As one road reopens and another closes

Footstreets extended to support Castlegate “businesses and social distancing”

With Bishopthorpe Road due to reopen on Monday, the York Council has issued a statement saying “We are creating additional outdoor space on Castlegate, after businesses grouped together to put forward proposals to transform the road into footstreets and use the space for pavement cafes & stalls”.

The one way street is not used by through traffic so the main impact will be on disabled parking and servicing.  No criteria on how the success of the project will be judged have been published.

Castlegate will be extended into the city centre pedestrian zone to help support local businesses by providing residents more space to social distance and making access to city centre restaurants, pubs, cafes, shops and businesses easier, as part of the emergency response to COVID-19.

The actions are designed to support the council’s Economic Recovery – Transport and Place Strategy, to build resident, visitor and stakeholder confidence that York is a safe, healthy and attractive place for everyone.

York has one of the largest pedestrian zones in Europe, with many areas within York’s city centre already designated as pedestrian footstreets.

In line with the Government guidance on public spaces and relaxing the restrictions for the hospitality sector this month, the council is extending the footstreet hours, which are expected to be in place from 8 August. This means no vehicles are allowed to access, or park on, these streets, including deliveries between 10.30am 8pm, seven days a week.  During the footstreet times, barriers will be in place in Castlegate to control access, but emergency vehicles will be permitted access at all times.

These are temporary measures as part of the emergency response to the pandemic and will remain under review as national guidance evolves and local needs change.

The council wants to encourage people who have been working from home all day to head in to the city centre to eat, relax and socialise in a family-friendly early evening environment.  Alongside this, the council is encouraging the safe return of residents and visitors by incentivising short stay parking in some of the city’s car parks.

This includes offering 1 hour free parking in August to support local businesses and residents and encouraging people to shop local. More on this can be found here: www.york.gov.uk/news/article/235/free-parking-supports-economy

In addition to this, Blue Badge holders can, as has always been the case, park for free in any council car park and can take advantage of using disabled bay spaces in council car parks too. For more information on council car parks visit www.york.gov.uk/parking

York Council says sign up for COVID-19 monitoring App.

York residents are being encouraged to download an app to contribute to vital research into the virus and to help the council and the NHS understand more about the virus.

The COVID-19 Symptom Study app asks people to report on their health, help the NHS and the responses are also contributing to vital research on COVID-19.

Results from App are difficult to reconcile with other information sources

Developed by health science company ZOE, nearly four million participants have downloaded the app to date, making it the largest public science project of its kind anywhere in the world.

The information received means researchers will be able to predict who has the virus and so track COVID infections across the UK.

Anyone can sign up, you don’t need to currently have Coronavirus symptoms. The information is also being used to generate new scientific understanding of the very different symptoms the virus causes in different people. People will be asked to provide a regular quick update on how they are feeling.

The research aims to:

  • Better understand symptoms of COVID-19
  • Understand how fast the virus is spreading in your area
  • Identify high risk areas in the country
  • Identify who is most at risk by better understanding symptoms linked to health conditions
  • In the future the hope is they will be able to use this data to help the NHS support sick individuals. This app is not intended to be a diagnostic tool. For official advice about the coronavirus please visit the NHS website

Councillor Carol Runciman, Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care said: “Thank you to the more than 4,000 York residents who have signed up already and are helping inform our Coronavirus response.

“Across the world we are learning more and more about the virus which will help to keep people safe. This research is already providing useful insights and I would encourage York residents to help if they can by downloading this app.

“This adds to existing measures already in place, such test and trace and our robust infection control measures. Our Public Health team are closely monitoring local data to help us understand and respond to the situation in York. Research is also being shared at a local authority level which will help inform responses to coronavirus.  We take privacy issues very seriously and have been assured by the developers that the app meets all security and privacy standards ”

Dr Andrew Lee, Executive Director of Primary Care and Population Health, NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “The ask here is for people to share information with researchers about their health and their social activities since the start of the pandemic and then provide daily reporting. The app is an important way to study the symptoms of COVID-19 and track the spread of this virus, which ultimately will impact on the health of our patients and the wider public.

“The CCG continues to encourage anyone who is displaying coronavirus symptoms to follow the government advice to have a test and stay at home. GP services are open and running safely for patients with any other health concerns.”​​

For more information and to download the app please visit: covid.joinzoe.com  

Answers to frequently asked questions including how they are protecting privacy is available at https://covid.joinzoe.com/faq

Authorities concerned about welfare of teenagers

It appears that two teenagers were overcome with fatigue earlier today.

After polishing off a snack on the bench in Foxwood Park they were overcome with exhaustion. This meant that they were unable to deposit their litter in a bin which was only 2 metres away.

Police are looking for two youngsters with no arms and only minimal use of their legs.

A passerby later cleared the rubbish.

Coronavirus York updates; 30th July 2020

Deaths and test results

There have been no further hospital deaths or positive test results recorded in York today.

The 7 day moving average of positive test results has been fairly steady for several weeks now.

Government web site

The figures for testing haven’t been updated on the government web site yet click. The site is in any event due to be discontinued on Monday.

A new website is promised click.

It is clear that the government does hold information on matters of local interest such as the number of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. It also knows what percentage of local tests have been positive. Whether it will make this information available remains to be seen.

Bishopthorpe Road to reopen to traffic

The York Council has issued a media release indicating that the controversial Bishopthorpe Road lane closure will end on 4th August.

However no formal notification of any meeting being held, to endorse the change, has appeared on the Councils register of decisions.

No notice of any decision meeting was published by the Council.

The original decision to close one lane appeared to be based on a whim. It sprang from a request by a Micklegate ward Labour Councillor (Kilbane) but was quickly adopted by the Councils transport executive Councillor (Andy D’Agorne). There was no public consultation before implementation.

The reversal of the decision fails to acknowledge the harm and resentment felt by significant sections of the community about the ill judged scheme.

The scheme has been compared to the closure of Lendal Bridge where a intransigent Council persisted with a failed experiment for nearly two years before admitting defeat. It put the cause of traffic reduction back by 10 years. We hope that the iconic “Bishy Road” shopping area doesn’t suffer a similar setback.

The main criticisms of the scheme were that, contrary to claims, it did little to assist with social distancing. Indeed in places, bollards actually increased pedestrian congestion.

Cyclists were put at risk when using the contraflow cycle lane while those living in the St Benedict Road area had to cope with increased short cutting and consequent higher pollution levels.

St Benedict’s road suffered from short cutting

Against expectations, in June the scheme was extended for another 2 months

Even many who acknowledged that traffic reduction was desirable, pointed out that an (off peak) foot street option might have won greater public support.

We said, right from the beginning, that diverting traffic onto Nunnery Lane and Blossom Street, when the latter was partly closed for utility works, was completely half baked.

So it proved.

It seems that gas works will return on the Blossom Street area shortly.

That, coupled with other road closures in the city, really would have caused traffic chaos at a time when the economy is slowly getting back onto its feet.

The Councils change of heart is welcome, albeit belated. We next hope to see changes to remove some of the unnecessary restrictions on space use in the Marygate car park and on the Monk Bar car park.

Marygate car park spaces closed off
Unused disabled spaces in Monk Bar car park

Coronavirus York updates; 29th July 2020

Deaths and test results

There have been no more reports hospital deaths or positive test results in the City according to government figures issued today.

The figures should be viewed with some caution as positive test results are sometimes added retrospectively.

The government does not publish the number of tests carried out each day, so the proportion that are positive is not revealed. The number of tests carried out has gradually increased with some random (voluntary) tests being carried out to check the underlying infection rates.

The number of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients is also not revealed.

We think that the government should publish more details.

York best in sustainability survey

York comes out top in a survey of environmentally friendly town and Cities. The poll was conducted by “music magpie”.

The results can be found by clicking here

York had the joint-highest number of people who shop in zero-plastic supermarkets, with 31 per cent, alongside Birmingham..

A massive 69% claim either recycle or renovate their surplus tech equipment.

Extra points were given for less time spent in showers. This doubtful accolade went to Norwich (where, no doubt, social distancing is easier to enforce).

Points were scored for other factors such as tendency to buy refurbished items, recycling rates and methods of travel 

Second place belonged to Cardiff. Close behind was Oxford, which came third, followed by Plymouth in fourth, and Brighton and Newcastle in joint fifth.

Lowest scoring area was Wolverhamption

The environment and informal leisure

The government has launched a welcome initiative this week aimed at encouraging more active lifestyles. There has been a lot of support for cycling as a way of keeping fit and losing weight. That is very welcome and we hope that it soon translates into a Council initiative aimed at improving maintenance standards on off road cycle paths, many of which are in poor condition in York.

Less attention has been paid to leisure walking – an option open to virtually everyone.

There has been renewed interest in the use of local Public Rights of Way (PROW) as residents sought to follow daily – social distance – exercising guidelines. The route across Acomb Moor to Acomb Wood became more popular. A local bulletin board has seen several people criticise the farmer who blocked off all entrances to the moor before ploughing it.

Access to Acomb Moor blocked

While the owner is entitled to cultivate his land, he should not have blocked the Foxwood Lane access at least while the current PROW application is being actively considered. We have asked the public rights of way officer to intervene.

More needs to be done to enhance and improve access to the natural environment at least on the west of the City.

The Councils own annual survey of opinion revealed that  44% of panellists thought that the Council was not doing well at improving green spaces.

59% thought that the Council wasn’t doing well at reducing air pollution.

The Council planted 515 trees last year. It had previously claimed that it would plant “50,000 trees by 2023”. It had also promised to expand the City’s strays and introduce more wildflower meadows in an attempt to encourage pollinators.

We understand that a report will be considered by the Council in August which will  set out proposals to acquire land which will enable the creation of a “large new area of woodland in close proximity to the city to provide green amenity space for residents and plant trees that will contribute to the council’s commitment to become net carbon neutral by 2030”.

There has to be balance. The country does need to be more self sufficient in food production, so the retention of good quality agricultural land is also important.

However, the creation of a country park on land near Askham Lane would be a welcome step forward. It has been a vision for several years. It would allow hedgerows to be re-established and PROWs to be maintained in good condition.

It would also provide some compensation for the sports and leisure land lost through recent developments in the area.

 It only now remains to be seen whether Councillors have the drive and determination to deliver on their promises.Tree Walking GIF - Tree Walking Tired - Discover & Share GIFs