Speed limits and accident levels in York

The media are today reporting a move to extend the use of 20 mph speed limits in the City. In reality most residential roads already have such a limit. Some, including the 20 mph limit in The Groves part of the Guildhall ward, were introduced about 20 years ago.  

Most were introduced 5 years ago at a cost of £600,000. Their supporters claimed that this would result in a reduction in accident levels.

In reality the numbers killed or seriously injured on our roads has remained stable at about 60 per year.

Most of the accidents occur outside residential areas with many on roads with 60 or 70m mph limits. A lot of information is shared on the Councils “open data” pages. This includes the background to each accident and details the type of vehicles involved, driver characteristics etc.

Paradoxically, average speeds on some roads actually increased after 20 mph limits were introduced. The road covered by 20 mph limits can be downloaded from the Councils web site click

So should we be worried about accident levels in the City?

One of the disappointments of recent years has been the lack of attention given by Executive Councillors to road safety strategy. Too often reports have been tabled along with other issues which have restricted the time given to analysing trends.

 The York Councils famously limp “scrutiny” process barely touches on the subject of road safety.

Unless local leaders engage more positively in addressing issues then we can expect 60 people to be seriously injured on our roads each year for the foreseeable future.

….and changes to speed limits? Technology change means that it will be possible to automatically govern vehicle speeds shortly.  This would allow speed limits to be varied to meet prevailing road conditions.

If speed is an issue in causing accidents (it isn’t in most cases) then technology might provide a new solution.

Wetherby Road speed limits to change

The Council has today agreed to impose a 40 mph speed limit on Wetherby Road (and Bland Lane) between the A1237 and the built up area. Signage is also to be improved.

It is hoped that the buffer zone will encourage drivers to slow down before they reach the 30 mph limit. A similar buffer zone on Askham Lane has not proved to be very successful 

We have doubts about this plan which will do nothing to control the speed of vehicles leaving the City. An occasional visit by the speed camera van would be more effective as a deterrent.

However the re-election of the old crime commissioner recently means that speed enforcement will continue to be focused on villages and trunk roads. The later produce the bulk of the nearly £1 million income that the North Yorkshire police derive from the camera vans.

Wetherby Road speed limits

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.

Summary

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”

Speed limit at Rufforth extended

Cycle path to be investigated

A 40mph “buffer” speed limit on the B1224 approach to the east end of Rufforth village is to be established. The planned changes, aimed at helping cyclists,  have been opposed by the Police who describe them as “inappropriate”

An off-road cycle link between the village and the bridleway adjoining the B1224 to the east is also being investigated.

As we predicted in 2012, the Council has  failed to secure its original preferred route for part of the cycle track and cyclists currently use the busy B1224 for part of its length.

Behind closed doors logoThe decision on the cycle route  was a controversial one with an alternative (via current rights of way across part of the airfield and an established bridleway to link to Grange Lane) offering a shorter route for many journeys.

However both options failed to deal convincingly with access across the A1237 (northern by pass)

The speed limit plans were agreed at a behind closed doors decision session

A map showing the plans can be found by clicking here

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..

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.

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