Campaign members call for cycling contraflow in Fossgate Consultation Response

During October 2018, City of York Council held a consultation on proposals to improve the street layout of one of York’s most popular shopping streets; Fossgate. York Cycle Campaign contacted all of our members to ask for their thoughts on the proposals via an online survey. The response we submitted to the consultation was based on this feedback. You can read our response in full below:

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Respondents are frequent visitors to Fossgate, with 85% visiting at least monthly and 58% of them visiting weekly. When visiting Fossgate, 85% usually or always visited by cycling to Fossgate directly or into the city centre.

When asked if improvements to the cycling facilities on Fossgate would encourage them to visit more often, 76% said that it would but 38% caveated that with ‘only if [the changes] went beyond the current proposals’.

Street Design

The Campaign understands that a true shared space has been considered, but opted against due to concerns about dangers to vulnerable users, such as the visually impaired, from traffic. The Campaign agrees with this decision, since the issue of confusion surrounding how to use shared spaces is often raised by our membership, with safety concerns both for cyclists and pedestrians. However our members did not feel that the current design proposals went far enough in reducing conflict and increasing safety of cyclists and pedestrians, given that pedestrian overspill is a frequent occurrence on Fossgate due to its existing narrow pavements and popularity with shoppers. 63% felt that the footpaths should be widened for the majority (if not all) of the street, giving more space to pedestrians. This would in turn reduce the likelihood of pedestrians having to step out into traffic and potentially causing an incident. It was also felt that a wider footpath/narrower roadway arrangement would have a speed-calming effect, increasing actual and perceived safety, and making the street a more attractive place to visit.

Additional questions were raised over the use of both the current and proposed fixed bollards along the footpath edges. Members were concerned about the barriers they create within the footpath, with the need to dodge them increasing the chance of overspill into the road at these points. It is our understanding that their purpose is to protect buildings from the potential of vehicle strikes. As an alternative, the Campaign suggests using additional road-narrowing islands with cycle parking in these locations. This provides a dual-purpose benefit in both protecting the buildings and providing much-needed parking locations, whilst removing obstructions to pedestrians.

With regards to the proposed signage, there was strong support amongst the membership that the signage should reflect the stated aim of promoting cycling in the street as well as prohibiting motor traffic. Members widely supported the idea of incorporating cycle signage into the street entrance totems (sign ref SR.2) as a way of positively identifying the street as a cycling street, such as blue directional signage indicating it as a route to the city centre. There was also support given to regular on-road cycle markings on the street. This would not only serve as a reminder to pedestrians and motorists that they should expect cyclists to be using the route, but also to provide guidance that the street remains a cycle route despite the restrictions on motor traffic.

Cycle Parking

The proposals indicate 5 Sheffield-style cycle stands, in two clusters of 2 & 3, allowing parking for 10 bikes in total. Currently there is no cycle parking on Fossgate or Walmgate, with the nearest cycle parking being at Whip-ma-whop-ma Gate (12 Sheffield stands) or Merchantgate (18 Sheffield stands), both of which are consistently over-occupied.

In comparison, based on the typical design allowance for a parallel-parked vehicle of 6m, this equates to approximately ten motor vehicle parking spaces, the same as cycles. This equal provision seems at odds with the stated aims of the redesign to ‘improve access to Fossgate for pedestrians and cyclists’, and with wider aims locally and nationally to prioritise sustainable transport.

Responding members strongly believed that the proposals do not provide enough parking for cycling, with only one respondent agreeing the proposals provided enough parking. In order to provide the required parking, 94% agreed that more parking should be provided even if it was at the detriment for motor vehicle parking. Such a move could be beneficial for the area as a 2016 DfT publication reported that cycle parking generates 5x the retail spend than the equivalent area of motor vehicle parking.

An ongoing concern of the membership regarding cycle parking is that not all parking is equally accessible to all users. Parking which is too closely-spaced prohibits users of non-standard cycles. Those most likely to struggle are people with disabilities, young families, or those who have difficulty manoeuvring their cycles into racks, such as elderly cyclists or cyclists with heavy shopping. The Campaign would like to see spacing of the racks to be at a minimum 1m to facilitate ease of access for all users, ideally with end racks spaced more widely and marked for use by adapted/cargo cycles.

Motor Vehicle Access Restrictions

The preferred proposal to retain the current restriction timings is welcomed. Matching other footstreets around York would unnecessarily reduce the usage restriction by 3 hours, lowering the effectiveness of any improvements to encourage walking and cycling within the street.

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A proposed concept of how an alternative true pedestrian/cycle street could work, with widened footpaths (green), a distinct cycle lane (blue) and bi-directional vehicle access to the south (red).  Base image © Google Earth 2018

Another alternative suggested within the Campaign, and widely supported by members in the survey (90%), would be to limit motor vehicle access to the lower end of Fossgate in a two-way direction, as far as Franklin’s Yard (Ambiente / The Hairy Fig), with the rest of the street for use by pedestrians and cyclists only. This would still allow access to the residents’ parking, and wouldn’t restrict those with blue badges. However it would also provide a much safer pedestrian and cycling street for the rest of Fossgate at its busiest end, by removing motor vehicles entirely. Delivery access can then be provided during a time window in line with other city centre streets.

Cycle Contraflow

Since the current proposal is one-way for all vehicles, it means that cyclists wishing to travel north-south from Stonebow to Walmgate must make an additional 150m diversion via Piccadilly and through the ‘Piccadilly bus interchange’, which consists of 6 stops and serves 28 routes. The alternative is to dismount and push; a difficult option with the busy narrow pavements and oncoming traffic, and physically impossible for those with disabilities or the elderly who may be using their cycle as a mobility aid.

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The main routes that could be unlocked for cycling if Fossgate and part of Walmgate were opened up to contraflow cycling. Base map © Google Maps 2018

Introducing a cycle contraflow as part of the proposals would be of significant benefit to cycling in the area. Concerns have also been raised about the minority of people who currently ride against the one-way traffic, and the ensuing potential for injury. Although the Campaign does not condone such behaviour, it does demonstrate a need for an alternative safer route. Legitimising and signposting it would reduce the risk to otherwise unsuspecting users.

Whilst it would be technically and legally possible to introduce an unmarked contraflow due to low number of vehicles and slower vehicle speeds on the street, our members voiced support for the lane to be fully marked (with cycle symbols and contrasting colours) for the entirety of its length. This would give enhanced visibility to pedestrians that cyclists could be travelling in the opposite direction down the street and to look both ways before crossing/stepping out, especially as they may not see or be looking for contraflow signs at the ends of the streets.

Fossgate has the potential to be a vital segment of a quiet and safe cycle network, connecting the city centre with its Walmgate and Fishergate entrances, and the neighbourhoods beyond. Such connections would not only benefit cyclists, but also the businesses along Fossgate, which would have an increased number of potential customers cycling past their shops. Research has shown that in comparison to motorists, the long-term spending of cyclists tends to be almost twice as high due to loyalty and the increased frequency of visits.

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