Including cycle superhighways in a Council proposal to dual part of York’s outer ring road would boost the chances of the bid securing funding while also increasing cycling in the city, York Cycle Campaign has argued at a Council meeting.
At the meeting, members of the City of York Council’s Executive (comprised of senior Councillors) were being asked to approve the allocation of £2.8m of match funding to lay the groundwork for a possible bid to dual part of the outer ring road, namely between Rawcliffe Bar and the Hopgrove roundabout, to the north of York. The remainder of the scheme’s £25m cost would have to come from the Department for Transport (DfT), subject to a successful bid from City of York Council. The Council’s report for the meeting suggested that one benefit of dualling this section would be to draw motor traffic away from the centre of York.
Speaking of behalf of York Cycle Campaign, Kate Ravilious welcomed this ambition, arguing that the newly freed-up roadspace offered an opportunity to consolidate the more attractive conditions for cyclists by building cycle superhighways along York’s radial routes. At present, these routes are often used by motor traffic seeking to avoid the congested outer ring road. Building cycle superhighways on these routes would give people “real choice in their travel options”, while also easing “traffic congestion and air pollution in the urban area of the city.”
The high benefit:cost ratios of cycle schemes make them an attractive investment decision for councils: “Analysis of the Department for Transport’s Cycling Towns, of which York was one, found that the Benefit:Cost ratio of cycling infrastructure was in the region of 3:1, meaning that every £1m invested in cycle infrastructure is likely to see £3m return in benefits including reduced mortality, congestion, absenteeism and increased amenity.” Incorporating safe cycle infrastructure into this scheme would therefore be a cheap way of boosting its benefit/cost ratio, increasing the chance of the proposals securing DfT funding. York Cycle Campaign ended its statement by calling for an additional £0.5m increase in investment in the scheme, “with the additional half million being used to further development of cycle superhighways into York”, adding that the Campaign “would be happy to work with officers on identifying suitable routes for cycle superhighways, and incorporating more cycle and pedestrian provision into the current plans.”
In their statement when the item came up for discussion, Council officers appeared sympathetic to the ideas raised in York Cycle Campaign’s statement. Tony Clarke, head of Transport at the Council acknowledged that there was an “opportunity to look at what the impact of dualling the ring road will mean for other routes in the city, particularly the radial routes [as mentioned by York Cycle Campaign], so we will be looking at that impact. There is the expectation that there will be a reductions of traffic level on some of those radial routes, and also the orbital routes adjacent to the outer ring ring road.”
Kicking off the comments from members of the Executive itself, the Council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Member for the Environment, Councillor Andrew Waller, was more strident in his support for York Cycle Campaign’s suggestion that any proposal included a substantial cycle infrastructure component.
Cllr Waller said: “In relation to the cycle provision, I am very conscious that the West Combined Yorkshire Authority has predicated the funding on there being inclusion for cycle underpasses and I certainly work very hard with the Combined Authority. We’d need clarity on the amount of spending relative to the amount of cycling we would like to see in the city. And if we contrast our investment programme with Munster’s, a similarly flat city, I think demonstrating figures like the £3.5m and how they work throughout the city.
Cllr Waller continued: “As a regular cyclist, I am aware of people who would like to cycle more and as a family, but it’s those safe radial routes, or the absence in locations that deter them from doing it and really making that step change. It’s demonstrating that we are not just seeking, we are actually implementing, and have plans, and I would like a commitment to work with the Cycle Campaign on that additional half million that was quoted earlier in the meeting, to make this the step change that it could be rather than the motor car adaptation which some people see it in solely those terms.”
Neil Ferris, the Council’s Corporate Director for Economy and Place: “This administration has adopted a overarching cycle strategy for the city in terms of a cycleway infrastructure”, adding that the freeing up of road space from any dualling might allow for some of this strategy to be implemented, pending financial and political support. He added that this “really clear map of the city with all the [cycle] routes proposed… with the existing gaps” could be referred to in the minutes of the meeting. The Campaign awaits that with interest.
Cllr Peter Dew, Executive Member for Transport and Planning appeared more cautious on the inclusion of cycle provision in the scheme, framing the issue in terms of limited funds and options: “right in the first place, it was a case of a single carriageway or nothing at all.” As he put it, “it’s a question of do we accept this, or do we do nothing?” “I’d love to have cycle superhigways all over the place, but York being York, it’s a matter of being where exactly we put them, and how we pay for them.”
Cllr Janet Looker, leader of the Labour Group, referred to the cycle ride through the city centre organised by York Cycle Campaign that she and Cllr Dew did with local disabled cyclists. As Cllr Looker said, “one of the things that came up time and again is the number of times that you have to stop and either push your bike across awkward crossings, or the cycle track runs out completely, or there is no very clear way around the central pedestrian area, which is very discouraging for cyclists, especially cyclists with disabilities who don’t find it easy to stop and start.” She acknowledged that this issue was not explicitly for the benefit of disabled cyclists, but she felt it was a “very important one to try to encourage cyclists, not just those of us who are reasonably able-bodied.”
Commenting on the benefit-cost ratio, Tony Clarke suggested that the Council had estimated this ratio to be “around 2” (the threshold for ‘high’ value for money – the Campaign would certainly like to see these estimates in detail). Mr Clarke also acknowledged that the lack of continuity in York’s cycle routes, saying that it was something the Council was trying to resolve, but “they are particularly difficult things to address, either from a funding point of view or also from a space point of view.”
York Cycle Campaign’s call for cycle superhighways to be provided as part of any scheme to dual York’s outer ring road also attracted considerable media interest. YorkMix published a detailed report that was well-received on social media. The York Press released a shorter piece, and York Cycle Campaign’s communications officer Robyn Jankel appeared on Radio York DJ Jules Bellerby’s Drive time show on Friday 21 December to set out the Campaign’s perspective.
In the event, the Executive gave their go-ahead for this first step in the long process towards a possible dualling of this part of the outer ring road. A bid will still have to be put together and assessed by DfT, with construction likely to commence no earlier than late 2019. There will be many more opportunities for the Campaign to press the case for the provision of cycle superhighways as part of the proposal. We are encouraged by the comments made by senior Councillors and council officers in response to our statement at this Executive meeting and look forward to further engagement with them on this.