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Harrogate council's debate over a cycling feasibility study

15th March 2014

Pathetic cycle lane, Hookstone Chase, Harrogate?

The Harrogate Advertiser reports that Harrogate Borough Council discussed cycling, following a suggestion from LibDem councillor Helen Flynn that £50,000 be spent on a feasibility study. 

The idea of carrying out a feasibility study comes from Mrs Flynn's work with Sustrans (Leeds office). They believe that those local authorities with no feasibility plan do not win bids for funding from central government. Mrs Flynn has also blogged about cycling in Harrogate.

The Conservatives are against the idea. Councillor Richard Cooper claimed that there has been 'an enormous amount of investment' in cycling over the last few years. He referred to the Nidderdale Greenway, and the Yorkshire Showground Greenway currently being built. He continued, 'We are spending £4m repairing road surfaces in the preparations for the Tour de France. And let's not forget that we won the Tour de France Grand Départ for Harrogate and Knaresborough.'

Mr Cooper's comments show an astonishing lack of interest and lack of ambition for cycling. We would suggest that his are the views of a non-cyclist, who does not have the first idea of what it's like cycling in Harrogate, or what could be done. Two isolated pieces of infrastructure do not make Harrogate a cycling town, or anything close. Complacent people like Mr Cooper expect to be able to drive everywhere, but when it comes to bikes, they think that cyclists should feel privileged to be given any infrastructure at all. Being told that you can get safely from point A to point B via route C, and nowhere else, is not good enough. We should be able to get everywhere safely by bike. 

As for trying to claim that resurfacing the roads is somehow for the benefit of cyclists, this is disingenuous and misleading. Are they putting in safe, separate cycle lanes as part of the resurfacing? If so, HedgehogCycling will accept that this is cycle infrastructure. If not, then don't try to claim that this is for the benefit of the town's cyclists.

The Tour de France: it's great that it's coming. The bid was won by Welcome to Yorkshire, not by Mr Cooper or Harrogate Borough Council, so he should not be trying to claim credit for it. Anyway, the Tour de France is not going to help local cyclists in itself, only if Harrogate BC meets its promise to ensure that there's a legacy - a legacy is fundamental, the council said, but there is as yet no evidence of a proper plan for a legacy.  

If Sustrans believe that a feasibility study is necessary, it probably is. They know about this, and they are clearly committed to getting cycling infrastructure built.

The Advertiser also reports that Councillor John Ellis was elected the council's cycling champion in December 2013, and is due to hold a forum in the next couple of months. Mr Ellis said, 'I would say listen to the cyclists themselves first, rather than the politicians.' He does not believe a strategy is necessary but 'if it does turn out we need a feasibility, that is something we will have to look at.' 

In councillor Helen Flynn, we have someone on the council who is beginning to make the argument for cycling. It's a necessary start, and something to celebrated.