Statement and Q&A with the CoYC Economy & Place Policy Development Committee

York Cycle Campaign Committee member Peter Sheaf made a statement to the City of York Council Economy & Place Policy Development Committee on 22nd November 2017, urging the Council Committee to ensure the City of York Council make good on its policy to encourage cycling. The Economy & Place Policy Development Committee is responsible for examining long term policy development across a number of areas including highways, transport & parking, and public protection.

Here is Peter’s statement in full:

Thank you for opportunity to speak to you. I’m here on behalf of the York Cycle Campaign, to highlight the importance of investing in cycling.  Doing so will boost York’s economy, environment, and the health of its residents.

The benefits of cycling are well-known. As zero-emission vehicles, they contribute neither to the city’s air pollution, which in some areas remains above EU limits, nor to the city’s carbon footprint, which we all need to reduce if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.

By building regular exercise into our lives, people are healthier and costs are reduced for the NHS.  For example, a recent study found a 41% lower chance of dying in people who cycled to work, compared to those who didn’t.

The small physical footprint of cycles means that they represent a far more efficient use of road than cars, which often only have on 1-2 occupants. As such, making cycling more attractive allows more people to use roads per hour than would otherwise be the case, boosting economic productivity and therefore economic growth.

The City of York Council’s official policy is to encourage more cycling in the city.  Indeed, the policies in the draft Local Plan talk about ensuring a “fundamental shift” towards sustainable transport. In practice however, in our view, as we’ve stated in our response to the Local Plan, neither the Council’s actions nor the proposed transport provision in the draft Local Plan support this.

£38m has been won to widen the roundabouts on the outer ring road. Further money will be spent altering junctions to improve traffic flow.  There is a stated ambition in the draft Local Plan of dualling the outer ring road which has been estimated at a cost of least £200m. In contrast, the City of York Council’s plans for and funding of new cycle infrastructure appear far less ambitious..

As such, the York Cycle Campaign calls on this Committee to consider three recommendations:

Firstly, that the Council amends its transport model to include cyclists. By its own admission in the Transport Topic paper it does not, which is unfortunate. This is essential if York’s current and potential cyclists are to be catered for, and funding allocated in a way that maximises sustainable economic growth;

Secondly, that the Council works with cycling groups and cyclists in York to invest serious thought and money (via the LEP and the West Combined Yorkshire Authority) into planning and funding a comprehensive, safe, convenient and accessible strategic cycle network in York At present, in our view the strategic cycle network is poorly provisioned for;

Thirdly, that the Council also looks to plug the gaps in York’s wider cycle infrastructure that have emerged as a result of poorly-planned changes to the network.

Above all, we want this Committee and the Council to remember that despite the shortcomings of York’s cycle infrastructure, the number of people cycling in York is higher than the national average. Many more people would also be willing to cycle if they felt it was safe.  These people vote, pay their taxes, and would be contributing to the York’s general health and economic strength. They should not be forgotten by the Council’s transport modellers, planners or policymakers.

The full meeting can be viewed in this YouTube video, with Peter’s appearance at 3 mins 56 seconds:

After the statement the members of the Economy & Place Policy Development Committee asked a number of questions (at 8 mins 12 secs):

Cllr Richardson (Conservative, Haxby & Wigginton) asked what evidence there was that cyclists are zero-carbon. Peter conceded that cyclists were not strictly zero-carbon since there was there was a carbon footprint both from a bicycle’s manufacture and the food required by the rider to power the vehicle. However, he argued that this was minimal compared to that of a car, saying that according to the late Sir David McKay, former Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government, bicycles were significantly more efficient than the most efficient car even when this was taken into account¹.

Cllr Kramm (Green, Micklegate) asked what the York Cycle Campaign’s number one priority was for the City of York Council. Peter replied that in light of the limited funds available to the City of the York Council, plugging the gaps in York’s strategic cycle network would be a good start. He gave the example of the loss of segregation at the Clifton Green crossroads as one such example, adding that York Cycle Campaign members had expressed anxiety about going through the junction as a result.

Water End’s segregated cycle lane disappears as it reaches the junction with Clifton

Cllr Myers (Labour, Clifton) asked what the aims of the York Cycle Campaign were. Peter replied that the Campaign were in the middle of establishing its aims, but that it was fair to say that the Campaign wanted to make cycling in York safe, convenient and accessible.

The City of York Council Executive Member for Transport and Planning, Cllr Gilles (Conservative, Rural West York Ward) then spoke. Among other points, he said that cycling was always an element in transport decisions, that he favoured segregation of cyclists away from other road users, but that the Council was limited in terms of the funding it had available to it, and choices had to be made.

Members of the Committee then asked Cllr Gilles a few questions in response. Cllr Richardson suggested that as some cycle paths were not used, they should be removed. Cllr Gilles said he would not do that as that would be a waste of money. Cllr Looker (Labour, Guildhall) picked up on Cllr Richardson’s question, saying she occasionally used the segregated path from Acomb to Clifton, and acknowledged that she didn’t see many cyclists using the path when she did. However, she saw even fewer pedestrians, and no-one would ever suggest that pavements should not be provided next to a road.

Overall the meeting proved a useful means through which to make our case to a key committee on Transport and Planning in the City of York Council. We will continue to seek out further such opportunities to ensure the voice of York’s cyclists is heard.

¹ David McKay’s 2007 book Sustainable Energy without the hot air suggests on page 119 that bicycles are 25 times more efficient than the standard petrol car; similarly, Mike Berners-Lee’s 2010 book How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything states on page 24 that bicycles are 10 times more efficient than the most efficient petrol cars).

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