Waste collection and other problems mount for York residents

Anyone reading the agenda for todays City of York Council meeting may mistake it for a meeting of a University debating society. Verbose, borderline pompous, motions and amendments dominate the agenda.

As the first face to face meeting of the authority since coronavirus struck, there has been plenty of time to fashion an agenda which talks to the people of the City.

Instead we have are offered the spectacle of Council members essentially having a chat with each other.

The City’s day to day problems may as well be taking place on another planet.

The meeting is, for the first time, being held at the racecourse. Perhaps bookmakers will be on hand to offer odds on anything useful emerging as the race reaches the final furlong at 10:00pm?

Earlier in the week, the Councillor responsible for waste collection held a special meeting to discuss the pressing issue of the release of “Chinese lanterns” in the City. The opportunity to also discuss the backlog in refuse collection was missed.

Yet hundreds of unemptied green bins currently adorn our streets.

Earlier a controversial change in the playground refurbishment programme was agreed at a “behind closed doors” meeting. Emergency “delegation” powers – which allow officers to make decisions without consultation or democratic input – were exploited.

The opposition claim (with some justification) to be outraged by the decision. Have they found a way of holding those responsible to account? Apparently not, judging by tonight’s agenda.

With (rightly or wrongly) COVID restrictions being lifted from Monday, the Councils top priority should now be to end the emergency powers and introduce effective governance arrangements.

In the real world, taxpayers expect basic public standards to be maintained.

It is not just the York Council that is out of touch.

Sad to report that, as of yesterday, the promised work to remove overgrowth obstructions from the A64/Tadcaster Road cycle path had not been completed by Highways/Yorks or the Council.

Obstructions on Tadcaster Road cycle path

The lack of action contrasts with the panic decisions taken last spring when roads and car parks were closed in order to allow “social distancing” on paths which were already much wider than those which are currently obstructed.

Too many blocked cycle paths

It happens each year, but we are still waiting for improvements to maintenance standards on local cycle routes.

The media were asking earlier in the week why people are put off cycling?

One reason is poor infrastructure maintenance.

Cycle paths are particualrly vulnerable to overgrowth causing obstructions. It the growth is nettles or thorn bushes then some may simply tur back.

These are some current examples of obstructions

The cycle track between the golf club and the A1036 Tadcaster Road is now effectively blocked for many users.
The A64 cycle oath near Bilbrough is also obstructed by nettles and brambles
Even the generally well maintained SUSTRANs cycle path near Riccall is overgrown. No sign yet of the badly damaged path surface being repaired.

Time to end secrecy of “all party” transport group”

Councillors from all parties represented on the York Council have apparently been holding meetings to discuss future transport policies. It is likely that the deliberations will influence the fourth edition of the upcoming “Local Transport Plan”

There have been tensions between the main groups represented on the Council since Labour “bounced” an anti-car motion though the Council shortly after the last local elections.

The motion sought to ban “inessential journeys” within the “City Walls”. No traffic impact modelling was commissioned before the motion was passed. They have subsequently made no attempt to define what an “inessential journey” is or how any such definition could be enforced.

The motion would mean the reintroduced of restrictions/tolls on the use of Lendal Bridge as well as Ouse Bridge.

Labour’s defeat at the last local elections owed much to their traffic ban on Lendal bridge, with its chief architect – Dave Merrett – losing his Council seat.

Now “behind closed doors” meetings have apparently  been taking place in an attempt to find a consensus.

There are concerns that Councillors are being bullied into accepting an extreme transport plan fronted by a small number of members from the York Civic Trust. They have used the cover of a retired University transport lecturer to give their plans credibility.

Liberal Democrat Councillors would be wise to  abandon this secretive approach to policy formulation. Something more inclusive is needed.

If history tell us anything, then it is that the residents of York will not tolerate a “we know what’s best for you” attitude from its elected representatives.

‘Try before you buy’ scheme for E-Cycles and more e-scooters coming.

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City of York Council has been awarded £133,040 from the Department for Transport to offer York residents the chance to try an e-cycle before considering purchasing one at a discounted price.

The ‘E-Cycle Switch’ scheme is set to launch next month offering anyone that lives, works or studies in York the opportunity to borrow an e-cycle from a participating local bike shop and trial it for 7 days with no obligation to buy. Once their trial is complete, participants will be eligible for a £300 discount off e-cycles at any participating bike shop.

Around 60% of car journeys are less than 5 miles, meaning the simple switch to more sustainable modes of transport can have a positive impact on health, local air quality and congestion across the city. Additionally, the carbon emission of an electric cycles is less than 10% of a petrol fuelled car over its lifecycle.

Over the past 12 months retailers across the UK have seen a spike in e-cycle sales as lockdown encouraged many to choose active travel in their local area. However, cost has proven to be a significant barrier to those wishing to try out this sustainable mode of transport.

Variations of the scheme are being finalised to accommodate for the inclusion of adapted e-cycles with an increased discount and also for an extended trial period and increased discount for those currently unemployed and seeking employment.

Once the scheme goes live, participants will be able to sign up online via the iTravel website to take part in the ‘try before you buy’ scheme. Working with participating local bike shops across the city, customers will be able to choose their preferred shop and liaise directly with the shop to collect an e-cycle that is right for them. Once the trial is complete, there will be the option the purchase any e-cycle from any of the participating retailers with a discount of £300.

E-Scooter trial to be extended in York

City of York Council has agreed to extend the e-scooter trial in York for a further 6 months.

The DfT has approved an extension of the current e-scooter trials taking place across the country until the 31 March 2022. The extension of the trial includes York, a city which has been part of the trial group since October 2020.

This extension will provide extra time for all trial areas to reach expected capacity of e-scooters as restrictions continue to ease. In addition, the extended period will allow for the DfT to gather additional data to inform future legislation.

The e-scooter and e-bike service currently provided by TIER mobility, supports a ‘green’ restart for local travel across the city and has provided a sustainable and convenient alternative for residents and visitors whilst public transport capacity was restricted. Since the service went live around 10,000 unique riders have made almost 40,000 trips around the city using a TIER e-scooter or e-bike, covering over 140,000 miles of York’s roads and cycle paths.

The six month extension of the trial is also accompanied by an expansion of the maximum number of e-scooters now permitted in the city, following the successful take-up of the service. The maximum number has been raised from 700 to 1,000 to ensure growing demand for the service is met, covering more than 45 parking areas across York.

Big cuts to transport investment in York

The York Council is planning to reduce the amount that it spends during the current financial year on two landmark transport projects

The budget for the dualling of the outer ring road (A1237) will be reduced from £21.3 million to just £3.5 million. Officials say that construction work is unlikely to start before mid 2023.

The ambitious railway station frontage remodelling project faces an £8.2 million cut. Only £5.2 million will now be invested in 2021/22.  A start on site is not now expected before early 2022.

The total transport budget is being reduced from £44.2 million to £22.1 million.

6,400 local children to take part in Walk to School Week 2021

20 of York’s primary schools are set to take part in Walk to School Week 2021, which runs from 14 to 28 June. This year the event includes activities taking place on Clean Air Day on 17 June.

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Locally, around 6,400 students from 20 different schools will get involved. The annual awareness-raising event aims to encourage children and their families to walk, cycle or scoot to and from school, rather than travelling by car. This year the event will have a particular focus on the impact of pollution on our health, encouraging families to make a sustainable change to improve local air quality near schools.

Coinciding with Walk to School Week this year is Clean Air Day on 17 June. Every year, air pollution causes up to 36,000 deaths in the UK.  The World Health Organisation and the Government recognise that air pollution is the largest environmental health risk we face today.

Poor air quality causes heart and lung diseases, is linked to low birth weight and children’s lung development and may even contribute to mental health issues*. Clean Air day is being promoted through the council’s hard-hitting anti-idling campaign, Kick the Habit: which aims to to help tackle this problem in York www.york.gov.uk/engineoff

Residents of all ages can find out more about sustainable travel options by visiting www.itravelyork.info 

More information on the ‘Kick the Habit’ campaign is available here www.york.gov.uk/EngineOff 

York becomes UK’s first city with real-time transport model

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York has become the first city in the UK to introduce city-wide real time transport modelling to help ease congestion and pollution.

Working in partnership with PTV Group, Wood Group and independent strategic modelling experts RelativeGAP, City of York Council has started using the latest innovation and cutting-edge technology to manage the road network.

In areas it has previously been introduced, area wide travel times have been reduced by nearly 10 per cent.

Previously, the council has monitored the network through staff monitoring CCTV and social media feeds, with network monitoring operators and transport engineers manually implementing new signal changes to manage the flow of traffic better in busy periods.

With the new PTV Optima installed in the control room, the council can now adopt a more pro-active approach in monitoring and changing the network live to best suit traffic conditions.

For example, if there was a road traffic collision on the York outer ring road, the new software will be able to predict the impact on the wider road network based on the current traffic conditions. This will give the council the ability to react ‘live’ by changing traffic light timings across the city (where needed) and informing people sooner of the impact and possible delays.

This is the first real-time transport model of this scale that has been used for live traffic management in the UK. Other cities outside of the UK to use similar modelling include Vienna, Abu Dhabi, Moscow and Sydney.

The introduction of the new modelling system follows a successful bid by City of York Council, as part of the ‘Smarter Travel Evolution Program – STEP’, which is funded by the Government.

There has already been some criticisms of the system with problems identified on the Hull Road, Other motorists have criticised what seems to be inadequate green phase signal times on The Mount near the Holgate Road junction, despite relatively low traffic levels.

Low emission vehicle interchange for delivery vehicles could be piloted in York

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A new pilot project could be introduced in York’s city centre to use low emission modes of transport to help improve air quality and congestion caused by delivery vehicles.

E-cargo bikes and ultra-low emission vehicles could be introduced for the first and last mile of deliveries to help address these issues.

City of York Council has been awarded £297,237 from the Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Air Quality Grant Scheme to look at these measures.

If approved, an interchange or small consolidation centre would be created to hold goods, so there could be an exchange of goods and change of delivery mode, e.g. from van to e-cargo bike.

As part of the feasibility study, engagement will be undertaken with businesses and delivery companies operating in York, which will learn from companies who are already operating similar models.

Reducing deliveries from HGVs, LGVs and vans predominantly in York’s inner ring road, is expected to enable a reduction in associated emissions.

LGVs and HGVs currently make up approximately 14 per cent of the traffic flow on Gillygate and account for approximately 1,775 vehicle movements per day, within the current city centre York’s Air Quality Management Area (AQMA).

Other additional benefits of reducing movements of HGVs, LGVs and vans especially within the city centre, will include improving pedestrian safety and a potential reduction in damage from such vehicles to historic monuments.

The fastest growing expansion of urban road vehicles are vans and LGV’s [Independent Transport Commission. 2017. How can we improve urban freight distribution in the UK? Challenges and solutions].

With deliveries also expected to increase there is a need to address HGV and LGV movements in the city. Given the tendency for HGV/LGV’s to be diesel vehicles, which emit NOx and PM, and with expected constraints on capacity for deliveries within York’s city centre, there is a need to identify how freight logistics can address these problems.

If approved by Councillors at an Executive meeting later this month, the funding from DEFRA will support a feasibility study and a pilot project, which will be contracted out through the council’s procurement process.

The project will allow the council to continue with delivery of its current Air Quality Action Plan and associated Low Emission Strategy.  This scheme will compliment other air quality improvement work streams, particularly the city centre Clean Air Zone

Officers will return to the Executive in Autumn 2021 with further information on further details of the pilot scheme.

“WalkYork” represents York pedestrians

The York Civic Trust is promoting a new group which aims to articulate the needs and aspirations of users of York’s biggest transport system.
We wish them well.
We have recorded on many occasions that green footpaths, particularly in sub-urban areas, have been neglected over recent years.
Many have been heavily used for exercise during the lockdown period, Some now badly need repairs to infrastructure like stiles while work to remedy boggy and flooded sections is also needed.
Even well used bitmaced paths like The Mount are overdue for resurfacing
The Trust says in an email to its members,
Formed last year, WalkYork is a project that has been developed by Dr Roger Pierce, an active member of the Trust’s Transport Advisory Group, who identified a real need for a devoted online presence to promote and represent walkers in York.
Free to join, becoming a WalkYork member provides access to news of city-wide schemes and proposed changes impacting pedestrians who have not previously been consulted about major changes impacting them.
Bringing together views, the group can give a voice to individual concerns and suggestions, helping to negotiate improvements and influence Council decisions. 
The larger the membership the more influential they can be!”
Damaged stile on popular exercise route in York

You can find out more about WalkYork, and how to join, on their website.

Transport changes in York

A raft of changes to transport and travel in York will be discussed at a meeting taking place on 11th May. The changes include

e-scooters & e-bikes

Officials claim that there have been no accidents involving the hire scooters since they were introduced to York last year. No information is provided on reliability or the scooters vulnerability to vandalism.

Very recently e-bikes have been added to the hire options available.

Officials are now proposing to extend their availability to areas outside the outer ring road. Initially these will include Haxby, Wigginton and Poppleton.

Bus franchising option rejected.

The Government is set to end the COVID-19 bus support grants in July 2021. They may be extended in certain circumstances.

Councillors are set to reject an opportunity to introduce bus franchising into the City. In effect this option allows the Council to seek tenders to run bus services on specific routes or zones. It offers an opportunity to influence fare levels and frequencies and avoids competition. However, it could be a very expensive option

In York, which (pre virus) had a generally well used bus service,  several routes already operate on a contract basis. These include the popular park and ride services and those to and from the University.

Seven bus companies currently operate in York. The largest in First.

Instead of extended franchise working, the authority seems likely to opt for what is known as an “enhanced partnership”.

By October, Councils must publish a Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP), setting out how bus services will be improved in the local area.

ResPark decision for Tadcaster Road area

The Council is set to turn down a request for a Res Parking zone to be set up in the Slingsby Grove/Royal Chase area. Residents turned the idea down in a recent poll.

A scheme will  be introduced in the St Edwards Close area where the majority of residents supported the idea.