No safety audit completed on Groves traffic scheme

Contrary to claims made on social media a few months ago, a response to a Freedom of Information request has revealed that no road safety audits were completed on The Groves road layout changes before they were introduced in the summer.

Safety audits area mandatory for changes to highway layouts. Their purpose can be viewed by clicking this link

It is without precedent in York, for a scheme of this size to be implemented without the Stage 1, 2 and 3 audits being completed.

It is of no relevance that the scheme may have been labelled as “experimental” by Council officials.

It appears that a Stage 3 (post construction) audit will be undertaken when changes to the layout have been completed. It is unclear when this will happen and what changes may be planned*.

The revelation is the most serious of several concerns highlighted by the Councils refusal to respond fully to the request for information. In due course, this may be explored further with the Information Commissioner, but the safety aspect (including the controversial unsegregated contraflow cycle lanes) may require action from Grant Shapps the Transport Minister  who has been scathing about the quality of some “emergency” traffic changes introduced post COVID. The Groves scheme was funded from the governments “emergency transport budget”

Unsegregated contraflow cycle lanes on narrow road have been heavily criticised

The Groves scheme was designed in late 2019 and so preceded the start of the pandemic.

The response also raises the question of just what the scheme was intended to achieve?

Most commentators have pointed to improvements in air quality. However, air quality across the whole highway network in York has been good since the start of February and the Council has been unable to produce any figures suggesting that The Groves is any different in that respect.

Some said that there would be fewer collisions. Accident data – mostly pre lockdown –   reveals that there were no severe accidents in The Groves area and that there were no accidents at all involving children. The severe collisions that were recorded happened on the alternative route for traffic (Clarence Street, Lord Mayors Walk, Monkgate) with most at the road junctions which are still open to traffic. Thus, the scheme may actually have increased risks on the network as a whole.

The Council has refused to reveal the pre and post implementation traffic levels in the area. There is absolutely no reason why the 2019 base figures should not be in the public domain. The Council instead promise to include the figures as part of a public review of the scheme during the first quarter of 2021.

With traffic levels currently running at about 80% of pre COVID levels, we are not expecting to see a significant impact on congestion levels on alternative routes.

The removal of “through traffic” from The Groves will offer residents who live there a quieter lifestyle. Whether it is safer or less polluted may now be open to question.

The type of closure chosen and its impact on emergency services, deliveries and local businesses has been subject to criticism

There is no good reason for the York Council to be so secretive about the scheme and it is downright irresponsible to include elements which increase hazards for road users without undertaking, transparent, risk assessments.

Recent accidents in The Groves area. May not include most recent incidents.
  • The Council has now published the changes it is making. They are;

a. Change the position of the road closure on St. John’s Crescent, to relocate it at the junction with Garden Street. Removable bollards will be installed for part of the closure to provide a secondary emergency access route to streets off Garden Street/St John Street;

b. Remove 2.4m of on street parking on St John Street (both side) near the junction with Garden Street to facilitate turning movements at the junction;

c. Change the position of the road closure in place at the junction between Neville Terrace, Park Grove and Brownlow Street, to address issues with some drivers using the alleyways between Neville Terrace, Eldon Terrace and Amber Street to bypass the closures;

d. Remove the parking bay adjacent to 25 Neville Terrace to facilitate access and egress for larger vehicles, including emergency vehicles.

2. Approve a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO) to waive Pay & Display charges for parking areas near the shops on Lowther Street and adjacent to the local shop on Townend Street (between Abbot Street and Del Pyke) for a duration of 6 months.

Changes published by York Council on 20th October 2020

“Act in haste, repent at leisure” time for York Council transport changes

Cycling numbers decline in York

It looks like more of the road restrictions introduced in the summer, as part of the Councils reaction to the COVID crisis, will be dropped.

The most criticised restriction – closure of Bishopthorpe Road –  was scrapped a couple of months ago, although officials are now threatening to revive the idea as part of “a review of the Local Transport Plan”.

A report to a meeting taking place next week provides an insight into how travel habits have changed in the City since COVID struck.

The most recent monitoring data, for September, shows that AM peak traffic volumes are around 80% of pre-lockdown, with the PM peak around 85% of pre-lockdown levels. Between the peaks, and at weekends, vehicle trips are down by around 5-10%. Bus use is 50-60% of pre-lockdown levels.

There is some bad news for the cycling lobby.

“Cycling levels appear to have fallen by around 30% in the peaks, whilst interpeak levels are not changed in comparison to the same period last year. It is likely that fewer people are commuting to and from work by bike or cycling to the railway station for onward travel by train, offset by higher levels of exercise/ leisure cycling”.

The report pointedly fails to comment on pollution and air quality levels in the City. These continue to be at record low levels (so probably don’t suit a doom and gloom narrative).

click to access

Several of the “emergency” schemes involved little more than putting out more traffic cones. Those in the Marygate and Monk Bar car park were largely unnecessary. The £10,000 a month taxi shuttle service for disabled people from the latter continues to run although it is little used. Most of the 40 parking spaces lost at Marygate are set to be restored as part of a new scheme to install a permanent cycle path link to Bootham.

Of the others, the report recommends

  • The temporary one way restriction on Coppergate is extended
  • The temporary cycle lane at Castle Mills Bridge on Tower Street is removed (only 3% of users are cyclists and there is an alternative, off road, route along the riverside)
  • The proposed scheme for improvements to York’s North – South cycle route is taken forward to implementation, with a proposed restriction on Navigation Road
  • The proposed scheme for improvements to cycle lanes on Bootham is taken forward to implementation, with a consultation commenced on the rest of the Shipton Road cycle lane scheme, including the element which would require changes to residents’ parking on parts of Bootham.
North – South cycle route

The Council has not heard whether its plea for funding a further tranche of works will be approved. These include the very expensive, but desirable, cycle bridge over the river and railway on the A1237 as well as some more eccentric ideas (a cycle path for Dunnington to the City centre).  

Despite the lack of obvious government enthusiasm for the Councils plans, the authority intends to spend £40,000 on further development of the ideas.

As we have said many times, one of the main criticisms of the Councils transport polices over the last 12 months has been its total insensitivity to the state of repair of the existing infrastructure.

Infrastructure is decaying

That is particularly true of cycle paths many of which are obstructed by potholes, weeds, and hedges. White lines have worn away, signage has faded and, in some cases, disappeared altogether.

It is that neglect that is limiting the expansion of walking and cycling numbers in the City.

Capital expenditure (funded by borrowing) is limited to providing or improving assets with an extended lifespan. Resurfacing existing paths could fall within that definition.

The suspicion is that the executive Councillors favour high profile vanity projects simply because they provide an opportunity for a good “Photo Op”.

The reduction in the numbers cycling is one symptom of poor prioritisation

Out of Step?

Deep Traffic - DQN Tuning for Traffic Navigation 🚗 | by Greg Surma |  Towards Data Science

It is 2½ years since the York Council was awarded £2.85 million by the government to develop a “Smart Travel Evolution Programme” (STEP). It would monitor and enable “analysis of real-time journey information to improve travel in York”.

The Council said it would use “co-operative ‘urban traffic control’ (UTC), where vehicles and traffic signals work together to improve the network  reducing congestion and emissions”.

STEP will also generate a multi-layered, real-time model of traffic, public transport and air quality data, allowing York to prepare for connected and autonomous vehicles”.

We were told that the scheme would see the control systems capture data, process it and react to conditions in real-time.

Since then taxpayers have heard little although a £200k contract to Dynniq UK Ltd for a “Smarter Travel Evolution Programme – Green Light Optimised Speed Advisory System” was let a few months ago.

It is understood that this is aimed at improving the efficiency of the Councils own fleet.

Time for an update on this expensive project we think.

Just what benefits have we seen?

Share your views on the York Outer Ring Road

City of York Council is asking residents, businesses and visitors for their views on the proposed upgrade of the York Outer Ring Road from A19 Shipton Road to the A1036 Little Hopgrove.

A1237 congestion

This follows the announcement last year that the Department for Transport has approved York’s £25m scheme to dual the Outer Ring Road from the A19 Shipton Road to the A1036 Little Hopgrove progressing to final business case stage.

West Yorkshire Combined Authority have also approved £38m to upgrade seven roundabouts along the ring road. Wetherby Road roundabout was the first to be upgraded and was completed in 2019.

Alongside the road and active travel upgrades there will also be an extensive landscape programme with the aim of retaining existing trees and hedgerows where we can. Where this is not possible a diverse range of trees and hedgerows will be planted to complement the local environment and integrate the new road into the existing landscape.

The council have written to over 17,000 residents and businesses close to the York Outer Ring Road. People can also share the views online at www.york.gov.uk/yorr. The consultation closes on Monday 16 November 2020.

£1.25 million contract let for electric charging points in York

According to the Councils web site,

the contract will cover the purchase of various EV charging infrastructure assets and associated support services. The intention is to procure £1.25M of assets and services from this contract initially, and the contract will give us to option to procure up to £5M of assets and services in the future”.

The successful tenderer was Chargemaster Limited

The Council says, “a competitive tender was carried out through the ESPO framework between 14th Aug and 4th Sep 2020.

Of the £1.25M of initial purchases, £800k will be externally funded by a successful bid to the YNYER LEP. The remaining £450k will be funded by City of York Council”.

“An Executive Decision has already been made to undertake EV infrastructure works; a record of this decision is available.

Executive approval for the required budget was made during the budget process and has already been assigned to the Transport Capital Programme.

As such, there are sufficient Executive decisions in place to permit an Officer Decision on the signing of the contract.

This reasoning has been reviewed by Legal Services and Finance who support this approach, on the understanding that purchases from the contract beyond the initial £1.25M amount will require additional decision making authorisation.

No details of the other tenders received have been published

Would you believe it; They’re going to dig up Tadcaster Road again!

A Council media release today confirms what many feared. The Tadcaster Road carriageway is going to be dug up again only 3 months after it was resurfaced.

Resurfacing work was completed in June

The carriageway is currently in excellent condition and contrasts markedly with the condition of most other roads in west York.

But it seems that the Council jumped the gun when they undertook a £600,000 resurfacing scheme earlier in the summer.

Waste Of Money GIFs | Tenor

The government announced a £5 million improvement budget in July only weeks after work on the road was completed. The government was responding to a bid that the York Council had made earlier in the year.

It is likely that taxpayers will want to know a lot more about how this blunder happened.

The Council media release issued today says,

“One of the busiest roads in York is set to benefit from a £5million government funded road improvement scheme.

City of York Council was successfully awarded funding from the Department of Transport’s Local Highways Maintenance Challenge Fund.

The funding will enable to council to improve large sections of drainage along this route which will reduce localised surface water flooding. The work includes the delivery of additional pedestrian crossings and will ensure the road is maintenance free for the next 10 years. 

The authority has been proactively working with all the major utility companies, water, gas, electric, phones, to coordinate their future work. During this process it became apparent that Northern Gas Networks (NGN), were due to carry out major work in 2023. Working in partnership they have brought this work forward to 10 October 2020 ensuring minimum disruption for residents and commuters. The council works are scheduled to start in January 2021.

Cllr Andy D’Agorne, Executive Member for Transport, said at City of York Council, said:

“It’s excellent news that our bid for £5million to upgrade Tadcaster Road to reduce localised flooding has been reviewed by Government and is now in approved.  This will deliver much needed improvements to one of York’s busiest routes.

“Our primary goal is to ensure these works are coordinated with utilities companies so that the level of disruption for residents, businesses and visitors is reduced as much as possible.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Wasn’t part of Tadcaster Road resurfaced earlier this year?
Yes, the council bid to government for a scheme on Tadcaster Road. The council received confirmation in March that it was unsuccessful and would not receive funding.  Therefore the council resurfaced a section of Tadcaster Road as it was in need of urgent repairs between The Horseshoe and St Aubyns Place. 
However, in June the council was then awarded the £5million funding to improve large sections of drainage along Tadcaster Road which will reduce the risk of localised surface water flooding.

Northern Gas Networks have recently informed the council they have plans to carry out major works to their service at Tadcaster Road by 2025. The council was not made aware of these works before the section of Tadcaster Road between The Horseshoe and St Aubyns Place was resurfaced earlier this year.
Whilst it is not an ideal situation, the Council would rather sacrifice a small part of the works that have been undertaken already rather than risk the digging up of the major £5 million scheme in a few years’ time for the Northern Gas Networks scheme.  

9,700 local children to take part in Walk to School Week 2020

Almost two thirds of York’s primary schools will take part in Walk to School Week 2020, which runs from 5 to 9 October during International Walk to School Month.

The annual awareness-raising event aims to encourage children and their families to walk, cycle or scoot to and from school, rather than travelling by car.

Locally, around 9,700 students from 31 different schools will get involved. City of York Council’s iTravel team will present the Jack Archer Award to the school with the highest proportion of its students walking, cycling or scooting throughout the week, as well as cash to spend on sports equipment. The Jack Archer Award is now in its seventeenth year and Age UK has supported the competition since it was first launched as part of its intergenerational work to encourage children to be more active.

Bus shelters getting a coat of paint

Good to see some of the Councils bus shelters getting a much needed coat of paint. In contrast to the advertising shelters – which are generally kept clean and safe – many of the Councils shelters are dirty and neglected.

Some are overgrown with weeds and hedges.

Askham Lane bus shelter

Shelters are an important factor in making public transport an attractive option for travellers. They should be cleaned and repaired regularly

Marygate car park and the cycle path changes

Yesterday we revealed that the Council had started consultation on changes to the pedestrian/cycle route from the railway station to Bootham.

We pointed out that the impact on the Marygate car park had not been explained in the Councils documents.

We are now led to understand that a drawing, which details what will happen at the car park, was for some reason omitted from the consultation papers. It has now been added (click)

This new layout apparently requires virtually all the spaces in the car park to be re-marked.

Officials claim that, overall, 6 spaces will be lost.

The Railway Walk path would be widened to 3.4 metres.

The 40 spaces currently coned off would be restored for parking use.

There may be access, turning radius and other implications for users which are not clear from the large scale map provided, so we will hope that residents will be given sight of the stage 1 and 2 safety audit reports.

It is still unclear why the Council launched this consultation without telling anyone how to participate.