Inactivity on Active Travel

The projected emissions pathway in the draft climate change strategy (which doesn’t even get York near its commitment to be net zero by 2030) reports that York needs to see a 71% reduction in transport emissions by 2030, which will be achieved by a 25% decrease in the number of miles driven and a 33% increase in active travel.

York Council has been awarded £1.2m in total via the last three Government Active Travel Fund bids, and yet the record of delivering these schemes is abysmal. Not one of the major cycle schemes has reached the consultation stage, let alone been completed and the current officer report recommends that two of the major active travel schemes are abandoned. 

[It should also be noted that in the last round of active travel funding York failed to consult key stakeholders, submitted an unambitious weak bid, and was awarded less than half of what it asked for – a clear sign that York Council is failing to impress the Department for Transport with its active travel programme.] 

How on earth are the lofty aims of the climate change strategy going to be met when this council can’t even complete one major active travel project in the space of two years? 

We think serious questions need to be raised about the capability and motivation of transport and highways officers. It’s astounding how officers are able to accurately cost up and smoothly progress major road building schemes such as dualling the outer ring road and expanding roundabouts, yet they massively underestimate the cost and engineering challenges of far smaller active travel schemes, and fail to deliver even the simplest schemes at any meaningful pace. 

We are livid that officers are recommending binning the A1237 bridge scheme, and then trying to sweeten the blow by suggesting it could be incorporated into Outer Ring Road works at some distant date in the future. This is an absolutely vital link in the walk/cycle network, with the next closest river crossing requiring a diversion of several kilometres, and the current provision is exceedingly dangerous. It is shown on the York Cycle map as a traffic-free route, but has cyclist dismount signs 

Manor Secondary school takes pupils from the north of the city and many staff and pupils would have the option of walking or cycling to school if facilities were safer. 

Reducing the speed limit would have a negligible impact on traffic flow.

The carriageway width (kerb to kerb) is sufficient to reallocate some of the road space to create a two-way on road cycle lane segregated from vehicle traffic with light-segregation. This would still provide >3.2m for each vehicle lane, a physical barrier and two cycle lanes of 1.1m each. There are types of light segregation available which allow for drainage of the carriageway surface and some which do not require fixing to the bridge deck and therefore should not impact on the integrity of the structure. The scheme would require hardstrips to be removed but this in not uncommon and would be proportionate with a speed limit reduction.

A two-way cycle lane of 2.2m would be lower than the desirable minimum width (LTN 1/20) but above the absolute minimum of 2m. We know that cyclists already ride along the vehicle hard-strips which they use as informal cycle lanes and this would simply formalise this arrangement and provide some physical segregation between cyclists and vehicles which would certainly provide a safer arrangement than at present.

 Just because CYC can’t do something to full standards shouldn’t be a reason not to implement anything

Emergency service vehicle movements would not be hindered by such a scheme and flexible barriers could be used to allow the cycle lane to be used in emergency.

To give up on this because of concerns about emergency vehicle access and road drainage challenges is simply pathetic. There are workable solutions – for example using screw in flexible barriers – and we ask that these alternatives are investigated.

We’re also incredulous that officers recommend binning the Wheldrake route, and haven’t even the good grace to complete and share their feasibility report – we’re supposed to just take their word for it. The excellent Sustrans feasibility report for the neighbouring Heslington to Elvington scheme shows that this scheme has a cost benefit ratio of 1:4 – for every £1 invested it will return a benefit of £4. The Wheldrake route is likely to have a similar cost benefit ratio and we cannot understand why officers are not recommended that funding is applied for from the next round of Goverment Active Travel funding (due to be summited imminently) to complete both these schemes. 

As for the remainder of the progress report on active travel – we’re seriously underwhelmed. The ‘very high priority’ Bootham scheme – 2 years later and we’re still waiting for a feasibility report. The ‘very high priority’ Acomb scheme – officers are struggling to find consultants willing to tender to design the scheme. And so it goes on…

Get a grip City of York Council. All of York’s of citizens and visitors will benefit greatly from active travel schemes. You’ve got Active Travel England on the doorstep and more than willing to help. The funding is in the bank. The only thing holding you back is your own unwillingness to embrace active travel.   

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