Groves traffic scheme already looking half baked?

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.

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Planters vandalised

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.

Very low traffic levels on Penley’s Grove Street in recent months

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.  

Bid for DfT funding to support cycling and walking

The Council apparently wants to add a cycling/pedestrian bridge to the A1237 viaduct near Poppleton. A similar facility at Scarborough railway bridge cost over £4.4 million. While improvements at this location would be welcome, it is unclear how a bridge could be funded and what the implications might be for future carriageway dualling plans.

City of York Council has submitted a bid to the Government for £850,000 of funding (against an indicative allocation of £693,000).

This is part of an overall £1.45m programme, to maintain the growth in walking and cycling seen across the city during lockdown.

The Government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund is designed to support walking and cycling as a long-term method for commuting, as the country emerges from the pandemic and to address the current capacity constraints on Public Transport. To receive any allocation from the fund, the council has to demonstrate ‘swift and meaningful plans’ to support cyclists and pedestrians in York.

This application is for the second of two phases, with the first seeing the council being awarded £193,000 in June (this was £20,000 more than the indicative allocation).

The funding for the second phase is conditional on demonstrating how the council is able to adapt the city’s infrastructure to support more active travel, and how quickly these additional measures can be delivered.

City of York Council has submitted a programme of actions to support walking and cycling at key locations as alternatives to travel by bus or car. 

Subject to a successful award of funding, the second phase aims to deliver the following schemes:

It would cost around £360,000 to construct a 6 mile off road cycle track from Wheldrake to Fulford. This would include foundations aimed at stopping the kind of tree root damage which has made parts of the nearby York – Selby cycle track unusable.
  • Measures focused on providing cycling and walking links between Wheldrake and Heslington. This scheme provides an off-road cycle route to Wheldrake, which will benefit commuters between the village and York city centre, including schoolchildren travelling to school in Fulford.
  • Further improvements on the A19 Shipton Road, a 3.2km radial route with cycle lanes currently being designed for delivery in phase 1. The additional funding will allow some of the existing pedestrian refuges on the road (which constrain the width of the proposed cycle lanes)) to be replaced with signalised crossings and improvements to the main junctions on the road.Improvements to A1237 outer ring road bridge – permanent provision of a cycle lane and improved footways over a 1km viaduct where provision is currently poor – linking suburbs on the northern and southern sides of the River Ouse and East Coast Main Line, including Manor School on the southern side and Clifton Moor Retail Park on the northern.
  • Measures in the city centre to improve access into and around the city centre to serve the footstreets area and ensure that the heart of the city is as accessible as possible for pedestrians, cyclists and disabled residents. This scheme would include a range of measures such as improved signage, improvements to disabled crossing facilities, and a new crossing near Castle Mills Bridge catering for cyclists and pedestrians using the existing riverbank path, but wishing to travel across the Inner Ring Road into the south east of the city centre, an area being regenerated.
  • Acomb Road/ York Road Acomb cycle scheme – a scheme to improve conditions for cyclists on Acomb Road to the west of York, including many children travelling to local schools, but where there is currently very little provision.
  • School Zone Pilot – After a successful trial of a ‘people street’ concept at Carr Junior School in association with Sustrans last year, further changes would be planned to Ostman Road in Acomb for a pilot scheme, with potential future wider rollout across the city.

Additional council funding will be used to compliment the schemes in the bid above, as well as consulting and co-designing schemes with local communities, residents and businesses. 

The second phase bid will complement the first phase of funding which is being used to deliver a number of measures across the city including:

  • Extensions to existing Park and Pedal facilities at Rawcliffe Bar Park & Ride site, alongside a new cycle route from the site along Shipton Road
  • Improved cycle parking in the city centre
  • Extensions to the footstreets area
  • Temporary footway widening at pinch points near shops
  • Alterations to signal timings to reduce pedestrian queuing at city centre traffic lights.
  • ‘The Groves’ neighbourhood traffic reduction 18-month trial
No mention of improvements to the rapidly declining existing cycle network

So we have a curates egg of proposals. There seems to have been no attempt made to assess potential demand for cycling facilities and hence likely use. The 2000 residents of Wheldrake may get a very expensive path. It is unlikely to carry many commuters in winter (providing street lighting would be even more expensive).

The 12,000 residents of Westfield are offered nothing. Ditto the Rural West ward, where the Knaption – Rufforth cycle path, and several rural carriageways need resurfacing, also get nothing.

There has been no consultation. The so called “big conversation” doesn’t offer choices on transport projects.

There is no consent from residents and without that we will see resentment and conflict.. That much was evident on Bishopthorpe Road.

The Council say the “work will be co-ordinated with the council’s Economic Recovery Strategy, which will be delivered over the next few months.

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.

To find out more about, York’s Active Travel Fund Bid, visit: www.york.gov.uk/ActiveTravelBid (bid documents will be live on this webpage tomorrow, 11 August).

Tell us what you think

We’re asking residents and businesses to complete our Big Conversation survey, which kick-starts a year-long programme of on and offline opportunities for residents and businesses to shape the city’s recovery.

Over 700 people have already responded and we’d be grateful for your views too: www.york.gov.uk/OurBigConversation

Coronavirus York updates: 15th July 2020

How the Council plans to use extra government transport grant

A secret meeting held today has endorsed a list of transport improvements on which the Council hopes to spend government grant money (Emergency Active Travel grant).

The list does not include any schemes in suburban or village areas, although there have been numerous requests for the Council to improve the maintenance of cycle tracks and to provide additional cycle parking stands on shopping streets. There is very little on the list for pedestrians.

Unfortunately the Council seems prepared to continue the dangerous (for cyclists) carriageway closure on Bishopthorpe Road and will add other contraflow cycle lanes on Coppergate and in The Groves area (Penley’s Grove Street).

Traffic counters are also on the Councils shopping list although traffic measurement tools like these have been deployed in the City for over 2 decades.

Ironically cycle improvements are promised on Tadcaster Road. Since the recent resurfacing this is probably the best road for cycling on in the whole of the City (although the off street path near Tesco does need levelling).

Once again there was no prior notice given of the meeting so residents had no opportunity to make representations before the decision was published. It really is about time for the Council to reintroduce at least a semblance of transparency and democracy back into its governance arrangements.

Deaths and positive test results

An additional positive test result was recorded in York on Monday. This brings the cumulative total to 911

There have been no further COVID 19 related deaths at York Trust Hospitals

Disabled parking changes

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The York Council is to relax its City centre ban on blue badge parking.

In another “behind closed doors” decision, approval has been given to create “a parking bay on Duncombe Place (at the north west end of the street) allowing parking for Blue Badge holders for up to 3 hours and loading for up to 30mins seven days/week”.

The Council is also to investigate and implement additional disabled bays in other on-street areas “where feasible”

The Council has pointedly not revealed how much use has been made of the additional 40 disabled spaces which it laid out at the Monk Bar car park. It appears that the vast majority have remained empty.  

The Council has been paying a taxi company to provide a lift service from the car park to Kings Square. It turns out that the cost to taxpayers has been £238 a day although the service has been little used. Now the hours of operation of the service are being extended to 8:00pm increasing the daily cost to £358 a day.

That is more than the Council used to spend on transport tokens which were made available to disabled people. The tokens could be used to purchase a door to door taxi service.

There is still no news of any help from the Council for suburban shopping areas like Front Street. It had been suggested that the relaxation of parking restriction there for blue badge holders could have provided both a boost for local traders plus a more convenient option for those with disabilities.

Bollards

The Council has also revealed that lift out bollards and sockets are to be provided at three locations: Goodramgate (junction with Deangate), Blake Street and Fossgate (junction with Merchantage), at a cost of up to £5,000.

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Hostile bollards?

The Council says that these will support the enforcement of access restrictions but not provide “hostile vehicle mitigation”.

Staffing costs for manning the access points are put  at £4,800 for the first week when all three closures are staffed (approx. £690/day). “They will then reduce to approx. £1,900/week (approx. £280/day)”.

On street drinking

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The Council has approved the implementation of an “interim pavement café licensing process to enable the hospitality industry to apply for temporary pavement café licences in advance of the Business and Planning Bill being enacted. These temporary licences will be valid for a maximum period of three months after which they will be reviewed and extended for up to a year in line with the requirements set out in the new legislation (not beyond the end of September 2021)”

While allowing outside tables to be provided where space allows seems a sensible step during  the current health crisis, the lack of any comment on the implications on alcohol fuelled disorder have not been acknowledged by the Council. It is unclear where, and when,  the details of any applications will be published

No tip bookings from Monday

The appointment system, which is currently operating at York’s household waste sites like Hazel Court, will be discontinued with effect from Monday

NB. A response to a Freedom of Information request has revealed that the number of appointment requests at Hazel Court have been averaging around 275 a day. At Towthorpe the daily rate has been 214 recently.

Major changes to pedestrian hours in York City centre

No consultation prior to “behind closed doors” decision

Pedestrian hours in York City centre will be extended from 10:30am to 8:00pm, 7 days a week. Currently they end at 4:00pm each day.

The scheme will extend to include Fossgate and Goodramgate.

Cyclists will be able to slalom through some of the affected streets.

The Council leadership claims the move is aimed at helping “traders” and says cafes and pubs will be able to “set up tables on the public highway more easily”. The change was agreed yesterday only hours after alcohol fuelled disorder returned to City centre streets.

Disabled people will be badly affected. They can no longer access the City centre streets and have so far snubbed the additional parking spaces – and free taxi service – set up at the Monk Bar car park

The Council have also failed to address the confusion over their “free parking” offer which applies to some car parks in July and August. It got off to a confused start at the weekend.

The Council says that the following public toilets are now offering a contactless payment option and will be open until 10pm

  • St George’s Field
  • Coppergate Shopping Centre –
  • Exhibition Square
  • Silver Street (contactless from next week)

There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the Councils recent transport and other decisions reflect the wishes of either the majority of residents or of the business community. Not surprisingly out of town shopping centres seem to be recovering much more quickly from the lock-down recession, leaving the city centre vulnerable to fanciful and ill considered social engineering experiments.

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New pedestrian rules imposed by Junta

What is increasingly intolerable is the failure of the Councils democratic systems. There is no reason why notice of this proposal could not have been published in advance with a decision subsequently taken at a publicly accessible meeting.

Instead it exploited an emergency delegation scheme which was intended to take the City through the worst phase of the lock-down.

The Council own “scrutiny” system has also once again been found wanting with meetings, which took place yesterday, failing to effectively challenge the decisions of the secretive “junta” which now dictates to York residents.

Changes to pedestrian hours may well be something that York people would want to trial. This option could have been included on a list as part of the Councils so called “big conversation” survey.

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It wasn’t, so we don’t know peoples views.

However, given the failures of the last few weeks, they will not forgive quickly those who chose to impose their views in such a discourteous and arbitrary way.

York could be in line for £693,000 to fund emergency transport improvements

Figures released today suggest that the government could give York an additional £693,000 to fund post COVID sustainable transport schemes in the City.

The money will come from the “emergency active travel fund”. The indicative allocations can be read by clicking here

This would be in addition to the £193,000 already allocated

The North Yorkshire County Council could be in line to receive £1,085,000 from the same fund.

York decided to spend much of its initial allocation on a controversial road closure scheme in The Groves area.

Council publishes its post COVID 12 month plan

Coppergate to become one way.

Castle car park to be closed

The York Council has published for the first time its post lockdown strategy. The report was considered and agreed today. There was no prior consultation.

The Council has decided to make Coppergate one way (east to west) cutting one of the City’s key bus routes for the next 6 months “or until a vaccine is available”. Cyclists will be able to continue to use the  street in both directions although, at the “pinch point” near the Coppergate centre entrance, this may compromise social distancing objectives.

The Council strategy says there will be, ”Active discouragement of the use of public transport and the promotion of walking and cycling”.  (Paradoxically the Council has also announced today a bid for funding for more electric buses)

The Council isn’t expecting many retail workers to return to City centre jobs much before December. Restaurant and pub (hospitality) workers may be out of a job for even longer.  

More local and county residents are expected to start to visit the City centre from the autumn together with smaller numbers of day visitors from other parts of the region. Later they will be joined by tourists from other parts of the country.

International tourists are not expected to return in any numbers before the late Spring of 2021.

The “strategy” pointedly does not propose a marketing plan aimed at actually promoting the City, and its key visitor/retail economy, over the next few months.

The Council leaders plan involves the closure of the key (for the retail economy) Castle car park without its planned multi storey replacement being opened at St Georges Field.  

The notoriously unreliable “pay on exit” mechanisms will also be rolled out to all car parks – negating the  social distancing preferred option of contactless payment via smart phone Apps.

The strategy offers little for the suburbs. The option of encouraging devolved open air markets is not even mentioned.  There is no publicity support on offer for neighbourhood businesses. More cycle parking is, however, promised.

Many may have sympathy with a key message included in the strategy which “proposes to invest and make bold interventions to create new networks of park and cycle hubs, priority cycle routes, subsidised cycle hire and cycle parking to prioritise active travel”.

Those reading further  will see that there are no actions proposed to address the natural barriers to two wheeled transport (poor infrastructure, uneven highways, obstructed paths, etc.) Much less does the statement recognised that some sections of the community because of distance, fitness, luggage or just poor weather, simply don’t have a realistic two wheeled travel option.

No forecasts of modal change are included. The Council simply doesn’t seem to know what effect implementing such a rag bag of tactical polices might have.

So we judge the document to be a profoundly superficial and disappointing proposal shuffled into the light of day with no prior consultation and apparently lacking even sensitivity to the difficult choices now facing many sections of the community.

Hopefully work will have already started on producing something more convincing. First step should be to regain the trust and supportl of local residents.

Council report reveals over 60% wanted Bishopthorpe Road reopening

Council report 1st June 2020 Page 1
Council report 1st June 2020 Page 2

The Council has finally published the report which it says supports the decision to keep the southbound lane of the Bishopthorpe Road closed for at least another 2 months. The report became public yesterday (6th June) , some six days after it was tabled for a “behind closed doors” decision meeting.

It reveals that there is a lot of opposition to the Councils policy including a 1600 signature “on line” petition.

Both it and email representations were ignored by the Council.

No consideration was given to changing the hours or scale of the closure and no consideration was given to implementing a shorter diversion route.

There is no evidence that stakeholders – including traders and those living on the diversion route – were consulted about options.

The report talks about additional stores opening next week “resulting in increasing queue lengths”. It omits to point out that these are located on the west side of the road where properties have a forecourt.

Resurfacing works on Nunnery Lane will take place from Monday 15 June for seven nights, working between 7.30pm and 5am Monday to Friday only. This will mean an additional diversion for drivers, including buses, of around 1.5 miles via City centre streets.

Road works completed on Blossom Street

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.

Blossom Street road works have been completed

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.

Bishopthorpe Road lane closure. Petition calls for lane to be reopened.

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.

Unlawful Lendal Bridge closure cost Council £millions in compensation payments

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.

West York snubbed in cycling budget hand out

The Council has allocated virtually the whole of its pedestrian/cycling budget to schemes in central York. £500,000 had been earmarked for delegation for ward committees to spend addressing local issues.

In a decision list (below)  published today, the work programme concentrates on cycling schemes claiming that no improvements for walkers were identified (other than possible long term improvements to pedestrian crossings).

There is no funding allocated for schemes in the Westfield, Dringhouses, Holgate,  Acomb or Rural West wards.

Even pleas for cycle margin work on roads like Bradley Lane, Foxwood Lane and School Street have been ignored, as has a request for resurfacing work on the Knapton – Rufforth off road cycle track. The latter has been heavily used during the lockdown period with sections now breaking up .

Works to improve access for walkers don’t even rate a mention in the decision notice.

No action to tackle public footpath ponding

Among the schemes local Councillors were asked to back were actions to tackle difficulties on footpaths linking Westfield Place and Grange Lane as well as within the Council maintained section of Acomb Wood. All that was required at these locations were short sections of chippings to avoid flooded areas. A relatively inexpensive initiative.

Despite the budget apparently having been delegated for local determination, it seems to have been carved up by an official in discussions with the (Executive) Councillor for Fishergate; a ward which gets the bulk of the funding along with the Guildhall and Micklegate areas. There is no sign in the report of any influence on priorities by ward Councillors or residents.

It is unclear how much each scheme will cost, but it is unlikely that the funding will stretch far down the list.

Cycle margin leveling would encourage more cycling

The money could probably most usefully have been allocated to cycle margin repair work. This type of resurfacing programme sees the inner 2 metres of the most uneven carriageways levelled to allow safe passage for two wheeled machines. There was a margins repair programme in place until about 2011 when it was scrapped.

A further £500,000 was allocated for highway repair works which should also have been determined by local Councillors at neighbourhood level.

The Council has not said where this money will be spent although the recent lockdown has served to highlight just how poor some road surfaces are. A list of priorities in Westfield was given to Ward Councillors some 6 months ago but so far there has been no response.

The latest controversy, following on from the Bishopthorpe Road carriageway closure, may serve to confirm the views of those taxpayers who feel that sections of the Council are now out of control and are pursuing their own blinkered, parochial agenda.

The Council Leader may need to make some changes to Executive portfolios if he is to avoid large sections of the York community becoming increasingly alienated from his administration.

Plans to widen footpaths in Piccadilly, Micklegate and Low Ousegate

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.

Tesco Express on Low Ousegate - Convenience Stores in City Centre ...

Low Ousegate

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