After the shambles of the Bishopthorpe Road closure and before it the Lendal Bridge fiasco, you might have expected that proposed major changes to the road network in York would have been handled with caution by the Council.
It appears not judging by the reaction to the road closures in The Groves yesterday. Activists even took to removing some of the physical barriers (planters) while a Press headline pronounced a (slightly exaggerated) “Gridlock” on Lord Mayors Walk..
If gridlock is to become a reality, then it is likely to be in wet weather following a return to school and the reopening of city centre offices. It is then that the emergency services together with public transport, utilities and delivery drivers will face their greatest challenge.
Unfortunately, without the consent of residents, changes like this will always result in confrontation.
Executive Cllr Andy D’Agorne approved a plan to limit traffic in the Groves area at a meeting held on 24th October 2019. The plan was supported by the two Labour Councillors and one Green who represent The Groves area.
Later Green Party supporters were to try to blame the LibDems for the plan using an “only following orders” from the coalition defence. In truth, the LibDem leadership stood aloof from the issue and chose to watch on while the drama unfolded. The Tories as usual were late into the game, waiting to see how the wind blew before acquiring retrospective wisdom. The timetables attached to the Tory government transport grant offer helped to provoke the stumble.
We believe that Andy D’Agorn is a sincere man who holds passionate, albeit uncompromising, beliefs. He deserves respect for standing up for his views in a very public way. However such drive needs to be tempered with humility and a willingness to take a step back.
A decision was made by Cllr D’Agone on 22nd June 2020 to restyle the proposals as a reaction to the COVID crisis. Ostensibly he wanted a slice of the governments sustainable transport grant. Significant changes were made to the original proposals although there was no further consultation.
There was no poll which could have offered all affected residents, whether they lived in the Groves or elsewhere in the City, the opportunity to support the new plans or opt to retain the status quo.
A change of this scale should have been publicised by delivering a leaflet to every home at least in east York. It was not. Publicity relied heavily on social media.
The Variable Message Signs on York streets referred to changes in The Groves, repeating the Lendal bridge failing. Many motorists do not actually know the names of the bridges, streets and neighbourhoods that they might be driving over or through.
“On street” signage was woeful – possibly the consequence of the rushed implementation.
Sat Nav systems still direct drivers into what are now dead-end streets. A nightmare for the growing number of delivery drivers who have filled the supply void since the pandemic.
So what can be done? It is true that things will “settle down”. Police action could force drivers onto alternative routes like the already congested Clarence Street.
If “through traffic” is to be excluded from The Groves, then a gate or rising bollard could be introduced on Penley’s Grove Street and Lowther Street. This would allow selective vehicle access for local residents together with emergency vehicles, utilities, deliveries etc. It might be a costly system with reliability an issue but it would remove some unnecessary journey’s, and the pollution which they would generate, from neighbouring roads.
There does need to be an attempt to find a consensus solution, which could attract wide support in the City, before any more impulsive decisions are made.