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Information for Harrogate's cycling champion

Harrogate walking & cycling champion Rebecca Burnett

Harrogate cycling & walking champion Rebecca Burnett

Harrogate has a councillor who is cycling and walking champion, Rebecca Burnett. She took over the role from John Ennis around the middle of 2014. She is committed to improving conditions for walking and cycling, and takes a logical and effective approach.

Here, I'm setting out some general suggestions on how to improve conditions for cycling in Harrogate, and some ideas for improvements to specific cycle routes.

General suggestions on cycling in Harrogate

Much of the traffic in Harrogate is local - 70% of commuter trips are less than 5 miles, and most shopping trips involve short journeys, according to NYCC's bid for LSTF funding. It is a compact town, and most journeys could be made by most people on foot or by bike. At the moment they are not, and the result is constant traffic jams on many roads.

It is generally easy to walk in Harrogate. There are good paths across the Stray, so you can walk in nice surroundings away from the traffic.

Cycling is more difficult. The roads are busy, and a large minority of people drive inconsiderately towards cyclists, failing to follow the relevant provisions of the Highway Code - in particular rule 163. This is mostly due to not knowing how to drive around cyclists, and impatience, rather than any malice. One person who passed me much too close told me, 'I had absolutely no choice, there was oncoming traffic.' It did not occur to him to wait until it was safe to pass. In my experience, drivers are less considerate and patient at peak times (morning rush hour, school run, and evening rush hour) than at other times.

There have been some positive developments for cycling in recent years. The Nidderdale Greenway and the Showground Greenway have been built, and Slingsby Walk is open to cyclists. These are good quality routes away from traffic. 

Slingsby Walk

Slingsby Walk

It's right for councillors to be pleased with these achievements. On the other hand, the existence of these routes is of no use or consolation to people on bikes when they are travelling on other routes. The money which has been spent on them shouldn't be forgotten, but it can't be used as an answer to every question about whether other cycling facilities can be built or improved. 

Anyone interested in improving conditions for cyclists in Harrogate should be looking at cycling facilities in Harrogate as a whole, and asking whether it's a cycle-friendly town.

What's meant by a cycle-friendly town? It's a town where you can go anywhere by bike on safe, convenient routes. In those terms, Harrogate is a long, long way from being a cycle-friendly town. I would previously have given the cycle network as a whole 1 or 2 out of ten, but after the signing improvements in early 2015, I would say it is now 2 or 3 out of ten. I do believe there is a genuine commitment to further improvements, though.

Some of the problems which need addressing in Harrogate are:

1) We need a comprehensive network of safe cycle routes. 

We have isolated stretches of cycle routes. They may stop because the money ran out, or because it became more difficult to fit a cycle lane onto a particular part of a road. Even if that makes sense from the council's budgetary or administrative point of view, it's of no help to the cyclist when a route just stops with a 'cyclists dismount' or an 'end of route' sign. An example is the cycle path alongside the A59 from Knaresborough towards Harrogate, which stops at Harrogate Golf Club. 

Cyclists dismount sign, Slingsby Walk

People's journeys don't stop where the council decided it had to 'end' a route. They will cycle if they know that they can get everywhere they want to go conveniently and safely, as they can in the Netherlands. If there are stretches where they feel that their life or their personal safety is in danger, it can put them off cycling. What's needed is a coherent and complete network, not a selection of isolated routes.

2) Quality of protection and priority

Too many of our cycle routes are of poor quality due to a lack of protection, or a lack of priority. 

A lack of protection can be seen with the painted advisory lanes on Oatlands Drive and Hookstone Drive. 

Priority is a particular problem where there is a shared cycle and footpath, such as the one next to the A59 from Knaresborough to Harrogate Golf Club. The cycle path gives way to every side road, including the golf club and a gate into a farmer's field. 

Knaresborough Road cycle way

Shared path by A59 gives way to gate into a farmer's field

If more cycle routes are to be built in the future, the issue of priority must be dealt with. A cycle route should be as convenient as the road, and should therefore have priority over side roads. If not, it will not be convenient, and won't be used.

3) Low key routes

Most of the cycle routes in Harrogate to date are (I think deliberately) low key and inconspicuous. They take back routes and alleys. There is some logic to it, as these routes take people away from traffic, and don't cause controversy with non-cyclists. 

However, another strategy could be considered in some places. Perhaps segregated bike lanes should be created alongside main routes - for example, along the Leeds Road from the junction with Leadhall Lane, via the Prince of Wales roundabout, and along West Park into town. It's the most obvious and straightforward way for many people from south Harrogate into town. It would be conspicuous. If people could see the route, and they could see it was convenient and safe, they may decide to use it.

Specific suggestions for improvements to cycling in Harrogate

Here are links to my specific suggestions for improvements elsewhere on the site:

Slingsby Walk

East Parade

Otley Road

Luchon Way

Cricket club & south Harrogate routes

Oatlands Drive/Hookstone Drive/Hookstone Chase

Nidderdale Greenway

Beryl Burton cycleway & cycle path by the A59 from High Bridge to Starbeck

Yorkshire Showground Greenway

Harland Way

Penny Pot Lane

General suggestions on walking in Harrogate

Since the role is cycling and walking champion, not just cycling champion, I've put down a few thoughts on walking in Harrogate.

In general, people on foot are quite well provided for, with paths across the beautiful Stray. However, when it comes to crossing busy roads, there are not always enough crossings at convenient points, and where there are crossings, you usually have to wait a long time for the lights to change, and you're not given much time to cross. The message given is that people in cars are more important than people on foot.

Specific suggestions on walking in Harrogate

1) There is only one pedestrian crossing in Harrogate where the lights change quickly - outside the Coach & Horses on West Park. That one is brilliant. At all the others, you have to wait quite a long time, specifically:

  • *crossing of the Otley Road, near West End Avenue and Queen's Road. Even when nobody has crossed recently, the pedestrian lights take ages to change
  • *crossings at Otley Road by So Bar & Eats. Often, people wish to cross two roads at this crossroads - for example, Otley Road and Cold Bath Road - but we are only given enough time to cross one road
  • *crossing of West Park by Bettys. This is a key, prestigious location in the heart of town, and yet people are effectively told that they are less important than vehicles, and made to wait ages for a short crossing time. The balance is wrong
  • *crossing of A61 at the end of the Nidderdale Greenway, near Ripley. It takes an eternity for the pedestrian & cyclist light to go green, at times

2) It's difficult to cross Station Parade from Albert Terrace to Waitrose. There are two busy lanes of traffic, accelerating towards the junction with York Place. Again, this sends the wrong message. People who choose to walk around Harrogate, instead of adding to the congestion, should be shown that they are valued, not made to dodge traffic because there is no provision.

3) A road sign obscures the view of people attempting to cross the Leeds Road at the Prince of Wales roundabout (heading west). Once you're half way across, you need to be able to make eye contact with drivers to see whether they are going to let you across, but there's a road sign in the way.

Crossing at Prince of Wales roundabout

Do you have any more comments or suggestions?

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