York got its first “social distancing” footpath widening on Bishopthorpe Road today. Southbound vehicles now face a 1 mile detour via Nunnery Lane and Blossom Street. It is said that this will allow those queuing outside the butchers shop to have a 2 metre social distancing space.
But the execution of the project does suggest planning based on impulse rather than the result of a more considered approach.
Not least this is because the alternative route is itself obstructed this week as extensive water company road works are take place on Blossom Street.
Still it is even more good news for street sign manufacturers. In a week where we have seen £700,000 allocated to new City centre direction signs and a, largely unnecessary, lamppost replacement programme eroding highway maintenance budgets still further, we now see what can only be described as a confusing forest of road closed signs appearing on Bishopthorpe Road.
The big potential losers are those who depend on two wheeled transport. The northbound cycle lane has been scrapped while an ambiguous sign on the southern approach implies that a contraflow lane is available. Not surprisingly few cyclists were today prepared to risk riding against the traffic flow on the improvised – and relatively narrow – new central carriageway. There are safer routes available via St Benedict’s Road or the Darnborough Street/Vine Street loop.
So – just as with the Lendal Bridge closure fiasco of a few years ago – the law of unintended consequences has set in on this well intentioned initiative.
Elsewhere, there are easier gains to be had. Cycle paths (and some footpaths) are once again being overgrown by weeds and bushes. A few pounds spent there would produce a better return than is evident on Bishopthorpe Road.
A trial pedestrianisation of this shopping area may well be worth considering when traffic flows have returned to normal. But everyone needs to accept that less traffic here will mean more passing vehicles in other residential areas.
Thankfully the Council has put on hold its plan to stop traffic using The Groves area as a short cut. Critics of the plan pointed out that it could mean gridlock for Lord Mayors Walk with serious implications for emergency vehicle response times together with a knock on effect on public transport. Trial road closures, in the current unique circumstances, wouldn’t prove anything.
It is another scheme that needs to be re-evaluated as and when the City’s economy – and the Councils finances – return to more normal levels.