Piccadilly; Whats Going On?

York Cycle Campaign were one of several public speakers criticising the plans for Piccadilly at the Transport Executive Decision Session. The full text of that statement can be read on a separate post. In this post we explain further what’s being proposed, why we think that’s not good enough, and what happened in that Decision Session.

 The earliest briefs for Piccadilly, as part of the Castle Gateway masterplan, identified active travel as requiring special provision:

Chapter 5, page 19 – Policy Context

Since LTN 1/20 and Gear Change were published, the council lost precious time to begin further work on cycling provision. The need for safer cycling was a key concern in early briefs, explicitly asked for by many participants of community engagement, and government strategy requires it to be a key priority when remodelling major routes. Policy documents set out clear guidance on the appropriate infrastructure, determined by speed and volume of traffic. 

LTN 1/20 Figure 4.1 shows how different speeds and volumes of traffic need appropriate provision

Recommendations from officers include lowering the speed to 20mph, but even at that speed the traffic levels on Piccadilly fall into the at 4000-6000 vehicles per day segment. This means that  light segregation is at least necessary to provide a safe environment for cyclists.

We know from our members, and those who want to cycle more but don’t that safety is paramount for them. With many thousands of homes being built in the York area and the increase in traffic and decline in cycling in recent years, there is no time to waste. York needs a network of coherent, direct cycling routes to key destinations to encourage people to cycle as many of their trips in the city as possible. 

A campaigner from York Green party, Robert Gordon raised concerns over pollution on Piccadilly lingering once taller buildings are completed, due to a failure to reduce traffic or create a safe route to encourage more cycling in the area. Officers were of the opinion electrification of the bus fleet would answer that concern. On page 139 of the Public Agenda Pack report for the meeting, the council’s own traffic counts showed Buses and HGVs combined only accounted for 10-15% traffic using the road. Although planned residential properties were car free or very low car ownership, Robert said architectural factors would also influence lingering pollution. Unless enforcement powers are sought as per the meeting to curb private traffic and address cyclist’s concerns, levels will not drop significantly enough to counteract the canyon effect. Any reduction achieved by electrifying buses should therefore be regarded as a bonus, not relied upon.

Tony May spoke on behalf of the York Civic Trust:

‘York Civic Trust welcomes the council’s commitment to redesigning Piccadilly as a City Living Neighbourhood, however we are concerned that in many ways the proposed design fails to live up to that vision. As the draft local plan makes clear, such neighbourhoods should not attract through traffic. The consultants simply note and design for a flow of up to 6000 vehicles a day without questioning whether that traffic should be there.’ 

‘Our own surveys indicate clearly that around half that traffic is using Piccadilly and Stonebow as a through route, contrary to the longstanding Traffic Regulation Orders. It’s clear that consultants, in providing for that traffic have decided to sacrifice provision for cyclists. They’ve done this by imposing an unrealistic and unofficial standard from Sustrans of 2.5m lanes and then arguing that you can’t provide them so you can’t do anything. As a result, they provide a design which they admit, and we’ve already heard is opposed by cyclist representatives. In practice, LTN 1/20 specifies 2m and 1.5m where there are constraints. The minimum width is 15.5m which would allow for two 1.5m cycle lanes and two almost 3m pavements. Elsewhere in the road it would be possible to provide 2m and in most of the road still space for activities or Blue Badge Parking.’ 

‘Crossing facilities are provided for pedestrians, but there’s no indication of the type of crossing facility. Using the council’s own analysis formula for the provision of zebra crossings, certainly at the Tower St end of the road a zebra crossing would be fully justified. The Civic Trust recommends a zebra is installed there and elsewhere on the road where the standard is met. There is further work proposed on seating and the council must ensure the minimum spacing required for disabled pedestrians to rest, which the Civic Trust argues is 50m, is met.’ 

The report’s preferred design at the south of Piccadilly

‘The Trust strongly supports Option B, with enhancements to include the Traffic Regulation Orders are enforced, providing lightly segregated provision for cyclists on Piccadilly, not an alternative route, providing zebra crossings where justified, and making sure seating provision meets the needs of disabled people. With that, we would have an urban living neighbourhood.’

The Transport Executive Member Andy D’Agorne acknowledged; 

‘Some of the issues about width constraints in terms of competing demands for using the road space could be looked at again. One of the speakers referenced an option for a segregated two-way cycle lane (on one side of the road). We’ve got significant width up to Spark, though there is more restriction at the north end (from Spark up to Coppergate) but that shouldn’t preclude us from looking at options to provide a segregated route even within the current design, taking account of other aspects such as Blue Badge parking and reducing speeds overall making a more pedestrian friendly environment.’

‘As part of a broader consideration of Blue Badge parking we also need to make sure that we can provide locations for parking, regularly spaced seating, loading, landscaping. On the question of additional traffic, public participation seemed to suggest that a significant amount of traffic that is using Piccadilly is not authorised to do so. Camera enforcement could potentially be the key to reducing the amount of through traffic. There may be other elements we can use in conjunction with the Castle Mills development to reduce traffic through these streets.’

Options B & C are recommended by officers, meaning further feasibility studies can be done on segregated cycle lanes on Piccadilly and an alternative route via Walmgate and Fossgate. But these will utilise results of wide-ranging city bus routing study, as well as looking at seating, a 20mph speed limit, and a review of on-street parking provision to maximise Blue Badge parking. 

The York Cycle Campaign want vast improvements for cyclists but recognise that active travel infrastructure should not exclude disabled people from accessing the city in the form of transport they rely on for mobility and independence. Tying further theoretical work into the still unpublished Local Transport Plan and citywide bus studies which haven’t yet been put out to tender essentially means kicking the proverbial can down the road while cyclists continue to be put at risk. The Castle Gateway concept of a modern ‘city-living neighbourhood’ means supporting safe active travel to realise the benefits of living centrally; car ownership is unnecessary, and amenities are within 20 minutes reach via active travel. The council is failing to recognise this by focusing on pavement cafés, loading bays and planting areas which claim space away from cycling and walking.

The new dysfunctional loading bay and large planters taking up pavement space.

The Transport Executive member ultimately supported options B & C with additional work, adding:

‘The broad principle point I completely agree with is that the design of an attractive cycle route across the new Foss bridge needs to then link onto a clear network beyond. Notwithstanding the constraints that we must work with, that has clearly got to be part of a cycle strategy.’ That’s certainly something with which the York Cycle Campaign can agree.

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