Following on from our story yesterday, there has been some progress with getting cycle paths cleared of overgrowth
Workers were out on the SUSTRANS York – Riccall path today. They had cleared vegetation blockages from about 50% of the track by mid afternoon. They hadn’t reached the path near Riccall whichsuffers the worst obstructions
Meanwhile Highways England have tweeted (left) to say that the section of cycle path next to the A64 will be cleared later this month
The York Council responded today to say that the section of cycle track on Tadcaster Road next to the golf course had been cleared. Sadly, on checking today, we found that it hadn’t been touched.
The Council has revealed its transport investment budget for the new financial year.
£44.2 million has been allocatedto a range of improvements although the vast majority of the budget has been earmarked for dualling the outer ring road (£21.3 million) and improvements to the railway station frontage (£13.5 million). Neither of the schemes will be completed during the year as extensive preparatory works are required.
£1.2 million will be spent on the ongoing programme of modernising traffic signals (this will include replacing the Front Street pelican crossing along with lights at 8 other locations across the City).
Residents of the west of the City will be disappointed to see that their neighbourhood has been snubbed when allocations from the pedestrian and cycling budget have been made. Not for the first-time investment, is being focused on the central and eastern parts of the City.
A welcome, but very modest, allocation has been made for bus shelter replacement (£100k). Many of the council owned shelters are looking very tatty now with a belated repainting programme proving to be “too little, too late” and failing to bring about a lasting improvement.
Similarly, a £50,000 allocation for Public Rights of Way (PROW) structural repairs is long overdue. Sadly, the budget will barely make a dent in the backlog of work need to stiles, signage, and repairs to flooded sections of path.
All in all then, a mixed picture.
Hopefully the highway maintenance allocations – which have still not been publicised – will be targeted at repairing the worst roads and paths many of which are located in west York.
The cost to taxpayers of paying interest and redemption charges on the extra borrowing is put at £1.4 million a year.
The Council says that the costs of the new Knapton forest will now be met from “external sources”. It is therefore switching that expenditure into buying electric vehicles and associated charging facilities at a cost of over £5 million.
£100,000 will fund an “access barrier review”. This is thought to be a response to a section of the cycle lobby which is opposed to the use of safety barriers where they slow cycle movements. While an audit of infrastructure standards and repair works on the York cycle network is long overdue, concentration of limited resources on the relatively trivial barrier issue reflects poor prioritisation.
£1.1 million will be spent repairing Lendal Bridge while £1 million is reserved for the – more than slightly opaque – “COVID recovery fund”.
Probably the most controversial proposal is the plan to cut another £3.2 million from highways maintenance. This is the fund which is used to reconstruct road and path surfaces. It is a long-term investment which gives carriageways a 30 year plus lifespan. In turn this minimises the risk of frost damage. The large number of potholes which we have seen on the highway network recently suggests reconstruction should be a high priority.
. The cut in the highways maintenance budget is partly justified by officials who point to the £5 million being paid by central government for the resurfacing of Tadcaster Road (for the second time in less than a year). The resurfacing will not provide any additional benefit for road users.
Money is being transferred from highways resurfacing to fund the Council’s £2 million contribution to the Fordlands Road flood alleviation scheme. This is the scheme which should have been completed, and funded, as part of the recent improvements to the A19 in Fulford.
The report points out that there could still be further costs to be added to the budget as work on York Central, the Guildhall, Castle Gateway and dualling the outer ring road proceeds.
It looks like the government’s announcement in November of a £600,000 grant for cycling and walking in York has strings attached. A “matching” amount is required from local taxpayers.
The York Council had bid for a share of what was termed an “Emergency Active Travel Fund”.
It was originally designed to promote social distancing and reduce pressure on public transport. Early examples if the kind of scheme supported by the York Council included the controversial Bishopthorpe Road one way system (since abandoned) and The Groves Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme. Several foot streets were also extended.
Now the government (rightly) says greater weight should be given to consultation, with Local Authorities required to publish a consultation plan for their programmes by 11th December 2020. Details of York’s Active Travel Fund Tranche 2 application and the Consultation Plan are available as downloads at:https://www.york.gov.uk/lets-york/active-travel-bid/1
The costs of the individual schemes have now been revealed.
The most expensive is the proposal to construct a cycle path from Wheldrake village to Heslington.
This comes in at an eye watering £550,000.
There has still not been any attempt made to estimate the likely use of such a path although the Councils origin and destination surveys make a cost/benefit analysis relatively easy to produce.
Ironically, this project does not even appear in the list of cycling schemes that the Council has built up over the years. This is reproduced in a report being considered later this week. (click).
At least that list attempts to assess what impact the investment would have on transport choices. The top-rated improvement locations are
St Leonards Place / Museum Street / Lendal Bridge / Station Road
Micklegate / Bridge Street / Nessgate / Coppergate / Pavement / Stonebow / Peasholme Green
Improvements to Station Road / Station Avenue gyratory
Route through former British Sugar site
Castle Gateway Foss Bridge
York Central – link from Chancery Rise
Bar Lane / Toft Green / Tanner Row
The Council is being urged to develop a new “walking and cycling strategy”. Certainly, those who walk will feel somewhat neglected by current York Council policies. Even more so when they see the lack of progress being made on determining 19 outstanding Public Right of Wayapplications. Some have been outstanding for over 20 years.
The main issue remains a lack of investment in maintaining the existing transport network.
The endless pressure to borrow more money simply sucks resources from the Councils maintenance budget. The results are deteriorating cycle and footpath surfaces coupled with potholed highway margins.
This neglect poses an increasing hazard for pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users.
City of York Council has been allocated £658,350 to support more active travel across York and the many residents who are choosing to walk and cycle more throughout the city’s COVID recovery.
The Government’s Active Travel Fund is designed to support walking and cycling as a long-term method for commuting. To receive any allocation from the fund, the council must carry out wide reaching engagement on a variety of proposed schemes to inform designs for people-centred transport infrastructure and more active travel opportunities for residents.
There is likely to be some scepticism about the Council choice of schemes (see below). It’s plan for a cycle path from Wheldrake (pop 2000) to the City centre for example doesn’t appear to have been based on any sort of cost benefit analysis.
Other villages such as Dunnington (pop 3300) are closer, so cycling is likely to be a much more attractive option for commuters living in that area.
The Council has computer modelling facilities available which would allow it to prioritise, what are very scarce, resources on initiatives which will give the maximum “bang per buck”. We’ve had too many impulsive decisions in the recent past ..and too many vanity projects. Decisions need to be made with clear base line figures, milestones, quantifiable targets and proper outturn appraisals.
No plans have been announced to improve the lamentable state of the existing cycle network. Parts of the York Selby cycle path – which is not too far away from Wheldrake – is currently unusable because of surface damage
According to the Council, “the consultation, which will launch later this year, will provide residents the opportunity to shape future plans and ensure that they are designed to meet the needs of local communities. By using the consultation to develop high quality cycle routes, we can encourage more people to walk and cycle as part of their everyday travel in the city”.
This funding is the second phase of funding, following on from an initial £193,000 received in summer this year.
The Council claims that, “This second phase of funding will allow the city to build upon action taken so far this year through temporary changes to road layout and improving cycle safety, and enable the council to design and implement more permanent and wider reaching schemes to support residents with active travel opportunities across the city”.
The measures proposed to be consulted upon and delivered include:
Measures on Shipton Road (north of Clifton Green), linking with ongoing improvements to cycling infrastructure on Bootham;
Cycle lanes along Acomb Road;
Some city centre measures, for example a pedestrian/ cyclists crossing of Tower Street near St George’s Field;
Improvements to the cycle lane on the A1237 bridges over the Ouse and East Coast Main Line;
Cycle improvements between Wheldrake and Heslington.
Consultation will be carried out in the coming months and feedback collected from this will be reported at an Executive Member for Transport Decision Session in early 2021.
This work will be carried out in coordination with the implementation of the council’s Economic Recovery Strategy. The strategy focuses on prioritising active travel, working with bus and rail operators to ensure people can continue to use public transport with confidence and creating a more people-focussed city centre.
The council’s iTravel team will be supporting engagement across local communities and schools to better understand barriers to active travel and how this funding can improve this across the city.
Residents will wake up this morning to discover that the York central development has passed another milestone. It now has the necessary planning permissions to permit a start to be made on site.
A Public Inquiry will still be held to determine whether Leeman Road near the Railway Museum can be stopped up.
Overall the development should provide a welcome boost for jobs and homes in the City.
The Council has, however, failed to recognise the importance of “first impressions” and the practicalities of accessing the site by various modes of transport.
The proposed one way system through the Leeman Road tunnel is ridiculous. It means more congestion and a cycle ride which will be both awkward and – in wet weather – unnecessarily unpleasant.
The access from Wilton Rise is hopeless for all but the fittest cyclists and is totally inaccessible for the disabled. The promised new cycle bridge from Chancery Rise should have been incorporated in the latest planning application but no Councillor seems to have had the guts to highlight the issue.
So off to a bad start then.
Lets hope the developers come up with some solutions to these issues before the new properties are occupied.
A report being presented to a decision meeting next week recommends thatMarygate car parkbe reduced in size by six spaces.
It is part of the fall-out from a proposal which would see the adjacent railway cycle path widened.
There have already been complaints from season pass holders that they have been unable to find space to park because of an impulsive, and totally unjustified, initiative which saw 70 spaces coned off a few months ago.
More welcome, are plans to provide a ramp access to St Mary’s. This will help both disabled buggy users and cyclists.
A design for new traffic lights at the St Mary’s junction with Bootham is also suggested.
Objections to the plans are dismissed out of hand by officials although the report does say that a safety audit on the proposals has been completed (the results of it are not detailed in the papers).
The scheme will cost around £360,000 including £60,000 for the path widening part of the project.
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 reportto 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).
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.
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.
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
The Council has started an “on line” consultation about the changes that they plan to make to the pedestrian/cycle route which links Scarborough Bridge to St Mary’s, Bootham and beyond.
Unfortunately very few people know about the plans or the consultation.
The background information glosses over the future of the Marygate car park.
The main area of concern relates to the possible permanent loss of parking spaces in the car park. The car park has been very popular with visitors and shoppers over recent months. It is vital for the City centre economy.
Unfortunately around 40 spaces at the car park have been unusable since the York Council coned them off in June.
The consultation document says “Marygate car park will be relined to enable a modest widening of Railway Walk”
It doesn’t say how many spaces will be lost.
There is no opportunity given on the survey to support or oppose individual sections of the proposal. Instead only narrative comments are invited.
It will be impossible to quantify these, so the final decision on the scheme will rest with one York Executive Councillor (Cllr D’Agorne)
Other aspects of the plans are likely to be less controversial.
Construction of a shared-use, low gradient, ramp over the existing short flight of stairs from St. Mary’s to Marygate Lane to enable people travelling by bike or on foot, as well as people with mobility issues to use St. Mary’s as a preferred quiet route.
The improvements here will also include some resurfacing of the carriageway.
Introduce traffic signals at the junction of Bootham (A19)/St. Mary’s/The Drive to provide a controlled and safer crossing of and exit onto the A19 for people travelling by bike.
This will also benefit residents of St. Mary’s by giving them a controlled exit onto Bootham to overcome queues from inbound traffic
The existing nearby pedestrian crossing on Bootham will be upgraded and brought into the same control as the new signals. Three on-street car parking spaces on St. Mary’s to be removed closest to the junction to allow the stop-line to be set back into the street.