6,400 local children to take part in Walk to School Week 2021

20 of York’s primary schools are set to take part in Walk to School Week 2021, which runs from 14 to 28 June. This year the event includes activities taking place on Clean Air Day on 17 June.

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Locally, around 6,400 students from 20 different schools will get involved. 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. This year the event will have a particular focus on the impact of pollution on our health, encouraging families to make a sustainable change to improve local air quality near schools.

Coinciding with Walk to School Week this year is Clean Air Day on 17 June. Every year, air pollution causes up to 36,000 deaths in the UK.  The World Health Organisation and the Government recognise that air pollution is the largest environmental health risk we face today.

Poor air quality causes heart and lung diseases, is linked to low birth weight and children’s lung development and may even contribute to mental health issues*. Clean Air day is being promoted through the council’s hard-hitting anti-idling campaign, Kick the Habit: which aims to to help tackle this problem in York www.york.gov.uk/engineoff

Residents of all ages can find out more about sustainable travel options by visiting www.itravelyork.info 

More information on the ‘Kick the Habit’ campaign is available here www.york.gov.uk/EngineOff 

York becomes UK’s first city with real-time transport model

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York has become the first city in the UK to introduce city-wide real time transport modelling to help ease congestion and pollution.

Working in partnership with PTV Group, Wood Group and independent strategic modelling experts RelativeGAP, City of York Council has started using the latest innovation and cutting-edge technology to manage the road network.

In areas it has previously been introduced, area wide travel times have been reduced by nearly 10 per cent.

Previously, the council has monitored the network through staff monitoring CCTV and social media feeds, with network monitoring operators and transport engineers manually implementing new signal changes to manage the flow of traffic better in busy periods.

With the new PTV Optima installed in the control room, the council can now adopt a more pro-active approach in monitoring and changing the network live to best suit traffic conditions.

For example, if there was a road traffic collision on the York outer ring road, the new software will be able to predict the impact on the wider road network based on the current traffic conditions. This will give the council the ability to react ‘live’ by changing traffic light timings across the city (where needed) and informing people sooner of the impact and possible delays.

This is the first real-time transport model of this scale that has been used for live traffic management in the UK. Other cities outside of the UK to use similar modelling include Vienna, Abu Dhabi, Moscow and Sydney.

The introduction of the new modelling system follows a successful bid by City of York Council, as part of the ‘Smarter Travel Evolution Program – STEP’, which is funded by the Government.

There has already been some criticisms of the system with problems identified on the Hull Road, Other motorists have criticised what seems to be inadequate green phase signal times on The Mount near the Holgate Road junction, despite relatively low traffic levels.

Stonewalling

A detailed view of a rainbow corner flagIt looks like a controversy may be brewing over the York Council’s membership of a LGBT  organisation called “Stonewall”.  The Council has been a subscriber for about 10 years. In return for a £2500 annual membership fee, it is described by Stonewall as a “diversity champion” on its literature.

Having flown largely under most peoples radar for some years, the organisation has become more controversial recently. It is telling people how to style themselves and those that they interact with. A current Freedom of Information request is seeking  more information from the Council.

The issue has been highlighted by the decision of various government departments and organisations  like Channel 4 to withdraw support from Stonewall. This is turn appears to have been prompted by some – borderline eccentric – missives from the organisation which included a plea to re-label “mothers” as “a parent who has given birth”.

The genesis of the controversy though appears to have been differing views on Trans-gender policies.

We think that people should be able to label themselves as they chose. If “product of incubation tube 5” suits, then so be it.

But organisations which accept taxpayer funding must also be sensitive to the views of others. There is sometimes a fine line between educational and political activities. Stonewall is a registered charity.

It is not just national organisations that need to be sensitive to the views of their members and supporters. For a couple of years now York Civic Trust (also a charity) has been edging towards a more extreme approach to transport policies. Its latest attempt to influence the emerging Local Transport Pan can be found be clicking here

“For the city centre, we propose that removal of what the Council refers to as non-essential
car use should be achieved by restricting through movement*, increasing parking charges
and selective reduction of parking space. Expansion of the Clean Air Zone to include cars
would help achieve our low emission targets. It may also be appropriate to consider a
permit system for access, enforced as Coppergate is currently“.

reduce the mode share for travel by car to 49% in 2027 and 40% in 2037“.

*NB. the only significant volume of City centre  “through movement” vehicle journeys currently takes place via Lendal Bridge

The statements are made without any attempt to model the impacts that such policies would have on the rest of the City, much less the consequences for the economy.

The members of the Civic Trust, and citizens more generally, will expect a measured and evidenced approach from the Council as it reviews its transport plans.

New bus shelter arrives in Ascot Way

Good to see that the replacement bus shelter in Ascot Way has finally arrived. It was supposed to be available from the autumn when the adjacent building works were completed. Looks very tidy.

The actual bus stop has not yet been moved back to its original location and is still located round the corner.

Disappointing to see that the Ashford Place street sign has not been realigned. It continues to point to part of Windsor Garth. It was reported for attention over 2 months ago. Similarly potholes on Ashford Place itself – also reported some time ago – have still not been marked up for attention.

Foxwood Community Centre wildflower garden

Better news in Foxwood where volunteers have planted up wildflowers as part of a campaign to help pollinators (bees etc.). Good display now outside the community centre and in part of the Foxwood park.

Pothole blight

It is disappointing to see that some potholes – many deep enough to pose a hazard for cyclists – are not being filled in quickly by the Council.

Residents were told that an additional pothole filling team would reduce the time taken to deal with this issue, but apparently this isn’t the case.

We hope that the Council is on top of seasonal issues with path side nettles and thorn bushes. These are a hazard for pedestrians. They need to be treated before they obstruct public footpaths

Highways repairs – Ward plans published

One of the positive actions taken by the present Council was its decision to delegate to local Ward Councillors a budget to be spent repairing local roads and footpaths.

The Councils main repairs budget – which is inadequate to maintain standards – is focused on the busiest highways.

Some sub-urban roads haven’t been resurfaced for over 60 years.

Against that background, local Councillors have found it increasingly difficult to justify to local residents the growing number of potholes and ruts often found on local roads.

In 2019, they were given a modest “pot” which could be used to address the worst of the complaints.

It has taken a long time for the programme to get going, but now a series of “decisions” on how the funding will be spent are finding their way on to the Councils web site.

It has to be said that the process is largely impenetrable with no central schemes list being updated (and viewable by residents).

The latest list of proposals covers several wards. The investment decisions are likely to be of more interest to local taxpayers than many more high profile issues which seem to exercise the Councils media relations team.

In Westfield, the local Councillors have opted to allocated £20,000 towards the repair of back lanes in the Beaconsfield Street, Milner Street and Gladstone Street area.

They are right to do so.

A resurfacing programme, which was started some 20 years ago, stalled leaving the lanes very uneven and with a patchwork appearance. The lanes are mostly paved with traditional setts. These are very hard wearing but hugely expensive to relay.

We suspect that the available budget will allow only the worst of the uneven stretches of lane to be resurfaced probably using a bitmac overlay.

One other consequence is likely to be that the poor condition of the main highways in the area will become more apparent. School Street has been a particular embarrassment for some years.

Hopefully more funding will be found for the resurfacing of minor roads in future years.

Low emission vehicle interchange for delivery vehicles could be piloted in York

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A new pilot project could be introduced in York’s city centre to use low emission modes of transport to help improve air quality and congestion caused by delivery vehicles.

E-cargo bikes and ultra-low emission vehicles could be introduced for the first and last mile of deliveries to help address these issues.

City of York Council has been awarded £297,237 from the Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Air Quality Grant Scheme to look at these measures.

If approved, an interchange or small consolidation centre would be created to hold goods, so there could be an exchange of goods and change of delivery mode, e.g. from van to e-cargo bike.

As part of the feasibility study, engagement will be undertaken with businesses and delivery companies operating in York, which will learn from companies who are already operating similar models.

Reducing deliveries from HGVs, LGVs and vans predominantly in York’s inner ring road, is expected to enable a reduction in associated emissions.

LGVs and HGVs currently make up approximately 14 per cent of the traffic flow on Gillygate and account for approximately 1,775 vehicle movements per day, within the current city centre York’s Air Quality Management Area (AQMA).

Other additional benefits of reducing movements of HGVs, LGVs and vans especially within the city centre, will include improving pedestrian safety and a potential reduction in damage from such vehicles to historic monuments.

The fastest growing expansion of urban road vehicles are vans and LGV’s [Independent Transport Commission. 2017. How can we improve urban freight distribution in the UK? Challenges and solutions].

With deliveries also expected to increase there is a need to address HGV and LGV movements in the city. Given the tendency for HGV/LGV’s to be diesel vehicles, which emit NOx and PM, and with expected constraints on capacity for deliveries within York’s city centre, there is a need to identify how freight logistics can address these problems.

If approved by Councillors at an Executive meeting later this month, the funding from DEFRA will support a feasibility study and a pilot project, which will be contracted out through the council’s procurement process.

The project will allow the council to continue with delivery of its current Air Quality Action Plan and associated Low Emission Strategy.  This scheme will compliment other air quality improvement work streams, particularly the city centre Clean Air Zone

Officers will return to the Executive in Autumn 2021 with further information on further details of the pilot scheme.

“WalkYork” represents York pedestrians

The York Civic Trust is promoting a new group which aims to articulate the needs and aspirations of users of York’s biggest transport system.
Walking!
We wish them well.
We have recorded on many occasions that green footpaths, particularly in sub-urban areas, have been neglected over recent years.
Many have been heavily used for exercise during the lockdown period, Some now badly need repairs to infrastructure like stiles while work to remedy boggy and flooded sections is also needed.
Even well used bitmaced paths like The Mount are overdue for resurfacing
The Trust says in an email to its members,
Formed last year, WalkYork is a project that has been developed by Dr Roger Pierce, an active member of the Trust’s Transport Advisory Group, who identified a real need for a devoted online presence to promote and represent walkers in York.
Free to join, becoming a WalkYork member provides access to news of city-wide schemes and proposed changes impacting pedestrians who have not previously been consulted about major changes impacting them.
Bringing together views, the group can give a voice to individual concerns and suggestions, helping to negotiate improvements and influence Council decisions. 
The larger the membership the more influential they can be!”
Damaged stile on popular exercise route in York

You can find out more about WalkYork, and how to join, on their website.

Transport changes in York

A raft of changes to transport and travel in York will be discussed at a meeting taking place on 11th May. The changes include

e-scooters & e-bikes

Officials claim that there have been no accidents involving the hire scooters since they were introduced to York last year. No information is provided on reliability or the scooters vulnerability to vandalism.

Very recently e-bikes have been added to the hire options available.

Officials are now proposing to extend their availability to areas outside the outer ring road. Initially these will include Haxby, Wigginton and Poppleton.

Bus franchising option rejected.

The Government is set to end the COVID-19 bus support grants in July 2021. They may be extended in certain circumstances.

Councillors are set to reject an opportunity to introduce bus franchising into the City. In effect this option allows the Council to seek tenders to run bus services on specific routes or zones. It offers an opportunity to influence fare levels and frequencies and avoids competition. However, it could be a very expensive option

In York, which (pre virus) had a generally well used bus service,  several routes already operate on a contract basis. These include the popular park and ride services and those to and from the University.

Seven bus companies currently operate in York. The largest in First.

Instead of extended franchise working, the authority seems likely to opt for what is known as an “enhanced partnership”.

By October, Councils must publish a Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP), setting out how bus services will be improved in the local area.

ResPark decision for Tadcaster Road area

The Council is set to turn down a request for a Res Parking zone to be set up in the Slingsby Grove/Royal Chase area. Residents turned the idea down in a recent poll.

A scheme will  be introduced in the St Edwards Close area where the majority of residents supported the idea.

Digital traffic management initiative for A59 and A1079

After several months of silence, a report has been produced on the progress being made in further automating real time traffic management systems in the City.

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Called the “Smart Transport Evolution Programme” (STEP), the government funded initiative, would see a newly deployed real-time traffic model used in the City.

It will forecast road conditions 5-60 minutes ahead and could produce alerts allowing Network Monitoring Officers to make pre-emptive traffic interventions.

The Council says that the £2.8 million system would give them the “the ability to forecast near-future traffic conditions and make pre-emotive traffic interventions which will improve the overall efficiency of the road network, resulting in a greater ability to prioritise road space for users in line with the Council’s Road User Hierarchy.

This can include improved bus service schedule adherence, “with an ability  to resolve issues that affect public transport services at an earlier point in time”

The system “allows York to prepare for advances in urban travel such as Connected and Autonomous Vehicles”.Image result for self drive vehicle gif

“The programme will shortly be delivering a Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory trial to the A59 and A1079, a service that sends real-time and future traffic signals conditions into smart phones and cars with advice on the most efficient speed to travel safely at to get through on green

Providing travellers with up-to-date information about what conditions they can expect to encounter on journeys should be an important part of any future travel strategy.

We therefore wish the project well.

The inability of the Council to provide even parking space availability feeds into sat. nav. systems, web sites and street signs does, however, give some cause for concern.