Acomb Scheme Saved

The Campaign were shocked last week the hear that proposals to improve Acomb Road, making it safer for cyclists, could be dramatically slashed from 1.5 miles to just 0.6 miles. With the scheme running only from the Fox Junction to Hebden Rise, instead of all the way to Beckfield Lane.

Last week campaign member Nathan shared his own struggles of cycling along this route taking his daughter to school through a series of videos.

Listed as one of the city’s Emergency Active Travel schemes, the scheme was awarded funding from central government along with 23 other schemes around the city. However the funding is conditional and could be withdrawn, and future funding jeopardised, if the proposals aren’t delivered. Ironically the department to make the decision would be the new Active Travel England, who it was recently announced would be based in York.

On Sunday, Campaign members met to discuss their concerns with York Central MP Rachael Maskell, and councillors Rachel Melly and Katie Lomas for Holgate and Acomb wards respectively. We’re also aware of numerous campaign members personally contacting the council expressing their own concerns.

The decision on whether to cut the scheme was taken at a CoYC Executive of Transport meeting tonight (14th February) at which Campaign members spoke of their anger that the scheme could be cut – their statements can be read in full at the end of this post.

Councillor Rachel Melley, who had met with members on Sunday, also spoke to say “Better walking and cycling infrastructure to and through Acomb High Street is greatly needed and has public support, as well as the support of Acomb and Holgate councillors.”

Following the representations made at the beginning of the meeting Executive Member for Transport Councillor Andy d’Agorne asked that the project brief be amended back to include from Beckfield Lane to the Fox Junction, making reference to the Acomb Regeneration Design.

Watch as Councillor Andy d’Agorne gives his decision on Acomb Road

The scheme will now go on to be designed in full and consulted on, with decisions on how that may be phased and coordinated with the Acomb regeneration scheme taken as part of that exercise.

The Campaign are pleased to see the proposals reinstated back as they were first put forward. Beyond the desperate need for safe infrastructure in this part of the city, the reduction of the scheme risked the loss of funding for the scheme in its entirety and future government funding.

Campaign member Rob presented the follow statement on behalf of the Campaign at today’s executive meeting, expressing the Campaign’s concerns at the reduction in the scheme’s scope.

“We are angered to see the Acomb Road cycle scheme reduced from 1.5 miles to 0.6 miles.

It was a ‘very high priority’ scheme (funded over 18 months ago). Your report in January said the Acomb scheme was already at the preliminary design stage, with public consultation due to occur in January 2022 and construction to start in November 2022. What happened?

There’s no good reason for this reduction. The section removed from the scheme is the one most dangerous for cyclists. It should be prioritised for active travel infrastructure.

Active Travel Schemes benefit everyone, freeing up the road for those who need it by encouraging short journeys to be made by bike, on foot and so on. To do that they need to be joined-up routes with safe provision throughout. Piecemeal segments will not encourage new cyclists, and won’t enable people to cycle journeys they’d normally drive.

The funding for this scheme came from the Emergency Active Travel Fund, which was explicit about reallocating roadspace in order to enable safe walking and cycling.

Active Travel England – government’s executive agency responsible for improving the standards of cycling and walking infrastructure in England – will expect to see the funding to have been used in this way, following LTN1/20 guidelines, and reallocating roadspace where necessary to achieve the aims of the project. Not doing this may risk the funding being clawed back, and may jeopardise future active travel funding for York.

Active Travel England will be based in York this year. They wouldn’t let the scheme pass in its half-baked form. That would not go unnoticed by the press. It would also not go unnoticed by the vast majority of people in York who want to get round their city quickly, efficiently, actively, without being stuck in, or creating more, congestion.

All the reasons for this 1.5 mile stretch of road being originally proposed are still valid: it would provide a continuous and safe link to outlying villages including Knapton, Poppleton and Rufforth, it would enable hundreds of children to cycle to school safely, it would provide people with an alternative to driving when visiting the library, swimming pool, doctor’s surgery, shops; it has the potential to bring about a huge rise in cycle commuting to work.

Research shows people want to cycle. The propensity to cycle tool shows that cycling rates could quadruple with good infrastructure: 40% of residents cycling to work and 40% of children cycling to school. If we have good infrastructure.

To sum up: The current recommendation to split the scheme and only complete a short section using the active travel funding means that it is no longer the scheme that was originally funded. This risks active travel funding being clawed back, plus a reduction in the amount of funding – free money – York is awarded for such beneficial schemes in future.

We want to see the Acomb Road cycle scheme revert to the original 1.5 mile scheme that was bid for, completed in two phases if necessary, but all funded from the Active Travel Fund and treated as a very high priority scheme.”

Campaign member Kristian also spoke at the meeting today as a local resident living by the proposed scheme.

“As a resident of Severus Avenue, which is directly adjacent to Acomb road, I was delighted that the council secured funding for an active travel scheme in my area. I was looking forward to inspecting designs, due last month, and imagining how getting around might be improved for myself, and the benefits it might bring to the community here. You can hopefully understand then why it is so disappointing to see the plans have been dramatically reduced, the timetable for delivery abandoned and no reason given for this sudden change.

In order to deliver this route, many residents in this area who live along Acomb road are going to be asked to put up with disruption from road works and changes to parking arrangements. In return for this, they should be seeing the full benefits of the scheme.

The main benefit should be that they can now cycle in safety and comfort to any of the places in the area they want to be, whether that’s taking their kids to school or visiting businesses on the route such as Tea on the Green or The Crooked Tap. However, in its truncated form this project fails to get people all the way to their destination in safety. It leaves gaps at some of the most dangerous parts of the journey, such as the roundabout by Oak Rise. This project could be transformative but piecemeal segments of cycle infrastructure will not encourage those who don’t cycle already, and won’t enable people to cycle for journeys that they might normally drive.

There are other benefits residents should be able to enjoy after the works, such as quieter streets and cleaner air. However, it will be hard to see a noticeable improvement if the project doesn’t do enough to persuade people to switch from driving to cycling.

Ultimately, people will not find it fair that they put up with the disruption for a disconnected section of cycle infrastructure.

While I understand the council’s position is that they feel they can proceed more quickly with a truncated scheme, such a move stores up problems for the future.

The UK government has landed on a strategy for delivering active travel that centres on allocating funding only to local authorities who provide plans for ambitious, high quality schemes. In time, that funding will also depend upon the track record in delivering on those commitments. If this council demonstrates at this early stage that it can’t deliver on its plans in full, it will seriously hinder York’s ability to secure funding in the future. My concern is that by deferring a significant portion of this route to the Acomb regeneration project, which will have different goals, funding and scope, The UK Govt, through its agency Active Travel England, will look at this as a failure to deliver what it promised, and be reluctant to provide funding to future schemes.

While I wouldn’t object to the scheme being implemented in multiple phases, I am today asking the committee to reject the proposal to truncate the scheme. This is so the scheme can be designed in full and ultimately delivered so as to meet the conditions of the original Emergency Active Travel proposal. I believe this will mean a first phase can commence immediately while securing the full route, protecting York’s reputation in the eyes of Active Travel England, and not leaving the community with half a cycle lane.”

Get Involved as a Ward Representative

Are the cycling issues in your home ward that irritate you, that your feel are neglected, or you have ideas how improvements could be made? Why not become a York Cycle Campaign representative for your ward?

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