Letter: Decline in Cycling

At the Council’s August executive meeting we made a statement on the decline in cycling number in York during a period in which cycling numbers nationally have increased. Below is a copy of the letter we sent addressing the issue following our statement.

Dear Neil Ferris, Keith Aspden and Andy D’Agorne,

We welcome your acknowledgement, during the executive meeting on Thursday 26th August, that cycling levels have been declining in York and that the long term trend needs to be addressed. 

As the DfT statistics presented by the cycling campaign indicated, York’s population has increased by around 8% whilst motor vehicle traffic has increased by 23% over the highlighted period. Meanwhile, collisions involving cyclists rose on average 25% in the years following 2014. Some 12,000 people have given up cycling in York since 2014 and this trend will only continue if nothing is done to directly address the problem.

The dramatic rise in vehicle traffic and increased risk of collision has been directly responsible for much of the decline in cycling: roads that were previously quiet side-streets (such as Navigation Road) have become rat-runs for frustrated motorists, meanwhile major A roads leading into the city (such as Shipton Rd/Bootham) that used to be tolerable for cycling have become too busy and dangerous for all but the boldest cyclists. As a result there are now many large gaps in the cycle network. 

The solution to this is clear: high quality segregated infrastructure as part of a connected cycle network. Both are explicitly part of the Gear Change policy document and are an explicated part of the local transport note 1/20 (LTN 1/20); the guidance which the Government expects to have been used for all transport projects funded over the last 13 months. In addition, explicit funding for segregated routes has been made available by the government as part of its emergency active travel scheme (EATF) funding of which York has been allocated some £850,000 in two tranches, with the first tranche of £193,000 made available for immediate action some 14 months ago. 

If implemented properly (following LTN1/20 guidelines) many of the EATF schemes will start to plug the gaps in York’s cycle network, and start to reverse the recent decline in cycling. However, the performance to date on installing these schemes has been abysmal. 

Of the schemes to be funded under EATF Tranche 1 (for which funds were provided, as noted, 14 months ago:

  1. some park and cycle facilities have been provided, but not publicised
  2. nothing has been done on the major Clifton Bootham scheme
  3. some limited additional cycle parking has been provided in the city centre
  4. as far as we know, nothing has yet been done to upgrade the north-south city centre route (including the proposed point-closure on Navigation Rd)
  5. the scheme on Castle Mills Bridge has been withdrawn
  6. the Groves trial is in place, but this was not principally a cycling scheme
  7. nothing has been done to improve conditions on the city centre bridges
  8. Coppergate has a segregated cycle lane but is extremely poorly designed
  9. the footstreets have been extended, but this did nothing for cyclists
  10. the very poorly designed Bishopthorpe Road scheme has been removed
  11. as far as we know, nothing else was done to provide for queuing outside shops
  12. as far as we know the counters have not been upgraded
  13. no significant and noticeable reallocation of time at signals to support pedestrians has taken place.

For EATF Tranche 2:

  1. nothing has been done on the A1237
  2. nothing has been done on Shipton Road
  3. nothing noticeable has been done on city centre access
  4. nothing has been done on Acomb Road
  5. as far as we know nothing has been done on the Carr Junior School Zone
  6. as far as we know nothing has been completed on the Wheldrake link 

So all in all, of the 11 cycle route schemes (Tranche 1 # 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10; Tranche 2 1-4 and 6): 

  • two have been implemented and withdrawn
  • one has been implemented and retained, but is deficient (Coppergate)
  • eight have seen no action on the ground at all.

The Council needs seriously to get to grips with this before DfT decides to withdraw funding. Neil Ferris has claimed in a letter to us that the only reason for delay has been problems in making key staff appointments. But we know from our work with the Council, staff time has been used very inefficiently. As an example, we reviewed a scheme for Clifton/Bootham – fully developed by consultants and virtually ready to implement – in September 2020. Yet nothing has appeared on the ground, apparently because two different teams of officers could not agree on the interpretation of LTN1/20, and their senior management was apparently incapable of resolving these differences. As a result, scarce staff resources have been wasted on unresolved disputes, and Council funding has potentially been wasted on unused consultancy reports.

At the same time the redesign of Piccadilly is an insult to active travel and the proposed plans for Tadcaster Road are quite frankly unbelievably poor. We have yet to see any attempt from York’s transport team to get to grips with LTN1/20, despite the clear direction from central government in recent months. For example, the recent letter from the Department of Transport inviting councils to bid for funding for cycle schemes (https://issuu.com/carltonreid/docs/atf_bid_invitation) states: 

‘We expect local authorities and developers to utilise the [LTN 1/20] guidance in the design of all schemes regardless of whether they are seeking Government funding’.

If the decline in cycling is not addressed now then this council will leave a legacy of massively increased traffic congestion, rising levels of collisions, poorer air quality and a rising carbon footprint from transport. We appreciate that there may be some resistance to the implementation of high quality cycle schemes, particularly from motorists who perceive that traffic congestion will increase. However, the benefits of such schemes will bring significant improvements for all residents and visitors, with reduced traffic congestion (due to more people having the option of safe cycling instead of driving), improved air quality, fewer collisions and a reduced carbon-footprint for the city, to name just a few. Time is running out, but with swift action the benefits of the EATF schemes and other major transport projects can be realised before the next local elections. 

The cycle campaign welcomes the invitation from Mr Ferris to work with the cycle campaign to address the shocking figures on cycling participation in the City of York. We look forward to urgent implementation of the clearly necessary EATF schemes and ask for a clear timescale of implementation of the remaining EATF schemes. We also ask Cllr Aspden and Cllr D’Agorne to explain the steps they intend to take to address the issues we have raised. We would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with officers and contribute to creating a fully connected cycle network in York.

Yours sincerely,

York Cycle Campaign committee 

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