Face mask Friday – but concern grows about Council knee jerk decisions

Face masks will have to be worn in shops from today. It remains to be seen how effective this government policy will be.

What is now clear is that some of the impulsive decisions taken a couple of months ago, at the peak of the pandemic by the York Council, have not met the test of time.

Tinkering with traffic systems without proper consultation or impact assessments was always a recipe for failure.

Crucially no attempt was made to define how success would be measured.

So how have they fared?

Bishopthore Road lane closure

This was intended to provide queuing space for shoppers. It was claimed that it would make social distancing easier.

Critics pointed to new hazards for cyclists on the contraflow lane, increased congestion & pollution on alternative routes and a missed opportunity to trial an off peak pedestrian area (10:30am – 4:00pm) approach.

The results have been disappointing with the alternative Nunnery Lane/Blossom Street/ Scarcroft Road suffering for increased congestion. Bus services have been adversely affected. There has been short cutting through residential areas like St Benedict Road where parking is also now a problem

There is little footpath queuing on the east of the shopping area. The forecourted shops on the other side have adequate space although bollards have reduced flexibility.

Verdict – scrap it

An ill considered scheme which missed the opportunity that part time pedestrianisation might have offered.

Fortunately there have been no accidents involving cyclists yet, although northbound traffic levels remain below average (as they do across the whole of the highway network)

Reduced social distancing requirements (now one metre rather than two) and the introduction of face masks should lead to this trial being abandoned. A more thorough consultation on the options for the Bishopthorpe Road area could then take place.

Bollards have not improved social distancing on Bishopthorpe Road
Problems with car parking and short cutting through the St Benedict’s Road area

Foss Bridge

One of the general traffic lanes across Foss Bridge on the inner ring road was repurposed for cyclists (southbound) . The lane had been coned off while maintenance work on the bridge was carried out in the early spring.

Most cyclists opt to use the riverside off road path. Comparatively few choose to use the inner ring road.

Verdict – retain and consult on its future

There has been little congestion on this section of the inner ring road although general travel patterns are not expected to return to pre COVID levels before September.

The cycle lane has been obstructed on occasions by delivery drivers, taxi pick ups etc. so the solution is less than perfect.

Vehicle numbers on this section of the inner ring road greatly exceed the number of cyclists

Monk Bar car park disabled spaces

The Council allocated 40 spaces at the Monk Bar car park for blue badge holders when additional access & parking restrictions were introduced in the City centre (e.g. Goodramgate). A “free” taxi service link to the rear of Kings Square is offered. The decision – like several others – was taken by the Councils acting chief executive with no prior consultation.

Blue badge holders can park on single yellow lines and park free of charge at Council car parks.

The little used taxi service is costing taxpayers £354 a day.

It appears that no attempt was made to assess the demand for disabled parking spaces at Monk Bar or for the taxi link. The Council didn’t specify the use of low emission vehicles on the taxi contract

Typically no more than five blue badge holders are parking at Monk Bar at any one time. The remaining general parking spaces are being increasingly used but the car park has yet to reach the full occupation levels seen before the pandemic. The Council has also recently allocated more on street parking spaces for blue badge holders in streets like Duncombe Place.

While the initiative was well intentioned, the Council hopelessly misjudged the demand for the service.

Verdict – revise the scheme

The number of reserved spaces can be reduced and the taxi link abandoned. Consultations can take place with disabled group representatives and traders on other options. These might include a “home to city centre” subsidised taxi service for the disabled where costs are recompensed when goods are bought.

Monk Bar blue badge spaces unused
Narrow access path at Monk Bar car park. No provision made for social distancing (see Maygate below)

Marygate car park

Around 40 parking spaces have been cordoned off. The Council claimed it was to allow cyclists to avoid joint use of the footpath (which links Scarborough Bridge to Bootham Terrace). In turn this helped to maintain a two metre social distancing zone.

The scheme was criticised when proposed because if failed to assess the effectiveness of the obvious alternative (encouraging cyclists to use the internal car park service road) which would have involved the loss of only one parking space.

There were bigger problems on other routes from Scarborough Bridge both at the north (Marygate) end of the bridge and crucially at the station itself. A narrow tunnel connects the shared cycle/footpath to Bootham Terrace.

The introduction of one metre social distancing guidelines and the use of face masks will reduce any health threat.

Observations at the car park suggest that the cycle route through the parking spaces is very little used (with some cyclists opting to use the service road anyway).

The car park has been busy on occasions but has not yet reached capacity. This may change if August is as busy as it has been in the past

Verdict – amend the scheme to allow cyclists to use the car park service road.

There is no Coronavirus heath justification for routing cyclists through car parking spaces. The break in the perimeter fence can be retained – and one place bollarded off – to allow access via the service road to Bootham Tce and Almery Garth. A ramp to St Mary’s – promised but never delivered – would be a useful for both cyclists and disabled buggy users.

The Council should sort out an acceptable route for cyclists wishing to access the route from Scarborough bridge to Lowther Tce (long term plans for the station frontage remodelling need to recognise this demand)

Conned off section on Marygate car park is little used by cyclists
No cycling when you reach the station

Highway repairs list for “second quarter” revealed

The council has published details of the footpaths, cycle routes and carriageways that it plans to resurface in July, August and September.

There is more than a little irony in some of the choices. Bishopthorpe Road – part of which is currently closed to traffic – will be resurfaced. Tadcaster Road is mentioned although this work has effectively been completed.

£408,000 is to be spent on the National Cycle Route 65. The local part of this route links Selby via York to north of Skelton. The section from Naburn to Riccall has been criticised as being virtually impassable for ordinary road bikes because fo tree root damage. It is understood, however, that this is not the section that will be reconstructed. (NB. A section of Terry Avenue is likely to be badly affected by flood prevention works over the next 2 years)

National Cycle Route 65

Path obstructions hinder social distancing

The Council has started to put signs out warning about upcoming road resurfacing schemes in areas like Tadcaster Road, Nunnery Lane and James Street.

Unfortunately some of the signs are blocking footpaths making “social distancing” more difficult.

Council signs blocking footpaths on Tadcaster Road

Some Councillors have promised to take up the issue but really a more fundamental change is needed.

Signs could be place on lampposts at a height that would inconvenience no one while being clearer to all road and path users.

Weed growth and faded signage on neglected cycle paths near A1237 at Clifton Moor

There are also increasing problems with paths being blocked by overgrown hedges while weed growth go unchecked on the path surfaces.

Social distancing difficult on the River Ouse cycle/foot path near Scarborough bridge

There are concerns that some locations, which had problems with weed growth in 2019, have again been omitted from this year’s treatment programme.

No sign of weed “die back” on Tadcaster Road cycle track

There is little evidence of “die back” on some routes despite the first treatment cycle having finished.

Overgrown hedges have blocked the footpath at Clifton Moor
Carriageway and cycle lane impeded also at Clifton Moor

Keeping cycle paths open

We’ve reached the time of year when hedge growth can begin to block cycle and footpaths. Fortunately, because many are currently working from home at the present time, domestic hedges should be getting regular attention (subject to protecting nesting birds). The lack of a green waste bin emptying service is, of course, an issue that will need to be resolved.

It is less clear what resources the Council will be able to deploy to keep on top of public hedges.

In the meantime it may be down to volunteers.

Thorn branches trimmed from cycle track entrance

We trimmed back thorn branches today from the cycle track at the top of Askham Bryan Lane. They were growing at eye height and represented a potential hazard for both cyclists and walkers.

However it is probably expecting too much to depend on a purely voluntary effort to trim overgrowth.

For some time we have suggested that there is a need to appoint a couple of Path Wardens. They  would be responsible (in summer) for ensuring that there were no obstructions for either cyclists or pedestrians. They could also fill in potholes and repaint markings while keeping signage and other infrastructure in good condition.

 In winter they could help with de-icing.

Whether the Council can rebalance its budget, when the present crisis if over, to give greater priority to maintenance issues like these remains to be seen.

In the meantime, residents should continue to report incidents where obstructions represent a hazard for path users.

Hedges – A good time to check if they need trimming

There were a lot of problems during the summer with hedges obstructing public paths. In some cases, the obstructions were caused by Council owned trees and bushes. The jury is still out on whether new processes and budget allocations announced earlier this week will result in an improvement during 2020.

Hedges on the boundary of private gardens and the public highway (including foot and cycle paths) are the responsibility of the hedge owner. Home occupiers must ensure that the highway is kept clear of obstructions at all times

Obstructions can be a significant problem for some users. The partially sighted are at a particular risk and cyclists being “swiped” by stray branches can lead to more serious accidents.

In some cases thorn buses like brambles and roses overhang paths representing an added hazard.

Thorn bush branches at eye height are a particular risk

Sadly, like the problems with damage to verges, in recent years the Council has been tardy in ensuring that hedges are cut back from paths. They do have enforcement powers which have been used in the past to force action. In extreme cases hedges have been cut back to the path line after notice periods have expired. The owners were charged for the work.

No such notices have been issued recently.

Of course, some occupiers may not be physically able to cut badly overgrown hedges. It has been suggested that this is a service area that a “not for profit” start-up could usefully exploit. There are already several local gardening companies which offer trimming services.

Even the Councils own cycle tracks were obstructed last summer

With leaves now off trees and hedges, winter is the optimum time to deal with long standing problems. This needs to be done before the start of the bird nesting season.

The Council also has powers to require its tenants to cut garden hedges as do social landlords.

We have advocated for some time the appointment of a paths supervisor who could trim back Council owned hedges and initiate action against irresponsible neighbours who cause obstructions. We hope that the Council will fund such a post in its new budget.

We hope to see some well publicised action from West Offices over the next few weeks.

Plan to grit 11 miles of York’s cycle network

New off road vehicles are set to be used to grit 11miles (18km) of York’s cycle network this winter.

If successful, the pilot could be extended across the city to help keep cyclists safer in winter conditions.

A report detailing the pilot will be taken to a public meeting on Thursday 19 September, for approval to start during the winter season between November and March.

The pilot includes using two different vehicles to grit 11miles (18km) of cycle network, using small all-terrain vehicles including a quad bike and a gator type machine.

The trial is welcome but rather distracts attention from other more pressing issues facing cyclists.

Many cycle paths in the City are obstructed

Many cycle paths are currently obstructed by overhanging hedge and tree branches. Unchecked weed growth has also reduced path widths as has the failure of the Council to systematically “edge” verges.

Perhaps the most pressing issue though is potholes. These affect some cycle lanes and many inner sections of carriageways – the surfaces most used by cyclists.

It is now 10 years since the last major programme of cycle margin maintenance works took place in the City.

The Council says that, “Popular cycle routes have been chosen for the de-icing trial, including the new Scarborough Bridge and other off road bridges too.

The introduction of the new smaller vehicles will ensure the networks are effectively gritted.  Off road cycle networks are often difficult to grit or salt because cycles don’t have the same weight or action as a vehicle tyre. Effective gritting works by vehicles driving over the grit with their tyres which beds the grit into the snow and ice.

Whilst cars or heavy vehicles generally follow the same tyre path. Cycle tyres are much thinner and therefore these typical treatments are less effective.

For the pilot, the council will hire the vehicles and if, following the pilot, the council decides to roll this scheme out across York, it will look to purchase new vehicles to the council’s fleet.

The cost of the pilot is estimated to be £42k. This will be met by the current winter maintenance budget which is £401k.

By its nature the winter maintenance budget is not predictable, in 2018/19 there was an underspend of £61k. Should this not occur in 2019/20 there is a winter maintenance contingency available of £258k, in addition to the annual budget, which could be utilised.

This pilot will not formally be part of the council’s Winter Service Plan, but will run alongside this a pilot.  After the winter the pilot will be assessed and considered for formally incorporating into the Winter Service Plan”.

Preparing for the winter season:

The council has stockpiled 3,000 tonnes of grit, which is stored in its grit barn at Hazel Court depot.

On average, crews spread around 4,500 tonnes of grit per season, over 75 road treatments (gritter runs).

Each season, crews treat eight routes across the highway, covering 365km of York’s road network, including 22km of priority footpaths and, when recourses allow, 58km of cycle network.

The decision session takes place on Thursday 19 September 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

A copy of the report can be read by clicking here

More blocked cycle and footpaths in York

We urge residents to report what appears to be an increasing number of instances of paths being obstructed by hedges in the City

The cycle path on Field Lane in the Hull Road ward is now completely blocked. Hasn’t happened overnight!

The public footpath on Hull Road outside The Elms is now completely obstructed. Potentially dangerous on what is a busy road. Pedestrians are being forced onto the carriageway.
Not a hazard (yet) but gutters in Maple Grove are choked with weeds. Verges an eclectic mix of weeds and wildflowers

The Thanet Road cycle track on the other side of the City has its share of obstructions but the main issue here continues to be litter.

Idyllic scenes on the Ouse BUT…

Cyclists will be hoping that the York Council’s announcement that £500,000 will be spent upgrading major cycle routs in the City will allow for work to be undertaken on the York – Selby path. In places, the popular leisure route has become very uneven following the ravages of winter.

River Ouse at Naburn today. Well within its banks

Snow melt has caused large ponds to form on low woodland

The cycle track is still scarred by graffiti and dumping. The Council no longer clears graffiti unless it is judged to be obscene.

Get in gear for the York Festival of Cycling

A renowned free event, the York Festival of Cycling will return once again on Sunday 11 September.

The event has something for the whole family from toddlers to grandparents with all sorts of pedal powered activities for people to take part in. There will be bikes and trikes of all shapes and sizes including adapted bikes, balance bikes and tandems for people to test ride.

While the Council is right to promote cycling as an environmentally friendly way of getting around, we are increasingly worried about the quality of some of the cycle paths and cycle lanes in the City.
Cars blockig cycle path exit Bishopthorpe 23rd June 2011 Detritus leaves and litter Grange Lane cycle path 1400 13th Dec 2015 Detritus on cycle path near tesco roundabout Tadcaster rd Entrance to sustans cycle path blocked by overgrown hedge 19th June 2011 PM Hedge overgrowing cycle path back Martin Cheeseman Court nettles Water Lane Hazelnut Grove cycle path 0900 5th Sept 2016 Overgrown cycle path near Tesco 5th June 2012 Trees impeding cycle path Tadcaster near Tesco 19th June 2011 Trees overhanging cycle path Tadcaster Road 19th June 2011 Overgrown hedge cycle path Skiddaw to Eden Close

Many cycle paths have become overgrown by nettles, brambles, bushes and trees. Some entrances to the paths are obstructed by parked vehicles while broken glass can also be a problem.

We think that the Council needs to check the paths and lanes on a regular basis and make sure that they are clear and safe for users. 

BMX stunt team ‘Savage Skills’ will be performing throughout the day showing some of the amazing tricks that can be done on two wheels. There will also be ‘The AirBag’ for BMXers to try out their airborne tricks without the worry of a hard landing.

North Yorkshire Police will be on hand with their state of the art ‘dot peen’ property marking machine. They will be security marking cycles and other valuable items during the day free of charge.

Re-Cycle York will be providing a Doctor Bike service at the event to give festival attendees a free health check of their bike.

Cllr Nigel Ayre, Executive Member for Leisure, Culture and Tourism, said: “Now in its seventh year the Festival of Cycling continues to draw huge crowds year after year. The festival gives residents and visitors a great opportunity to find out about the health benefits and how fun cycling can be for people of all ages and abilities.”

The i-Travel York team will also be available to provide travel advice and information for residents to encourage them to try out sustainable modes of travel, including cycling and walking. For more information visit Festival of Cycling.

On Sunday 11 September Sky Ride York will take place giving people the chance to ride around a 7km traffic free loop taking in some of the city’s picturesque streets and historic landmarks. The route will be open from 11am-4pm giving residents the chance to ride it as much, or as little as they want and at a pace to suit everyone. Residents and visitors can sign up to Sky Ride York at www.goskyride.com/YorkSkyRide

Cyclists on the Sky Ride York route will be able to enter Rowntree Park from both the Butchers Field/Butchers terrace and Terry Avenue entrances.