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Harrogate town cycle routes

In this section I look at the existing cycle infrastructure in the town of Harrogate, and make suggestions for improvements. (Some of the routes are shown in yellow on the map attached to Harrogate Borough Council's Cycling Implementation Plan, meaning that they are regarded as cycle routes).

Slingsby Walk

Slingsby Walk

Slingsby Walk is a shared use cycle and foot path across the Stray. This is a very useful route, which allows cyclists to avoid some busy roads. Slingsby Walk is named after Sir William Slingsby, who discovered the first natural spring in Harrogate. Read more about Slingsby Walk.

East Parade

Give way to the bin, East Parade cycle lane

East Parade has a cycle lane in each direction. The lane going uphill (south) is unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. See photos, my description of the lane and its problems, and my suggestions for improvements to East Parade.

Otley Road

Otley Road, Harrogate

The B6162 Otley Road from the Prince of Wales roundabout towards Harlow Carr and Beckwithshaw is shown as a cycle route on Harrogate BC's Cycling Implementation Plan, even though there is no cycling infrastructure here, and it is a busy road. A lot of cyclists use the pavement, suggesting that they find the road intimidating. How could the Otley Road be made better for cyclists?

Luchon Way

Luchon Way, Harrogate

There's a route from the Co-op garage on Ripon Road, via Luchon Way, then on back streets, which arrives close to the station, so avoids the busy A61 Ripon Road coming into the town centre. It's quite promising, and signposting was improved in early 2015, but it could still be made better. This is a guide to the Luchon Way route, and ideas for improvements.

Cricket club path and south Harrogate routes

Parson's Intake, Harrogate

There's a route from Leadhall Lane via Leadhall Drive, through the cricket ground, and via Park Avenue and Beech Grove to the town centre. There's also a route from Leadhall Lane via Rossett Drive and Parson's Intake, which leads to a couple more cycle and footpaths. Read about these south Harrogate routes, and see maps and photos.

Oatlands Drive/Hookstone Drive/Hookstone Chase

Hedgehog Cycling tested out this route on 13th November 2013, starting west of the Leeds Road, and using South Drive, St James Drive, the path across the Stray, then Oatlands Drive, Hookstone Drive, and Hookstone Chase. The comments below are only on the route from Oatlands Drive on.

I made a trip to Homebase on Plumpton Park. The roads on this route are often congested, so I decided not to add to the traffic, and try riding there. It was a 53 minute round trip, including about 15 minutes spent in Homebase - probably not that much different to the time you'd take if driving.

Map showing Oatlands Drive, Hookstone Drive & Hookstone Chase

There are cycle lanes on this route, but are they any good? The short answer is no, but a longer answer follows.

Oatlands Drive & Hookstone Drive

The cycle lanes on Oatlands Drive and Hookstone Drive are advisory cycle lanes (bounded by a dotted white line) rather than mandatory cycle lanes (which would be bounded by a solid white line). Advisory cycle lanes mean that other traffic should not enter unless it is safe to so.

I have mixed feelings about the value of these lanes. On the one hand, they mean that the existence of cyclists is recognised. On the other hand, there is a risk that drivers think that as long as they're not actually in the cycle lane, they can pass a cyclists as close as they like, rather than following the general rule in the Highway Code (rules 163 & 211-215). This happened to me on Oatlands Drive on my ride.

The recent succession of tragic deaths in London, where four cyclists have been killed in 8 days (see this report in the Guardian on 14th November 2013; this became five cyclists in 9 days), shows the limitations of cycle lanes created only by paint on the road. As part of the response, the London mayor says he will increase the number of protected cycle lanes - cycle lanes separated from traffic by strips of pavement, or other barriers. (An example is the 'armadillo' manufactured by Zicla). This is what is really needed to make the cycle lanes on Oatlands Drive and Hookstone Drive safe.

'Armadillo' cycle lane separators made by Zicla in Spain   Recycled plastic 'armadillo' cycle lane separators

The cycle lane on Hookstone Drive had decaying leaves and gravel in it, when I rode it. The government's Cycle Infrastructure Design document recognises this as a problem, and says (p51), 'Regular sweeping is required to keep cycle tracks, lanes and bypasses clear of accumulated debris...' I suggest this is not happening (enough) on Hookstone Drive. 

Also on p51 of Cycle Infrastructure Design, is a paragraph on road works: 'Works affecting cycle routes should be co-ordinated to minimise inconvenience to the same degree as those in the carriageway.' On 13th November 2013, there were several sets of works blocking the cycle lane along Hookstone Drive, which have been there for some time. (It may be that cyclists were considered in planning the works, and it was decided that there was no alternative to the current arrangements. Nevertheless, because of these works, at the moment there is little or no benefit from the cycle lane). These are some of the obstacles:  

Works obstructing Hookstone Drive cycle lane   Works vehicles obstructing Hookstone Drive cycle lane

Whilst I don't use this route regularly, I'm told that the cycle lanes are frequently blocked by traffic stuck in congestion at a standstill in the cycle lane, during the rush hour periods.

There's also an issue with pedestrian refuges along Hookstone Drive. The carriageway narrows where there are pedestrian refuges, so this is where a 'squeeze' comes, ie where cyclists need protection most. What happens to the cycle lane? It just stops, then starts again after the refuge, each time. There has to be a better solution. 

Cycle Infrastructure Design states (p30): '[R]efuges and islands in particular can create hazardous pinch points for cyclists. If they are introduced and it is not possible to provide a cycle bypass, the width available should either be sufficient to allow vehicles to overtake cyclists safely, or narrow enough to discourage overtaking altogether.' I wouldn't necessarily agree with the second part of this, because of the risk that some drivers will try to overtake anyway, even if the road is made too narrow for comfortable overtaking. Perhaps the council could consider cycle bypasses of the refuges? In my opinion, the current situation, where the cycle lane just stops, is the worst option.

Hookstone Drive cycle lane    Hookstone Chase awful cycle lane

As an example of the problem this can create for cyclists, on my ride along Hookstone Drive, a big construction truck came past too fast and too close, racing to get ahead before the next pedestrian refuge.

Hookstone Chase

After the junction with the Wetherby Road, heading down towards Plumpton Park, there is a very short section of cycle lane, which stops just before the squeeze of the next pedestrian refuge (see photo above right). This bit wins my vote for Worst Cycle Infrastructure Design in Harrogate. My experience is that cars are just building up speed after the junction, and are ready to overtake at precisely the point that the carriageway begins to narrow. They either squeeze past, or brake and wait. Either way, it's uncomfortable for the cyclist. 

Cycle parking at Plumpton Park    Hookstone Chase, uphill towards Wetherby Road

After that point, it's downhill to Plumpton Park, so my experience is that I can keep up with the traffic, and it feels relatively safe.

There is cycle parking at Plumpton Park - HedgehogCycling's was the only bike there on 13th November 2013!

The return trip up Hookstone Chase is awkward. It's fairly steeply uphill, so cyclists go slowly. The road is narrow, and vehicles have to slow down and wait to overtake when there's oncoming traffic, or pass too close. This section would benefit from a separate cycle lane - separated from the road (see the comments under Oatlands Drive/Hookstone Drive above), but part of the traffic (ie not giving way at every side road, otherwise it won't be used).

Oatlands Drive/Hookstone Drive/ Hookstone Chase: suggestions for improvements

To summarise, my suggestions for these routes are:

1) Separate the cycle lanes on Oatlands Drive and Hookstone Drive from the traffic. Do not make them give way at each side road or driveway.

2) Sweep these cycle lanes to remove leaves and gravel.

3)Try not to block the cycle lanes with roadworks, or keep the obstructions to a minimum.

4) Avoid blocking the cycle lanes with stationary traffic during peak times, by making them separate (see 1) above).

5) Change the current design, where the cycle lanes just stop where they are most needed, at pinch points. Consider pedestrian refuge bypasses for cyclists.

6) Change the road design at the top of Hookstone Chase, going towards Plumpton Park, perhaps with a proper cycle lane (separate if possible) to the pedestrian refuge, and a cyclist bypass for the refuge.

7) Build a proper, separate cycle lane, going uphill on Hookstone Chase towards the Wetherby Road. Do not make it give way to side roads and driveways.

These are the problems I've identified, based on my own experience of cycling these routes, and my suggested solutions. I'm not a professional road and cycle lane designer. These are my suggestions, but I'm very much open to other ideas. If the councils decide to improve the cycle infrastructure here, I would suggest consulting with British Cycling, who know the best practice, and engage with the national government on cycling infrastructure design issues.

Do you have any more comments or suggestions?

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