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B6162 Otley Road

Otley Rd near Prince of Wales roundabout

The B6162 Otley Road is an important and busy route in Harrogate. It goes from the Prince of Wales roundabout near the centre of Harrogate, in a WSW direction. It passes through a significant part of the town, including schools, shops, pubs, and houses, goes past RHS Harlow Carr on the edge of Harrogate, and out towards Beckwithshaw and the countryside. 

There are proposals to build more houses to the west of Harrogate, which are likely to make Otley Road even busier.

It is not a pleasant road to cycle because of the volume of traffic, and the relatively narrow carriageway, especially when going uphill, away from the Prince of Wales roundabout. Plenty of cyclists use it, because often you have to, to get where you want to go. Some use the road, and others use the pavement - I would say it is about 50-50, which suggests that Otley Road is intimidating for many cyclists.

North Yorkshire County Council is planning to build a segregated cycle route on Otley Road, Harrogate, between the Prince of Wales roundabout and Cardale Park. At the time of writing, the works have not started; promised dates for the start of the work keep going by with no action, and the timetable is slipping.

B6162 Otley Road: danger and accidents

B6162 Otley Road: serious injury January 2015

A cyclist was seriously injured by a lorry on 8th January 2015, on the Otley Road, between the junctions with Arthurs Avenue and West End Avenue.

B6162 Otley Road: example of a dangerous overtake by YY05PYT

On 18th October 2017, I was cycling down Otley Road past the Coop (where the road narrows), when the driver of VW Golf YY05PYT overtook me. He didn't account for the narrowing of the road, and left a gap of about 20cm. The overtake was nothing like a rule 163 Highway Code pass.

Of course, the driver came to a stop a few metres further on at the lights at the junction with Cold Bath Road, so it was totally pointless putting me at risk of physical injury to get past me.

I spoke to him while he was stationary, and asked him to look at the picture of an overtake in the Highway Code when he got home, and leave more space another time. Unfortunately, he didn't agree to look at the Code, and said he knew all about it already, and blamed me for cycling 'more than a metre' from the kerb.

There is no Highway Code rule that says you can't ride more than a metre from the kerb, but it is recommended to ride well clear of the kerb, which could be about a metre. I wasn't more than a metre from the kerb - the reality is that the driver had not anticipated the narrowing of the road, and wasn't going to give me much space anyway.

Rule 167 says 'DO NOT overtake...where the road narrows.'

It is disappointing that people like the driver of YY05PYT make mistakes and drive dangerously because they don't know the Highway Code, and don't even realise that they are in the wrong. They can't be bothered to check the rules, so will presumably continue to make the same mistakes.

Even if I had breached the Highway Code (which I hadn't) is that a reason to put me in physical danger?

When you cycle on Otley Road, some drivers will be patient and considerate, and others will not. The trouble is, pretty much every time you cycle there, driver behaviour will unnerve you or make you fear for your personal safety. The poor overtakes are usually due to ignorance not malice, but the result is the same: they put most people off cycling here.

B6162 Otley Road: cyclist injured in a collision at Pine Marten

On 14th June 2018, a cyclist was hit by a car on Otley Road by the Pine Marten (which is at the Cardale Park junction). The cyclist was taken to hospital.

Otley Road & the Hierarchy of Road Users - a case of failure

There's a principle of transport planning that road users should be considered starting with pedestrians, especially the disabled, then coming to cyclists, then public transport users, and finally motor vehicles. It was mentioned in a recent DfT report.

On Otley Road, you would think that the interests of drivers of motor vehicles had been put first, middle and last, and blow everybody else.

Pedestrians are failed, because crossings are missing in places where people naturally want to traverse the road (for example, the corner of the Stray at Beech Grove).

When you do find a crossing, the settings on the lights are such that you have to wait for the start of the next geological era before they to change to green. (Actually, the Anthropocene era may have started already, and that's part of the problem). Once the lights change, you wait for at least one car to go through on red - I watched a driving instructor go through on red the other day - then you're accorded a handful of milliseconds in which to scurry across.

Developers of new housing estates such as Bluecoats are suggesting MOVA traffic light systems for Otley Road, which are said to send 'platoons' of traffic up and down the road. Where does that leave the Hierarchy of Road Users, and people who want to cross the road?

South of Otley Road are residential areas, which are within a stone's throw of the town centre. Walking and cycling should be the natural ways for people to get into town. There's no need to drive unless you are buying a sofa. But we need the council to back people up when they choose active travel.

North Yorkshire County Council is the highways authority. They should put pedestrians at the top of the list. They can't possibly believe that giving more space and priority to private cars is going to solve congestion problems, when decades of experience shows the opposite. It's time they demonstrated their commitment to walking and cycling not just by warm words, but by their actions.

B6162 Otley Road: map

Map showing Otley Road, Harrogate

The B6162 is shown as a cycling route on the map attached to Harrogate Borough Council's Cycling Implentation Plan. However, this is not a review of the cycling infrastructure on the route, because there isn't any. It is a few suggestions for how to make the road better for cyclists.

B6162 Otley Road: width of the carriageways

Unequal width of carriageways on Otley Road

Leaving the roundabout, going uphill on Otley Road, the left hand carriageway is much narrower than the right hand one. This is probably because the the right hand carriageway splits into two lanes before the roundabout. However, the difference in width goes on for a long distance. 

As a cyclist, this is the exact opposite of what is desirable. When I'm going uphill, I cycle more slowly. More vehicles pass, and the difference between their speed and mine is greater. Having an extremely narrow carriageway uphill increases drivers' frustration when they are unable to pass, and leads to more very close passes.

Going downhill, I can keep up with the traffic, and I don't need a wider carriageway.

This would be simple to change. It would just need the council to paint the white lines in the middle of the road, not off to the side.

B6162 Otley Road: separate cycle lanes

What the Otley Road really needs are segregated cycle lanes. This would provide proper facilities for cycling, and obviate the need for cycling on the pavement. 

If Harrogate/North Yorkshire ever put in proper, good quality, segregated cycle lanes here, we'll know that they're taking cycling seriously. They are needed, but it won't be easy, and will cost money to do it properly. 

If there was a plan to create cycle 'infrastructure' only with paint, not road works to make a cycle path, I would say don't bother. Equally, if the cycle lane were to give way to every side road, I would say don't bother. Please, NO SHARED USE PAVEMENT CYCLING. It should be done properly, putting a protected cycle lane next to the road, with the same priority as the road.

I'm not a highways engineer, nor an expert in cycle infrastructure except for using it sometimes. I have set out my ideas below, and there are more in my article Inspiration from Dutch Cycle Infrastructure.

Separate cycle lane uphill

Pavement by Otley Road

The road is not wide enough to take a lot of space away from it. The pavements on either side are, broadly, plenty wide enough. There are trees and other obstacles which make it more difficult to create a bike lane, but not impossible. I am assuming that no one wants the trees to be cut down.

A bike lane could be created alongside the pavement. It should not just be done with paint. It would be necessary to take away some of the grass, and build a bike path, with a good, level, tarmaced surface. It could be a different colour (red or green) to distinguish it from the footpath. 

Otley Road junction with Park Avenue

There are a number of side roads. Any bike lane needs to allow cyclists the same priority as vehicles over side roads. So vehicles pulling out of side roads would have to give way to the cycle lane, and vehicles turning into the side roads would have to give way to the cycle lane.

I envisage that the cycle lane would come out from the pavement, and run directly alongside the road. The give way lines of the side road would be set back a little from where they are now, so vehicles stop before the cycle lane. There would be signs for vehicles turning left making clear that they must give way to the cycle lane. 

This is not impossible. This is my understanding of the way things are done in the Netherlands.

Otley Road junction with Cold Bath Road

At the traffic lights at the junction with Arthur's Avenue and Cold Bath Road, the cycle lane would rejoin the existing cycle lane, and the same would apply at the junction with Pannal Ash Road.

Otley Road juntion with Pannal Ash Road

After the junction with Harlow Moor Road, there is little space on the left hand side of the road (still going uphill), and there are a number of side roads, shops, and a pub. It looks complicated to find space for a cycle lane. One possibility would be to make the cycle lane swap to the far side of the road. This would need a cyclists' phase on the traffic lights. It could be operated by a button, like pedestrian crossings. 

Otley Road junction with Harlow Moor Road

There is enough space on the footpath on the right hand side of the road (going uphill), but the existing footpath is not wide enough. Paint alone will not do. A new bike path would have to be made, next to a footpath. Some of the grass would go.

Footpath next to Otley Road

Beyond Harlow Carr

Otley Road beyond Harlow Carr

Beckwithshaw is a bit more than 1km from Harlow Carr and about 4km (2.5 miles) from Harrogate town centre. It's a bit far to walk on a regular basis, but easy to cycle. Most people won't cycle on that narrow road, because they know there will be close, fast passes from some vehicles, that will scare them, and put them off.

We know congestion is a major problem, so it's daft to make driving from Beckwithshaw in effect the only option. There absolutely should be safe, convenient cycle routes from villages or suburbs into the town centre.

You have to give people a cycle route that is safe and convenient. If you build quality, to standards we know work in other countries, not the rubbish we've had in recent decades in the UK, then people will use it - on bikes, electric bikes, and mobility scooters.

I suggest a dedicated, physically protected cycle lane on the left heading to Beckwithshaw.

In the other direction, towards Harrogate, the footpath (pictured below) could be widened and split in two, for cyclists and pedestrians. Alternatively, since it is not busy with people walking, a shared use path may be acceptable.

Path by Otley Road from Harlow Carr to Beckwithshaw

Separate cycle lane towards Prince of Wales roundabout

The same principles would apply in the opposite direction. For most of the way, there is enough room on the pavement to build a cycle lane next to a footpath. It should take priority over side roads. As explained above, it would be a two-way cycle lane on the stretch from Harlow Carr to Harlow Moor Road.

Path by Otley Road from Harlow Carr to Beckwithshaw

B6162 Otley Road: summary of suggestions for improvements

Otley Road is an important route, and it is identified as a cycling route by Harrogate BC. However, many cyclists are intimidated off the road and onto the pavement. These are some possible solutions.

1) Even up the width of the carriageways, so that when going uphill away from the Prince of Wales roundabout, the lane is not so narrow. 

2) Build a separate cycle lane - don't just paint it - from Prince of Wales roundabout to Harlow Carr. It should have priority over side roads.

3) Build a dedicated, protected cycle route on the left hand side of the road from Harlow Carr to Beckwithshaw. Improve the footpath on the other side of the road, and make it shared use.

4) Build a separate cycle lane - don't just paint it - in the direction Harlow Carr to Prince of Wales roundabout. It should have priority over side roads.

As a further point, whenever proposals are put forward by developers, lip service is paid to sustainable travel. When any future proposals are made, developers should absolutely not be permitted to get away with a couple of meaningless paragraphs about cycling. This is one of the places where cycle infrastructure is needed, to make cycling safe, and an option for everyone, including children going to school, and it should be an essential condition of building more houses.

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Beech Grove

Beech Grove, Harrogate

This route links the junction of West Park & Victoria Avenue, in town, with Otley Road. Beech Grove is better than the alternative on the main roads, but there is still a considerable volume of traffic. I look at the problems, and how to solve them. Read about cycling on Beech Grove.

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. The lane going downhill (north) is just painted white lines in some places but not all, and it is of no help to a person riding a bike; it often feels dangerous riding north. Read about cycle facilities on East Parade.

Victoria Avenue, Harrogate Victoria Avenue, HarrogateCycle straight on option, Victoria Avenue