In the cold of a late November weekend a small marquee made its way around the southern tip of York city centre, at each stop collecting a small gathering of passersby alive with discussion and debate. This conversation was inspired by the Masterplan Ideas for the Castle Gateway area, developed by international architecture and design practice BDP for the City of York Council. It was presented in this roving exhibition organised by My Future York as part of a wider consultation that started in the summer.
Castle Gateway is defined as the area from Blue Bridge, where the Foss meets the Ouse, up to Coppergate. It is bounded to the west by the Ouse and extends east to Piccadilly. This major entry point into the city centre contains some of the best York that has to offer, such as Clifford’s tower, but also what some consider to be York’s worst, such as the inner ring road and abandoned buildings along Piccadilly. The council’s aspirations for this area are to:
‘provide an opportunity to develop retail, leisure and residential facilities, which complement and build on the vitality of the city centre, improving the historic setting of Clifford’s Tower and the quality of public space and accessibility throughout the area.’ ¹
These masterplan ideas feature numerous proposals for significant changes to the area and are currently out for the public to comment on. The responses will inform the development of the masterplan itself, which is to be put to the Council’s Executive next year. These proposed ideas are split into five zones within the Gateway area: King’s Staith, Piccadilly, Castle and the Eye of York, St. George’s Field, and the River Corridor.
Each zone features significant opportunity to improve the area for cyclists and pedestrians.
Whilst there are no major proposed developments for the King’s Staith zone, the masterplan ideas do highlight there is potential general improvements to the area, including the potential to pedestrianise Castlegate.
Very few people would agree that Piccadilly is currently at its best, but again it would be hard to argue that it doesn’t have tonnes of potential. The Masterplan Ideas recognises this potential, suggesting some of the biggest built interventions of the proposed ideas in this area, with proposed work spaces and residential units being put forward.
One idea for the Piccadilly area is to introduce a one way bus circuit with ‘access only’ for general traffic, presumably building upon the current traffic restrictions reintroduced onto Coppergate at the beginning of the year Again presumably one would hope any proposed new restrictions would have a similar approach in continuing to allow an exception to cyclists.
Another idea of big significance for cyclists, and all other road users, is to make the junction at the south of Piccadilly an all-movements junction. This would allow the turning right onto Piccadilly when travelling clockwise round the gyratory, and turning right from Piccadilly onto the gyratory to head directly to Skeldergate Bridge. This isn’t the only place such an idea has been suggested. Professor Tony May recently made headlines in the city with a similar suggestion for this junction amongst other improvements across the city, many for cyclists and pedestrians. (Tony May spoke at an event hosted by YCC this week about some of his ideas, which we’ll detail in a further blog post).
Castle and the Eye of York
Home to one of York’s most recognisable landmarks, this zone also sees a vision of great significance. This includes proposals for the infamous Castle Carpark that could see it sent underground or removed completely, with high-quality public space or an extension to the museum in its place.
Of the ideas put forward, those of particular interest to anyone who cycles through the area (or who wishes they could) are proposals for something which on the day was being referred to as a ‘super crossing’. This would allow safe traffic light-controlled access over the busy dual carriageway for cyclists and pedestrians. Another idea proposes to create a new river bridge across the Foss, linking the Eye of York with Piccadilly for pedestrians and cyclists. This idea was illustrated on the event’s information boards with seductive images of the Jarrold Bridge in Norwich, and the bridge to La Lira in Ripoll, Catalonia.
The combination of these two ideas poses the possibility of an exciting new route through the area, which could theoretically allow an uninterrupted car-free/low-car cycle route from the south-west to north-east of the city. This could be a massive improvement for those who are less confident cyclists, or vulnerable cyclists such as children.
St. George’s Field
The main ideas proposed for the St. George’s field zone revolve around the car and coach park. They identify the opportunity to increase parking provision here with a multi-storey, which would compensate for lost spaces from the Castle Car Park proposals.
Ideas for improving the zone for cyclists and pedestrians take the form of the aforementioned ‘super-crossing’, and general enhancements to the already popular route along the Ouse to Blue Bridge.
The River Corridor
A wide-ranging zone, the River Corridor zone covers the parts of the Castle Gateway area which directly bank onto the Rivers Ouse and Foss. The suggested ideas would increase the ways in which the city interacts with its two rivers.
The idea on the table with the greatest potential for cyclists is a second proposed bridge, this time across the Foss Basin. This would lead to the ‘super-crossing’ over Tower Street, allowing direct access into the city centre from New Walk. Doing so would bypass Blue Bridge, the sharp incline of which is notoriously difficult to navigate for cyclists with limited mobility, or those riding larger, heavier cycles, such as Bakfiets and cargo bikes. If combined with the Piccadilly Foss bridge, this would not only allow safe south-west to north-east travel, but greater accessibility, offering increased travel opportunities for cyclists of all abilities.
What Happens Now
The Castle Gateway Masterplan Ideas offer plenty of opportunities to improve the area for cycling. Many of the ideas will be all the more useful and powerful if they are to be implemented in conjunction with one another. Improvements in cycling to this area of York will naturally benefit those living in the south of the city, but there is an argument that cyclists city-wide will benefit. Better provision leads to increased uptake, which in turn leads to greater demand for provision; a continuous feedback loop that is ever in effect in famous cycle cities such as Copenhagen and Utrecht.
These Masterplan Ideas are not fixed but currently open to consultation and feedback from the public. The feedback, along with technical, planning, and financial considerations, will be used to form a preferred masterplan to be put to the Council’s executive in March 2018 for approval. If approved, a further consultation period will be held before the masterplan is submitted for outline planning.
If you like the cycling provision, or other ideas set out in the masterplan ideas, or have any other comments, it is therefore vital that you contribute to the discussion. The feedback period for the Masterplan Ideas is now over but you can still get involved with future events and conversations, head over to mycastlegateway.org to find out more.
York Cycle Campaign submitted a formal response to the Masterplan Ideas on the behalf of its members, you can read a copy of that response here.
The YouTube videos featured in this blog post were all filmed by My Castle Gateway during the walkthrough, and feature YCC committee members Andy Shrimpton, Kate Ravilious, and Gavin Welch.