Committee member Peter Sheaf gives us his account of the first meet-up of the new Walk Cycle Forum of York, which has been set up to bring together interested parties looking to improve walking and cycling around our city.
‘I went along to the Walk Cycle Forum (hosted by Your Bike Shed, Micklegate, York) on behalf of York Cycle Campaign. It found it to be a really useful way of meeting other people working to improve the attractiveness of getting around York on foot and by bike. I also thought the Forum has huge potential too, as though I had good in-depth conversations with a few people, there are plenty of people whom I didn’t get to talk to but would like to at future Forums.
The format of the Forum was straightforward: Sheridan gave an excellent presentation on the problems (congestion, emissions, sedentary lifestyles, community cohesion) that developing towns and cities around the private car had resulted in, and thus the case for promoting walking and cycling instead. Delegates had the chance to chat to each other over a buffet provided by Your Bike Shed and then sat down in random groups at tables, where after Sheridan’s presentation, they discussed what they did to promote cycling and walking in York, what the problems were, and how they could help each other overcome them.
For me the best part of the Forum was the opportunity to learn about what other people and organisations were doing to promote walking and cycling in York. Highlights were:
- Alice Thatcher, of Ey-up cycling: Ey Up promote cycling in York through free bike repair courses and low cost good quality bikes;
- Derek McCreadie, of City of York Council. Derek appears to have been the driving force behind a successful bid by the Council for just under £3m to promote cycling in York. Of particular interest are the Council’s intention as part of this programme to plug the holes in York’s cycling infrastructure, apparently approximately 50 such gaps. I think this is definitely something to learn more about if we’re to ensure YCC is focusing its energies in the most effective manner;
- Cllr Ian Gilles, Executive Member for Transport and Planning. Apparently Cllr Gilles only intended to stay for five minutes, but ended up staying for the whole thing, which I hope is a good sign! Sheridan encouraged us all to change tables, so I headed to Cllr Gilles’ table. As there were few other people on this table – four in total, I ended up having quite a long and interesting chat with him, through which he set out a number of his views on cycling. There was a lot of background chatter and these views as I understood them extended over a few different conversations so I may be mistaken, but his views on cycling appeared to be the following:
-He didn’t believe that cyclists and pedestrians should mix (I thought this was an endorsement for segregated cycle lanes, but the views he expressed afterwards didn’t seem to support this);
-People wanted a lot of different things (the context of this statement was pedestrian crossings) but the funding available was limited, so the Council had to prioritise;
-The perception of cyclists as law-breakers relative to other road users was unfair. The question is, how to change this?
-His understanding was that an increasing number of teenage girls were reluctant to learn how to ride a bike safely and legally i.e. complete the equivalent of cycling proficiency. Perhaps York Cycle Campaign could assist with this?
-He asked what I thought the legacy of the Tour de France had been for cycling in York. I said I thought it had had little impact either way, but qualified this by saying I was relatively new to York;
-One legacy he was aware of was that Yorkshire Bank had agreed to fund the recovery, repair and reselling at cost price of abandoned bicycles. But though the funding was available, no local group had taken this forward by setting up a facility. Perhaps doing this could be combined with teaching cycling proficiency at York University’s underused cycling track?
It was certainly fantastic to be able to talk directly to the Council’s Executive Member for Transport and Planning and get his views on cycling in York. I was left genuinely unsure how pro-bike he is/was. Absolutely any public spending is about priorities, but at present (judging by the Local Plan in particular), the Council’s priorities seem to be about facilitating use of the private car.
Though I respect his views that cycling and pedestrians shouldn’t mix, the accident stats for York clearly show that there are far fewer accidents involving cyclists on York’s shared Greenways for example than on the roads (approximately 1-2 accidents involving cyclists on the Greenways over the last 10 years vs well over a hundred on the roads). So isn’t this evidence that shared space for cyclists and pedestrians works far better than forcing cyclists to share space with cars? Besides, if cyclists are separated from pedestrians but segregated infrastructure on roads is not deemed a priority, what are cyclists supposed to do? Share the road with fast-moving cars? How will this tempt people away from their cars and on to bikes? Food for thought, discussion and work at future Walk Cycle Forums!’
The next Walk Cycle Forum will be in January 2018.