Car parking availability signs still out of order

“On line” web guide scrapped

Car parking space availability signs still not working

The Council has about 20 signs on arterial roads which, until about 5 years ago, showed how many empty parking spaces there were at each car park.

Such facilities became commonplace on City streets more than a decade ago. They’re still to be found at many tourist destinations.

The FOI response has also revealed that the counters which allow the number of spaces to be identified, will only be reactivate on three of the signs before the end of the financial year.

The Council – after promising that its on line service, which also gives a guide to finding space, would be updated – has now been decommissioned.  The number of spaces shown has been incorrect for several years.

Users are now referred to the iTravel web site which contains only a list of car parks (and without an indication of the number of spaces at each).

Commercial sites like https://en.parkopedia.co.uk/ are much better.

There were also hopes that space availability would be linked to GPS systems to allow “Sat Nav” users to optimise their routes. Now it seems that driving round the inner ring road will continue to be the only way of finding a space.

That’s bad news for a Council leadership that claims to be trying to reduce pollution levels in the City centre, by cutting out unnecessary travel. Its also bad news fro some City centre traders who sell goods that require a purchaser to have access to their own transport.

When is a footpath a “Restricted Byway”?

That is the question that the Councils Executive member for Transport will be asked to answer next week.  He will be asked to decide whether, not only pedestrians, but also cyclists, horse riders and a “horse and cart” should be able to use the full length of Grange Lane.

The section in dispute lies between the boundary of the built-up area and Rufforth airfield.

While some farmers prefer to regard the lane, from the A1237 to the airfield as “private”, the Council agreed in 2008 that it was a Public Right of Way (and therefore could be used by walkers)

Grange Lane – end of public highway

Three people are now claiming that other modes of transport should be allowed.

The main area in contention is the section between the A1237 and Chapelfields. This has been a footpath for many years. Some 25 years ago a young child cycled down the slope into the path of an approaching vehicle. The resulting fatality fuelled calls for the access to be gated. This was done for a while, but the access has become insecure again.

One representation has apparently been made claiming that the Council should surface and maintain the whole length of the route although it is effectively a “road to nowhere” for most forms of transport (It is used by farmers to access their fields)

Grange Lane start of public footpath

A horse and cyclist could use the Chapelfields section of path with relatively little work.

A horse and cart? We think not.

Widening and levelling the lane would be a waste of money (Rights for mechanically propelled vehicles were removed by the NERC Act 2006.)

The path was suggested as the preferred cycle route from Rufforth to York a few years ago but a line via Knapton was later selected.

Both are potentially unsafe at the by-pass junction and really need a bridge to be useable.

Grange Lane A1237 junction

The Council would be wise to take whatever steps it can to restrict the use of this path at least until pedestrian safety can be ensured.

In the meantime the interested parties should back off and allow a proportionate solution to emerge. Even heavily used roads in York are full of potholes and diverting budget to maintain a little used path is not in taxpayers interests.

York Council consults on Wigginton Road improvements

City of York Council is asking residents and businesses for their views on proposals to improve key junctions on Wigginton Road (near York Hospital).

Plans include rebuilding the junction between Haxby Road, Wigginton Road and Clarence Street and replacing the existing mini-roundabout between Wigginton Road and Fountayne Street with a new junction.

This will help to:

  • reduce journey times for traffic, particularly buses, on Wigginton Road
  • improve pavements and crossings – and create larger pedestrian islands at the Haxby Road/ Wigginton Road/ Clarence Street junction
  • replace the traffic signals at the Haxby Road, Wigginton Road,  Clarence Street junction.

To submit feedback on the proposals email buses@york.gov.uk or post responses to Julian Ridge, Better Bus Area Manager, City of York Council, West Offices, York, YO1 6GA –  by Sunday 2 September 2018.

Further information about the proposals, including plans, can be found at www.itravelyork.info (apparently) . Or, view the FAQs below.
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East Coast rail investment announcement doesn’t go far enough

The government have today announced funding for some improvement to the existing main line rail services in the region. The government claims that the work will see improvements to platforms, tracks, signals and junctions across the East Coast route. New Intercity Express trains will be provided and  the Government claims northern commuters will benefit from “more seats and faster, more frequent journeys between Doncaster, Leeds and Newcastle”.

Local Councillor Andrew Waller said, “A reliable and properly funded East Coast Main Line is pivotal to our region’s growth and any investment to the line is welcome.  However, the Government’s approach to tackle these problems in a piecemeal way is not a strategic approach to solving the current capacity problem.  This is only a small step in addressing the imbalance of investment, which is currently focussed on London and the South East of England.  (more…)

York central planners head for dead end on Leeman Road

The Marble Arch pedestrian tunnel does not meet modern standards.

Today’s announcement, that the Marble Arch tunnel will become singe file traffic when the York central  development proceeds, will come as major surprise to many.

The limitations of the route were recognised in the last decade when initial designs, for the regeneration of the York Central site, incorporated a new pedestrian/cycle path which crossed over the east coast main line.

It was recognised then that major work was needed if the route was to become attractive to visitors and residents alike. The new bridge would have crossed the railway line and the river Ouse.

Since then, the Council have opted to spend £5 million on a cycle facility next to the Scarborough railway bridge. This offers little to those coming from Leeman Road although some leaving the station may benefit.

The main problem with the Marble Arch tunnel is the lack of a waterproof membrane. This means that “gunge” seeps down the walls of both the traffic tunnel and the pedestrian route.

It can only be cleaned up for a limited period.

The installation of a waterproof membrane would be very costly and could seriously affect rail services while the work was done.

Single file traffic would have knock on effects across the whole network. Changes to the area in front of the station (and now at Micklegate Bar) would put further pressures on road space.

The Council must release the traffic modelling figures indicating how each option would cumulatively impact on movement.

Under current plans even public transport reliability could suffer.

The proposal needs a rethink.

Iron Age artefacts unearthered at Wetherby Road roundabout

Typical iron age roundhouse

City of York Council and York Archaeological Trust have discovered evidence of what appears to be a prehistoric settlement during the York outer ring road works at Wetherby Road roundabout.

The earliest discovery appears to date from the Iron Age, roughly 2,500 years ago. This discovery is a large ring ditch which could have been a possible enclosure or roundhouse. It measures approximately 16 meteres making it one of the biggest to be unearthed in York. Unfortunately, none of the postholes have survived over the thousands of years but pits and what looks to be a hearth have been found.

A nearby ditch has also produced a series of finds, including decorated pottery fragments, a fragment of quern-stone and industrial waste material in the form of molten slag. Fragments of possible pumice-stone, a volcanic rock not found locally, have also been discovered. These could point to connections with the wider prehistoric world at that time.

The finds were made during work to improve theWetherby Road roundabout. This is the first of seven roundabouts on the A1237 set for improvements over the next four years. The upgrades will mean more lanes and space on the approaches and exits, as well as improvements for pedestrians and cyclists.

Ian Milsted, Head of Archaeology for York Archaeological Trust, said ‘We’re excited to have recovered this important  information and will now analyse the finds to understand the story of the people who lived here before the Romans founded the city. We’re also very pleased to have successfully recovered the archaeology without disrupting the roadworks, which we will continue to monitor’.

Finds have also been made to the north of the enclosure with a series of other ditches that may indicate field boundaries associated with the settlement.

There is evidence of similar activity from later periods as well, with medieval ditches cutting through the exisiting ones, showing how the agricultural landscape has changed over the centuries. These important discovery adds to the growing body of evidence for late prehistoric settlement around York.

York Archaelogical Trust have present on site from the start of the works after we requested their help to identify and preserve any possible sites of historical interest.

The York Outer Ring Road improvements programme is being funded through the West Yorkshire-plus Transport Fund, and the Leeds City Region Growth Deal – a £1 billion package of Government investment through the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to accelerate growth and create jobs across Leeds City Region.

For more information about the York Outer Ring Road improvements visit www.york.gov.uk/yorr

York Council seeks views on new “Clean Air Zone” for York’s city centre

Fuel cell bus under test in London. Zero tail pipe emissions. Still no sign of the technology reaching York

City of York Council is seeking views on the proposed introduction of a Clean Air Zone in York’s city centre, to help tackle traffic pollution which can be harmful to people’s health.

As part of this consultation, a drop-in event is taking place on Monday 23 July between 3- 6pm at West Offices, where officers will be on-hand to answer any questions and provide more information about the proposals.

Unlike other parts of the country where a Clean Air Zone is a mandatory requirement, the council is proactively looking to introduce the new zone.

This will help to reduce the amount of traffic pollutants in York’s city centre, which are mainly caused by diesel vehicles.

The council is looking at many ways to improve air quality in the city centre. One of these options is by working with bus operators to apply the proposed Clean Air Zone to local bus services.

The authority knows (through York’s Third Air Quality Action Plan) that local bus services make up three per cent of the traffic but cause 27 per cent of the main pollutants in York.

The survey is available to complete at www.york.gov.uk/consultationsAlternatively  ask for a paper copy at West Offices.

To find out more about which bus services could be affected, or for more background on this proposal, visit: http://democracy.york.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=733&MId=10195

Those reading the background  reports may be disappointed by the lack of information on pollution trends in the City (Euro 6 standards are already prompting improvements) while auto idling devices are fitted to all new vehicles.
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Call for increase in neighbourhood police profile in York

The next York Council meeting will discuss four motions put forward by the political groups represented on the authority.

  • Liberal Democrat Ashley Mason is asking for more funding for neighbourhood policing. He will get a lot of support for his proposal with PCSO patrols now distinctly thin on the ground in much of the City. 41% of respondents to a recent survey thought that policing in the City was “poor”.

Many highlighted issues with drugs and moped gangs as increasing areas of concern.

The York Council has no direct powers over policing policy (that rests with the Harrogate based Police and Crime Commissioner) but it can be more active in using its powers of scrutiny.

The motion also opposes any reduction in Fire cover. The service has recently been taken over by the PCC.

  • A Labour Councillor wants to close the outbound traffic lane which currently runs under Micklegate Bar. The actual amount of traffic using this route is already regulated with “green” periods at the adjacent traffic lights already relatively short. However, the main criticism of this proposal is that it is being made without any consultation with local businesses or residents. Local road junctions are already congested at peak times so the consequences could be significant. The plan comes from the Lendal bridge closure school of transport planning. Proposals like these need to be considered as part of the next update to the Local Transport Plan. (NB. The Council video, outlining plans to improve the railway station frontage, portray an, almost miraculously, traffic free inner ring road in this part of the City!)
  • The Conservative Councillors have gone to the trouble of restating that they are in favour of free green bin emptying. Many residents would settle, currently, for just having their present green bin emptied.
  • ……& finally, the Green party has come out against, what they term as, “food poverty”. It will probably be difficult to find anyone who thinks hunger is a good thing. The Greens disingenuously suggest that Council officials should write a report saying how the issue can be resolved. Sadly, this is another problem where most of the levers are well outside the control of a local Council.

Council meetings these days are sterile and predictable affairs with all sides posturing and the real issues, that affect street level public service standards, rarely being highlighted.

This can party be traced back to a decision by the last Council which withdrew the option for Councillors to submit written questions (and get a written response).

A limited amount of time is reserved for verbal questions, but these rarely uncover any new facts.

Answers to verbal questions are not recorded in the meeting minutes. The minutes are, in any event, published several weeks – or months – later.

By then the issue has usually moved on.

Wetherby Road/The Green, Acomb – pedestrian changes confirmed as part of larger programme

A slightly revised layout at The Green/Wetherby Road junction is proposed in a Council report published this week

City of York council is set to invest £50k to improve or install new pedestrian crossings on several streets in York. These include

  • a potential new zebra crossing on Heworth Green
  • improvements to a central refuge on Wetherby Road near Danebury Drive
  • pavement build-outs on Huntington Road near Lowther Street
  • slight alterations to the crossing and link path on University Road opposite Heslington Hall
  • improvements to the crossings on New Lane in Huntington either side of the Jockey Lane mini-roundabout
  • provision of a new section of footway on Main Street in Copmanthorpe.

Several other sites will be improved using the city’s dropped kerb programme.

To view a full list of where all the proposed improvements will be made click here,

Officials have ranked the schemes in priority order according to the benefit achieved with Huntington Road at the top, followed by Wetherby Road, University Road, Heworth Green, New Lane and Main Street, Copmanthorpe. If approved, it’s recommended that the schemes are implemented in this sequence.

The Decision Session takes place on 12 July at West Offices from 2pm and is open to members of the public or is available to watch later online from: www.york.gov.uk/webcasts

If you fail, then try, try to …fail again

There are some magic transport ideas that keep coming around again and again.

They have one thing in common.

They’re impractical.

In this category are the idea of a “water taxi” (not enough landing points), Park and float (too long a journey time and weather dependent), a central “bus station” (the rivers are natural barriers to centralisation) and a cycle hire scheme.

The latter has made its biennial appearance again following at least 7 previous failed attempts to get such a scheme off the ground.

So why is it doomed to failure?

In the past schemes have been hampered by vandalism and theft of cycles. Several cycles ended up at the bottom of the Ouse. Then there were the maintenance and safety issues.

A new scheme being considered by the Council would apparently get over this problem by making the hire (and release) of the bike possible by the use of smart phone technology.

The system is already in use in several larger Cities.

So why would a street rental scheme like this fail in York?

There are two main reasons.

York already has relatively high levels of cycling. Most regular cyclists own a bike. Projects like cycle rescue have made serviceable machines readily available for around £50 a time. The bikes are often traded between students during their stays in the City.

Most of the permanent population have no incentive to rent a bike on a short-term basis, unless they don’t have storage space at their homes. The Council has (rightly) been active in recent years in requiring – as a condition of planning permission for new homes – that a cycle storage space be provided.

They have even provided cycle sheds at some suburban blocks of flats.

The second reason why a cycle hire scheme will not succeed relates to the size of the City. For tourists, pretty much everything is within walking distance.

Visitors who are more active and seeking a cycle ride in the country, are already catered for by commercial outlets.

A day hire, of a good quality bike, can be had for around £20.

The “dock less” bike option being considered by the York Council could cost about 50p for 30 minutes One provider is “OFO” in Cambridge where it claims to have deployed 550 bikes.

Recently an analysis of a “docked” cycle scheme in Lincoln – similar in some ways to York – suggested that only 6, of the 98 bikes made available, were in use

One problem will be the need to provide additional cycle parking in the City. Many of the existing spaces are already congested.

Should we be worried?

Maybe.

The Council is planning to invest £50,000 in the project. The money would be better spent on extending secure cycle parking provision in the City………..or maybe just on improving road and cycle path surfaces.