“Did you know that the Council is going to remove this cycle lane?”
“What? That’s crazy! As if it’s not hard enough to cycle in York already!”
Exchange between a York Cycle Campaign Committee member and a member of the public, both on bicycles, while waiting for the lights to change at the Station Road/Rise junction.
On the 18th of December, 2017, the City of York Council publicly confirmed its intent to remove the marked cycle lane on Station Road as part of a project to overhaul the traffic lights at the junction. In doing so they confirmed that “the reason the design team proposed to remove the cycle lane is that it is not up to existing design standards and they believe it represents a safety concern.” This followed a meeting between York Cycle Campaign representatives and CoYC officials where we, York Cycle Campaign, pressed them to retain the cycle lane or consider implementing other options that would be at least as safe as the existing cycle lane. As part of its decision the CoYC stated that it hoped to introduce one of these suggestions, although it acknowledged that this might not be possible for a “significant amount of time.”
While we welcome any measure that improves the safety of cyclists in York, we are not reassured by a proposal that may not be even considered for a “significant amount of time” and thus, may never happen. Our focus therefore is instead on the more certain and real consequence of this decision for people cycling through this junction, namely that they will not have a cycle lane to guide them. Particularly disheartening is that CoYC’s stated rationale for its decision to remove this cycle lane does not, in our view, immediately appear to support its public commitment to the safety of people choosing the cycle through this junction. For example:
- CoYC ruled out converting the left-hand filter lane to a segregated cycle lane because their transport model forecast that doing so would cause extra congestion. We have already documented our serious concerns about the accuracy of CoYC’s transport model in our response to the Local Plan, including its apparent failure to factor in cyclists or pedestrians. Nevertheless, their reasoning to abandon what would undeniably be the safest option for cyclists would seem to suggest that CoYC consider the added inconvenience to some users of this junction to be a higher peril than extra risk to people cycling through this junction. Nor also in our view, can CoYC credibly claim that it would be difficult to design a segregated cycle lane that allowed motorists to turn left without risk of collisions, when so many examples of infrastructure safely allowing such movements can be found in Danish and Dutch cities in particular.
- CoYC officials acknowledged at our meeting that each option they consider is not ranked in terms of safety. This suggests to us that CoYC has no way of knowing whether the option it chooses is actually the safest. Once more, this does not appear to support CoYC’s claim that its decision to remove the cycle lane is motivated primarily by the safety of people using this junction, in particular those on bicycles.
- CoYC’s own accident data for this junction suggest that their fears of an imminent cyclist accident on this junction due to the current cycle path are unfounded. In our discussions with CoYC officials, one official described the accident rate for cyclists using this junction as “negligible”. Furthermore, the decision notice says that the Council have only been able to find one accident involving a cyclist on the cycle lane at this junction over the entire 15 year period that the cycle lane has been in place. Using Council-supplied data, we estimate that 2-3 million cyclists are likely to have used this junction over this 15 year period, but official accident data shows that only one such cyclist has had an accident on the cycle lane¹. By York’s standards, that is a safe junction for cyclists, as a quick look at the CycleStreets website will confirm. The CoYC says in its decision notice that it has CCTV evidence and a written report of two further incidents also on the cycle lane at this junction, which it takes as evidence of underreporting of accidents. That may be so, but since all accident reporting at junctions will be liable to underreporting, the accident rate at Station Road/Rise junction is likely to remain low relative to other junctions. These other junctions would be better candidates for alterations to their layout, and segregated lanes would be the best improvements to make.
In summary, we are greatly dismayed by the Council’s decision to remove the cycle lane on Station Road/Rise. The CoYC has equal responsibility to the safety of all of York’s residents and to allocate public funds accordingly. Its official policy is to encourage more people to cycle rather than drive, and it claims that its decision is motivated by concerns for cyclist safety. But this appears incompatible with its own accident data, its failure to rank options in terms of safety, and its choice to avert possible higher congestion at the expense of cyclist safety. As such, it is a decision and a decision-making approach that we will continue to oppose: York’s cyclists deserve better.
¹ It is difficult to know precisely how many cyclists have used this junction over that 15 year period, but Council-supplied data shows that over 1,200 cyclists used the junction over a 12-hour period from the morning to the evening on 13 September 2016. If this is representative, it would suggest that perhaps 2-3 million cyclists used this junction over the 15 years since the cycle lane has been present, but only one had an accident on this cycle lane.