The York Council, has announced today that road closures in The Groves area will start on 2nd September. The opening coincides with the start of the new school term – traditionally very busy week on the roads.
Although plans to reduce traffic in the area were widely welcomed, last minute changes to the proposals mean that there are elements of controversy. Not least among these are concerns about safety for cyclists on some of the contra flow lanes.
Some traders have also warned that there busiesses may be affected by the loss of passing trade and difficulties for delivery drivers.
The project does however have the support of the Green and Labour party Councillors who represent the area. It is to be hoped that the scheme has been better thought through than the recent closure of a traffic lane on Bishopthorpe Road.
Traffic level on the short cut routes through The Groves have, in any event, been very low since the lock-down period.
A council media release says,
City of York Council is introducing the planned trial road closures within The Groves on Wednesday 2 September.
This forms part of a local regeneration project and those who usually drive through the area are encouraged to plan an alternative route or where possible cycle or walk for local journeys. A leaflet and map of the changes is being circulated to residents and businesses in the area.
The work is part of a two-year regeneration project with residents to make the area an even better place to live. Local people have said they want better air quality, less traffic and the chance to build on the existing community spirit.
These aims support the council’s priorities of promoting sustainable travel. They also help with the need to maintain social distancing during the current Covid-19 pandemic.
All through routes in the Groves area between Haxby Rd/Clarence Street and Huntington Rd/Monkgate will be closed to traffic. Alternative routes are via the main roads surrounding the estate including Lord Mayors Walk.
The works that will be carried out are:
- The existing closure point at Neville Terrace will be removed to allow more direct access to Haxby Road from that side of The Groves.
- Road closure points will be introduced at the junction of Lowther Street/Brownlow Street, and on St Johns Crescent, Penleys Grove Street, Neville Terrace and Earle Street.
- Brownlow Street and March Street will become one-way streets except for cyclists, whilst Penleys Grove Street will be two-way to allow traffic to exit onto Monkgate from this part of The Groves.
Cycle routes in all directions throughout The Groves will continue and will benefit from less traffic.
A small number of parking spaces will be removed or relocated to make room for turning points at the closures, and the existing resident parking zones will merge so that local people can park more flexibly.
Planters will be placed at the majority of the closure points and residents will be invited to help plant them up.
The measures will be introduced over two days (1st and 2nd September). The work to introduce the measure will be undertaken under minimal traffic management.
Staff on site during the installation will be operating under social distancing guidance wherever possible due to the current restrictions with permission from the local authority to undertake this essential work at this time.
Household waste and recycling collections will take place as normal.
As with any construction work, there is likely to be a certain amount of disruption and inconvenience to the public while the closures are put in place. The contractor will at all times try to keep any disruption to a minimum. Once the measures have been introduced, they will be monitored and kept under review and can continue as experimental for up to 18 months.
During this time, the scheme may be adjusted in response to residents’ experience and feedback. The scheme can be made permanent (subject to consideration of comments received) at any point as long as it has been in place, unchanged, for at least six months.
Residents will be able to observe the measures and reflect on how they are working, and pass on their comments to the council for review by email firstname.lastname@example.org
There will be a public Executive Member for Transport decision meeting on the outcome of the trial after at least 6 months prior to confirming any permanent changes.
Builders have closed Ascot Way forcing a bus diversion. The road has been closed by builders working on the Lincoln Court/Windsor House site.
A pedestrian route has been maintained but vehicles including buses and cyclists face a detour.
The Council had previously claimed that the Centre for the Disabled, being built on the site of the former Windsor House home, would be completed in June. Work on this project, and the adjacent upgrade of the Lincoln Court apartments , looks to be some way from completion.
The Kingsway area has had more than its fair share of disruption in recent years. There is only one access road open and it has born the brunt of heavy vehicle operations. First there was the Hob Stone development – which dragged on for three years, then the Council development in Newbury Avenue to be quickly followed by the work now going on in Ascot Way.
Local residents are looking forward to the end of the disruption, the restoration of lost amenities plus urgently needed repairs to roads.
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.
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.
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.
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)
Decisions on a whole raft of changes to traffic access arrangements in The Groves area are due to be made at a meeting tomorrow morning.
Details can be found by clicking here
Several objections to the plans have been recorded. Most come from people who live in the affected area.
Some of the objectors have pointed to a lack of clarity on what the objectives of the exercise are and what success measures will be used? The Council is understood to be using some of the money, provided by the government to help with social distancing in the post COVID period, to fund the scheme.
At present, there is very little non local traffic using roads like Penley’s Grove Street.
The decision will be made by Cllr Andy D’Agorne. The decision can be “called in” for further consideration by any 3 Councillors. It would then be considered by an all party committee.
Separately the York Councils over reliance on “remote” meetings, and the delegation of major decisions to a small cabal of officials and politicians, is attracting increasing criticism.
Other Council are maintaining a more open and iterative process.
Yorkshire Water have completed their water mains repair on Gale Lane which has now reopened to traffic.
Tudor Road is still closed and will be for at least another 2 weeks. Still no provision has been made for cyclists. No doubt if this was a street located in the City Centre such neglect would bring a chorus of disapproval!
The Council is poised to make major changes to the plans for traffic restrictions in The Groves area which were agreed last year.
According to a report being considered at a meeting on 22nd June, additional road closures will be implemented. Some additional “on street” parking spaces will be lost.
The closures could be implemented within 2/3 weeks. The experimental traffic order would last for up to 18 months.
The revised plans include several “contraflow” cycle lanes on relatively narrow streets – a system criticised on safety grounds by some cyclists.
An expected restriction of school “drop off” arrangements has not materialised.
The Council has been reluctant to publish traffic modelling figures which would reveal the impact on congestion, journey times and pollution in this part of the City.
A large number of objections to the original plans were received by the Council. Residents were concerned about additional pollution on the longer diversion routes. Some cited difficulties with severance from key facilities like the hospital and Monks Cross. Others said that deliveries would be hampered while some local shops and businesses said that, if passing trade was lost, then they might close.
The haste to implement additional restrictions under the cloak of a COVID response will cause more general concerns. The City centre economy faces a major challenge over the next few months. Either people will return to shop there despite restrictions on public transport, or they will go elsewhere. Those measures, along with plans to close the key Castle car park, may be bad news for those retailers who are on the financial brink.
While the current lower traffic volumes may appear to be an opportunity for experiments, as we try to move out of recession, a more cautious approach is required.
The work to replace the gas main near the junction of Blossom Street and Holgate Road were completed on schedule. Traffic has been flowing easily this weekend.
However further road works on Nunnery Lane (and Tadcaster Road) are starting in June prompting calls for the trial lane closure on Bishopthorpe Road to be terminated.
The closure, ostensibly to free space for “social distancing, has prompted opposition from residents who point to higher pollution levels on alternative routes, cyclists who feel their “contraflow” route is unsafe and motorists who have been facing a 1 mile detour plus higher journey times.
Bollards placed along the edge of the footpath have actually made social distancing for pedestrians more difficult in places.
Lack of consultation with residents has been highlighted as a major concern, while the decision to coincide the closure with road works taking place on the detour route caused particular anger.
The scheme has led to a petition being gathered which calls for the scheme to be abandoned. It has already gained 900 signatures.
It can be found by clicking here http://chng.it/7KrqTHQGBp
Some commentators have said that the impulsive decision may put the case for creating a part time foot street at the Bishopthorpe Road shops back by a decade or longer.
Public antipathy had a similar effect following the failed Lendal Bridge closure 4 years ago.
The Council persisted with that project long after it became clear that it was ill judged and, indeed, ultimately proved to be unlawful.
The Council has belatedly published the background to its decision to introduce a contraflow cycle route at the Bishopthorpe Road shops.
The scheme – which diverts southbound traffic onto Nunnery Lane and Blossom Street – has been criticised for increasing safety risks for cyclists. Critics also say there has been an unnecessary increase in congestion and emission levels while road works are taking place near the Holgate Road junction.
A, very thin, background report was apparently considered by the acting Chief Executive Ian Floyd on 5th May. Details have only just emerged. There was no opportunity given for public consultation on the draft proposals.
It is claimed that the change was prompted by queuing issues for pedestrians on the butchers side of the road. The Council claims that some traders were restricting the public footpath width by displaying goods outside their shops.
The report sounded the following warning, “It should be noted that where highway space is limited the provision of more space for pedestrians will reduce the space available for other modes including cyclists and/or may complicate the layout of highways – making it harder for deliveries or road users to understand and/ or navigate”.
“There are Highway Maintenance works in the area which may mean that the road closure would need amending for a few nights in mid May”.
The changes cost £4000 with an ongoing weekly expenditure of £2000. The report says, “The maintenance cost could reduce if there were other traffic management schemes in the city at the same time.
It appears that no safety audit results were reported to the decision making meeting which was held in private.
The arrangement has impacted on the number 11, 26 & 21 bus services.
The report also says that measures may be warranted at the city centre food shops on Piccadilly, Low Ousegate and Micklegate.
Hopefully any such proposals will involve a full safety audit and consultation. Any changes in Low Ousegate in particular could have significant knock on effects on public transport.
NB. Some Labour Councillors are trying to change the policy that they advocated in January when they wanted to ban all private car use within the City walls. They now want to establish a Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in the same area. This would allow electric car users access but would hit commercial premises deliveries, and some bus services, very hard. It is not a practical short term option.
There is a more immediate need to address the travel needs of the large number former bus users who will be excluded from that mode of travel because of ongoing social distancing rules
Following the completion of the traffic signal renewal at the junction of Monkbar, Lord Mayor’s Walk and St Maurice’s Road, City of York Council will be resurfacing the junction from Sunday 10 May.
To minimise disruption work will take place overnight from 7.30pm – 5am and is expected to take five nights to complete, weather dependant. The work includes resurfacing the road and adding markings.
All crews carrying out the works will be operating under strict social distancing guidance due to the current Coronavirus restrictions. All but essential maintenance has been paused during the outbreak of Coronavirus.
We have worked with trade unions and our supply chain to develop new ways of working during the pandemic. This ensures that works on the road can happen in a safe way for front line operatives and the public, whilst roads are quieter than normal.
This follows guidance from the Department of Transport, which has asked council’s to continue with normal highway maintenance as much as possible.
To minimise disruption the resurfacing work will be carried out in two phases as follows:
- Phase 1 (Sun 10 May – Tue 12 May): Jewbury/St Maurice’s Road and Goodramgate Closed with traffic on Lord Mayor’s Walk and Monkgate down to a single lane operating under lane closures and temporary lights. Jewbury/St Maurice’s Road will be turned in to a 2-way road allowing access and egress to and from the hotels and Cloisters Walk only (no through traffic). Access and egress will only be granted to St Maurice’s Road/Jewbury from the direction of Layerthorpe/Foss Islands Road/Peasholme Green. The slip road on Foss Bank to Jewbury will also be closed.
- Phase 2 (Wed 13 May – Thu 14 May): All roads will remain open with traffic on Lord Mayor’s Walk and Monkgate down to a single lane.
The roads will need to be closed during the resurfacing work on phase 1. Clearly signed diversion routes will be in place for through traffic. The closure is to ensure that adequate health and safety is maintained for local residents, the travelling public and the contractors undertaking the work.
Emergency services will be permitted through the works in any situation. A one way system will be in place on pavements to ensure that people can effectively distance themselves from other footway users.
All on street parking in the working area and within close proximity to the works will be suspended including a small section of on street parking on Lord Mayors Walk during work times.
During phase 1, Bus services 12 and 14 will be diverted via Layerthorpe, Eboracum Way and Heworth Green meaning Monkgate will not be served. Buses from the direction of Haxby to York/Foxwood will not be affected.
For more information visit www.york.gov.uk/monkbar