that they would review the effectiveness of the wide area, unenforced, 20 mph speed limits, introduced by the last Labour administration, have predictably drawn national attention.

In the main this has been stoked up by lobbying groups from outside the City who seem ignorant of the impact that the new limits have had on traffic speed (and safety) in York.

As was revealed 3 months ago, the latest figures show that since the limits were imposed, vehicles speeds on some roads have actually increased.

Liberal Democrats continue to believe that the most appropriate speed limit should be set for each road bearing in mind its characteristics and accident record. Lower speed limits would be in place outside schools and in shopping areas.

It as this policy which Labour overturned in favour of a “one size fits all” approach.

The issue now is how to avoid adding to the £500,000 which has already been wasted on this project.

Given that the new limits haven’t actually had any significant impact on driver behaviour, there seems to be little urgency in making any change. There is time for local communities  to have their say.

However, as a principle, there is a stong argument for the limits to be revised if:

  1. There is a sustained increase in accident rates on the new 20 mph roads and/or
  1. Average speeds on new 20 mph roads are higher than they were when they had a 30 mph limit (clearly this already applies to some roads) and/or
  1. There is evidence that police resources are being diverted into enforcing 20 mph limits (when they should more properly be concentrating on accident black spots).

.Some of the more ridiculous signs on very short cul de sac should be removed.

No money should be spent maintaining the 20 mph signs which would effectively become advisory.


Council forced to admit 20 mph zones have had little impact…£600,000 wasted

Freedom of information response has revealed that vehicle speeds are the same as they were before the limits were lowered.

LibDem candidates Andrew Waller, Sue Hunter and Sheena Jackson with one of the signs which was place at the entrance to a short cul de sac

LibDem candidates Andrew Waller, Sue Hunter and Sheena Jackson with one of the signs which was place at the entrance to a short cul de sac

Introduced in west York late in 2013, supporters claimed that the lower limits would reduce accidents.A response to a Freedom of information request by Westfield Liberal Democrats, has revealed that the Labour Councils flagship “wide area 20 mph speed limits” have had no effect on vehicle speeds.

In reality, 17 accidents have occurred on roads with a 20 mph limit between March 2014 and December 2014.

Two of the accidents were serious and occurred in “signed only” 20 mph streets

In total the Council has spent around £600,000 implementing the new speed limits in the face of massive public opposition.

The Council has provided “before and after” speed figures for 10 roads in west York.

In most of the roads, mean speeds have remained unchanged.

However in 3 streets (Alness Drive, Almsford Road and Wheatlands Grove) speeds have actually increased since the new limits were imposed. This reflects experience in other parts of the country.

Mean speeds click to enlarge

Mean speeds click to enlarge

Westfield Liberal Democrat Sheena Jackson – who is seeking election to the York Council on May 7th – said,

While I support having lower speed limits outside schools and in shopping areas where risks are higher, this project has proved to be a waste of taxpayer’s money.

Many residents viewed with incredulity the arrival of Council workmen to erect 20 mph signs at the entrance to short cul de sacs where it was impossible for any vehicle to accelerate to that speed in the space available.

As we said at the time the money should have been invested on streets with a known poor accident record.

We will never know have many accidents could have been prevented if the Council had taken a more thoughtful and targeted approach”

The new Council will have to decide whether to “throw good money after bad” by revoking the 20 mph traffic orders and removing the signs. Clearly if higher speeds and accident rates on the affected streets are sustained, then that is what they will have to do.

Liberal Democrats continue to believe that the Council should set a speed limit for each road reflecting its characteristics and accident record (e.g. if it runs past a school, shopping centre etc. a lower speed limit may be justified).

Labour have wasted £600,000 implementing wide area 20 mph speed limits.


The introduction of 20 mph “signed only” speed limits in west York has made no difference to mean speeds.

Before the change to the limit the mean speed was 20.00 mph recorded across the roads surveyed.

It is now 19.32 mph

On some roads speeds are now actually higher than they were before the change.

Where there have been reductions in speeds (e.g. Thoresby Road) this is the result of other known factors (such as increased numbers of vehicles parking on the carriageway).

Top recorded speeds have not been affected. (Some are up and some are down)

NINE accidents occurred on newly “signed only” 20 mph limit roads.

TWO were serious (one in Acomb Ward and one in Holgate ward)

Current Liberal Democrat policy is not to throw” good money after bad”. The 20 mph signs can stay but will be removed if:

  • speeds on the roads are consistently higher than they were before the limit was changed
  • the number of accidents on a road increases and/or
  • there is evidence that Police speed limit enforcement action is being diverted from other roads (30 mph etc limits) which have a poorer accident record
Individual road speed checks. click to enlarge

Individual road speed checks. click to enlarge

Labour to impose 20 mph speed limits on all roads in York?

In the wake of decisions in London Labour Councillors in York are now advocating, on social media, the introduction of a default 20 mph speed limit across the whole of York.

Crash map York

Labour were accused of sneaking through their proposed “wide area”  20 mph limits when voters last went to the polls in 2011. Their plan was in the small print of a manifesto with most residents never saw.

Evening standard headline

The scheme in London is apparently aimed at “reducing cycling casualties”. Ironically a previous study in the capital revealed that the introduction of 20 mph limits there had resulted in an increase in average speeds.

 In York, most cycling accidents in result in slight injuries, occur on roads where vehicle speeds are already low and often at road junctions (click for map). Accident levels have reduced in recent years to a total of 144 in 2013 (the last full year for which figures are available) following the introduction of more “off road” cycle tracks. There were no fatalities.

Cycling was 61% safer in 2012 than it was in 2002 (per mile travelled) according to the CTC.

Labour has spent £600,000 on implementing “wide area” 20 mph limits since 2012.

Out of the 535km of roads within York’s Outer Ring Road / A64.

  • 333km (62%) of road are subject to a 20mph limit.
  • 202km (38%) have a speed limit of 30mph or more.

Of the 333km of roads with a 20mph limit, 275km (51% of the total) have been created as 20mph ‘signed only’ limits during the last 3 years.

Prior to this the majority of 20mph limits were traffic calmed 20mph Zones.

The council has refused FOI requests to provide information on “before and after” accident rates on the “signed only” streets in west York or to provide information on the actual effect – if any – that the signs have had on driver speeds.

It is to be hoped that all candidates contesting the Council elections on May 7th will make their policies clear on how cycling can be encouraged and made safer.

 In addition electors need to know which Party’s will extend 20 mph limits and which would focus resources at accident black-spots.

York Council wastes £600,000

Labours 20 mph speed limits are not working

20 mph sign

Figures gained from the York Council by the Liberal Democrats under Freedom of information legislation confirm what most had suspected.

The new “signed only”20 mph speed limits have had little effect on vehicle speeds.

In the South Bank area—where the lower limits were introduced 2 years ago—the average speed of vehicles on several roads has actually INCREASED

On Prices Lane average speeds are up from 21 to 23 mph with a similar picture on part of Scarcroft Road (22 to 23 mph)

On most roads average speeds are the same as it was when the limit was set at 30 mph.

Speed check results South Bank click to enlarge

Speed check results South Bank click to enlarge

This is in line with results from other parts of the country.

Only in relatively narrow terraced streets—and on one section of Bishopthorpe Road itself—has there been a reduction in speeds, but even there it has usually been less than 1 mph.

When leaving the City on Bishopthorpe Road at a point near Rectory Gardens the majority of driver’s are now travelling at 29 mph rather than the 33 recorded before the change to a 20 mph limit.

The Council has declined so far to publish an analysis of accident rates in the new 20 mph areas. However the numbers Killed or Seriously Injured on all York’s roads last year—the first since resources were focused on introducing 20 mph speed limits—increased from the 51, recorded in 2012, to 58.

Tudor Road speed limit confusion click

Tudor Road speed limit confusion click

Liberal Democrat campaigner Andrew Waller said,

 “We should set the most appropriate speed limit for each urban road.

People understand 20 zones with speed tables at schools, shops and major crossing points, but there is now a confused mix of 30mph and 20 mph roads around our area.”

The FOI data for South Bank can be downloaded by clicking here


Andrew has produced the following evidence of confusion over speed limits.

“There is no better example, of the muddled way in which the new “wide area” speed limits were introduced, than on Tudor Road. (see pictures above right)

Vehicles approaching from Stuart Road are told that a 30 mph limit is in force.

Meanwhile motorists already on Tudor Road are told that the limit has changed—to 20 mph— about 100 metres before the road junction.

Small wonder that the Police aren’t able to enforce the speed limits and that motorists are confused”

Call for review of 20 mph speed limits in York

Study in London finds wide area 20 mph limits have led to an INCREASE in average vehicle speeds

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Hot on the heels of revelations that accident rates have increased in some City’s where wide area 20 mph speed limits have been introduced now comes news that average vehicle speeds may also be increasing.

The main objection to the York Councils £600,000 programme of 20 mpg speed signs has been that it would have little, if any,effect on driver behaviour.

If the effect is neutral then there would be little point in throwing good money after bad next year when a new Council would have to decide whether to pay for the signs to be removed (other than from accident blackspots and locations like school entrances where there is a higher risk of an accident)

If any of the following tests are not satisfied the – post Labour – Council would have little option than to consult residents about changing the speed limits back to the default 30 mph

  1. If accident levels on areas, with the new limit, increase
  2. If vehicle speeds on the roads increase
  3. If police enforcement time is diverted way from other locations with a higher accident potential.

The York Council has been reluctant to report on the effects that the wide area speed limit in the Bishopthorpe Road area have had.

A Freedom of information request will reveal whether average speeds have reduced and to what extent.

Residents will also want to know whether any of the, increased number of, serious accidents which occurred in the City last year took place on roads with a 20 mph limit. (Most accidents in the York area occur on trunk roads or are slow speed impacts in the City centre).

All in all it seems to be time for the Council to provide residents with more feedback on their controversial project..

Labour in disarray as 6 more York Councillors set to quit


The Labour Party in York is currently in disarray with a total of 6 Councillors now saying that they will stand down from the Council next year, while a further two have quit the Labour Group altogether (Cllrs Jeffries – who joined the LibDems – and Watson who now sits as an Independent).

Last week 3 other Labour Councillors were not re-selected to contest their seats in Clifton.

They were replaced by a party hack from M.P. Hugh Bayley’s office and an unknown “businessman”.

Dringhouses Labour Councillor Ann Semlyen is one of those that has announced that she is quitting the York Council next May. The Fishergate based representative has endured a troubled term of office and has been blamed by many for the introduction of the controversial wide area 20 mph speed limits. The Dringhouses ward is highly marginal with the area being represented by one LibDem and two Labour Councillors at present .The fate of the other Dringhouses Labour Councillor (Hodgson) is unknown.

Labour have refused to confirm that Heworth based Dafydd “two jobs” Williams will seek to retain his seat in Westfield.

The other local representative (Burton) – who also lives on the other side of the river – has gained an unfortunate reputation as one of the least effective elected representatives that the City has ever seen.

Lib Dems oppose blanket 20mph roll-out

Liberal Democrat councillors have opposed plans for a blanket 20mph roll-out in the north and east of York.

20 mph At a meeting tonight Labour’s Cabinet Member for Transport, Dave Merrett, approved spending £235,000 on the next stage of the controversial 20mph project despite public and political opposition. Labour’s plans will eventually see 20mph blanket limits across York.

 York’s Liberal Democrat Group say the money should be targeted on accident blackspots and say residents want existing speed limits enforced. A council survey on Labour’s proposals for west York last year was sent to 13,000 homes with only 7 residents supporting the scheme. Labour Councillor Anna Semlyen said recently there was “little point” in consulting residents on proposals for blanket 20mph limits.