Flooding in York is something of an inevitability. And we’re nothing if not resourceful folks. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the ever-creative Bike Belles came up with a way for cyclists in York to keep up to speed with the latest watery developments.
It all started when a local cyclist asked iTravel York where to find updates on flooded cycle paths. A brief Twitter exchange later and it was established that whilst the council have an online list of susceptible paths, they don’t monitor them on a regular basis. And travel updates, of course, only ever cover the roads and public transport. (But why not cycling? you may very well ask. And should it be this way? Two good questions, I say, and ones I’ll be tackling in a future blog post).
With people all over York bereft of updates on the underwater cycle network, Bike Belles pondered: why don’t we share our own real-time information?
And so #YorkCyclingFloods was born.
Here’s how it works. If you discover that any part of the network is impassable due to the floods, be sure to tweet about it (with a photo if at all possible), and include the hashtag #YorkCyclingFloods. Tagging @YorkCycle and @YorkBikeBelles helps, since we can retweet it and spread the word.
Then, if you’re planning a journey and need to know whether or not part of your route is currently underwater, you can simply head to Twitter and check the latest tweets which contain #YorkCyclingFloods.
The more updates, the better, so get snapping and tweeting!
This is a great way to take action against a problematic situation and use our collective experience to help others. If you’ve been caught out by a short stretch where the river has burst its banks, had your route obstructed by sandbags, or noticed that an entire path is underwater, share it on social media and ensure that others aren’t subjected to the same fate.
— lifeboatdave (@Lifeboatmandave) April 6, 2018
Equally, if you discover that the water has receded and a previously-blocked section is now clear, please share this positive news with the same hashtag. This will allow people currently avoiding certain paths to return to their usual routes.
— Imelda Havers (@imeldahavers) April 5, 2018
We also want to keep an eye on paths which aren’t being cleared after the floods. Last time New Walk was flooded, it was never fully cleared, despite a number of pleas to the council. As many bruised and grazed residents have learnt to their costs, the slimy, silty residue is no friend to bikes. If you’re affected by this, tweet about it and continue using the hashtag. We can remind people of the remaining dangers, and draw wider attention to the ongoing issues to cyclists even after the river has returned to its regularly-scheduled flow.
Not on Twitter? Not a problem! You can’t share intel but you certainly read it. Anybody, Twitter user or not, can click here and then select “Latest” to see the most recent posts.
This was such an unusual approach that BBC Radio York approached us to talk about it. You can listen to our communication officer Robyn speaking to Jonathan Gowan here (go to 2 hours 23 minutes – it only lasts four minutes!). We hope to return for more cycling chat soon, but for the moment, it was great to have support from Jonathan, and hopefully this will have brought the cycling issues caused by flooding to a wider audience.
— Peter Sheaf (@PetrosGhali) April 6, 2018
We’re proud to be involved with this proactive response to an immediate issue. Nonetheless, this is a stopgap, and there’s no question that City of York Council could be doing more for cyclists during flooding. It’s all very well placing signs next to flooded sections of path, but this is too little too late for anyone who has already chosen a route and cycled several miles only to discover that they can’t go any further. It’s even worse when unannounced blockages result in people being forced to dismount and even carry their cycle up steps; an impossibility for many users, especially those with mobility issues, children, or cargo. If real-time updates are given about flooded roads or disrupted public transport, why can’t it be done for cycle paths as well? This is a situation when information is key in deciding whether it’s necessary to risk the dangers of flood water, cycling through traffic, or not going out at all.
How have the floods affected you? Will you be taking advantage of the hashtag? What could the council be doing during and after floods, to increase the safety and convenience for York residents who choose to get around by cycling? Let us know in the comments.