Last week was the second installation of York’s new Walk Cycle Forum. This time it was the turn of committee member Robyn to represent the campaign. Here is her write-up of the event.
This Walk Cycle Forum was a busy affair, with an awful lot to get through in a short amount of time.
After stuffing ourselves from the buffet table (nobody’s creative juices can be expected to flow on an empty stomach), we began by discussing our “vision” for York of the future around our tables, and then sharing these dreams with the whole group. Naturally, these mostly revolved around a greener, healthier, less car-dependent city; all positive and admirable goals, although I would have been cheered to see stronger emphasis on accessibility and closeness.
After this we had four talks, from representatives of the council, Sustrans, York Civic Trust, and York’s Business Improvement District (or BID).
Unfortunately, with a lot to get through, the speakers were asked to speed through their talks which meant I found myself scrabbling to take notes. So my apologies for a lack of detail in certain areas – and even more apologies if it transpires I’ve got something wrong!
Andy Vose spoke on behalf of CoYC, detailing their plans for improving the cycle network over the coming years. It’s an ambitious plan, but I was frustrated by what felt like a lack of concrete details. By necessity, it will be implemented piecemeal and we were also shown a spreadsheet explaining how priority will be given to certain sections. We have a copy of this, and YCC’s BIG sub-group will be looking into it further, since it was tricky to draw any conclusions from this presentation alone. I was reassured that evidently a lot of effort had gone into designating which routes needed the most work. However, from a brief perusal it still appears that motorists are being given priority (for example, routes being described as “difficult” because they will lessen on-street parking). With claims of a limited budget and a less than satisfactory prior record from the council on putting cyclists first, it’s hard to know how effective this will be in the long run. I was interested to learn of the council’s approach but only time will tell whether it will result in actual changes.
Questions were curtailed due to the limited time, but I was able to ask what type of cycle paths they were looking at implementing: broken white lines, solid white lines, painted road, segregated lanes, etc? The response was a somewhat unnecessary explanation that certain lanes are more expensive than the others and they are limited by their budget, but that they would be putting in “the best possible”. I wanted to hear that they always began by looking at segregated lanes, but that wasn’t said… so I remain to be convinced by this particular aspect!
Next up was Rupert Douglas of Sustrans, with some talk about the expansion of the outer ring road. I understood him to stay that the West Yorkshire Combined Authority would only be funding this expansion if a cycle path is to be put in. My own experience of cycling along the ring-road path over the Ouse on the A1237 is very unpleasant, not least due to its narrow width and proximity to fast-moving vehicles. We must keep abreast of this to ensure that any new lanes are fit for purpose.
Rupert also mentioned the updating of the Foss Islands Path which took place some time ago, and brought up Scarborough Bridge’s upcoming works. He assured us that the council were aware of the difficulties in arriving at the station end, and that this was under consideration, although no details were given.
(YCC has submitted a response to the plans and detailed our concerns with this bottleneck situation. We are yet to hear CoYC’s proposals for dealing with the huge influx of cyclists the bridge will bring.)
Tony May was representing the York Civic Trust, with a talk which was predominantly aimed towards cycling more so than walking. He discussed the practical nature of dealing with cycle-related issues in a city; how to observe a problem, consider the options, and take it forward. At the end we were asked if we agreed with his approach. Unless I completely misunderstood his talk, it seemed to be making eminently sensible suggestions (albeit with a lot of technical language I’m not entirely sure I grasped!) so not surprisingly, the question was met with murmurs of agreement.
The final presentation was from Andrew Lowson of the BID, with perhaps the most exciting part of the evening since his promised tantalisingly imminent change. The BID has an £850,000 annual budget which it spreads over multiple areas. As part of one, they are intending to put in more cycle parking in York.
We were given enormous maps with the proposed locations marked on, and asked to discuss our thoughts. Questions were raised as to how they had achieved these locations in the first place: Andy Vose answered that it was due to a combination of reasons, notably visible overflow from existing bike racks, frequent “fly parking”, and simply where there was space.
Like many people in the room, I was skeptical of some of the locations, but happily the council are open to more suggestions. We’ll be putting together a tool very shortly to help you all suggest where you think new cycle racks would be the most beneficial.
Several helpful points were raised, which I sincerely hope that both BID and CoYC (who will be working together on this project) will take into consideration. Firstly, parking for non-traditional cycles; cargo bikes, trailers, tricycles, recumbents, etc. Users of all these struggle with the Sheffield stand but such a variety of cycles should be promoted and encouraged; thus, having suitable parking in the city centre could be genuinely transformative. I pointed out that certain cycle racks are underused because of their location or positioning which appeared unsafe, such as the dark alleyway between Castlegate and Clifford Street (behind Prezzo), but was reassured that all of the proposed locations are in the open, and covered by CCTV.
There was the question of who is using them: commuters, tourists, residents nipping into town, shoppers, etc. Certainly the needs of a local office worker, who arrives at 9am and leaves their bike for eight hours, will be different to someone who’s chaining it up whilst spending 20 minutes in a shop.
I hope that BID and CoYC will take this disparity into consideration and provide parking which suits all requirements, but we will be following up with them to ensure that this point is noted. On this note, if you work in town but your employer hasn’t provided suitable cycle parking or storage, please let us know!
At this point we were running late, so with a few brief opinions shared on the proposed cycle parking locations, the meeting was over.
It was a shame that so much was packed into such a short space of time, since quite a few people had questions arising from each talk, but unfortunately all discussion had to be kept to a minimum. It would be good to have follow-up talks at a later date, in particular with the council’s proposed cycle network, and the cycle parking. I also hope that at future meetings, forum attendees are given more opportunity to discuss and share their feedback. Otherwise we risk losing the benefit of having so many representatives in a room together at once, and it becomes a series of presentations rather than an actual forum inspiring conversation and change. It’s admirable that we have so much to discuss and I was happy to be involved. It’s only early days, but I hope that the forum continues and breeds more discussion into how we can make York a fantastic city for walking and cycling.