Anti-Otley Road cycleway campaign
This anti-Otley Road cycleway leaflet came through my door today. I disagree with the arguments in it, for the reasons set out below.
'...plans for converting the Otley Road pavements into shared Cycle Ways should be abandoned.'
The Otley Road cycleway was conceived as a segregated cycleway, not a shared use path. I believe it largely still is, but there are stretches where NYCC has decided they have no other option but to fall back on shared use. (This may be partly due to the council's reluctance ever to take any space away from motor vehicles).
I agree that segregated infrastructure is far better for everyone, and that's what is used in successful cycling countries like the Netherlands. It is a mischaracterisation of the Otley Road scheme, though, to say that it is just shared use pavements.
For sustainable transport in principle but not in practice
'I am firmly behind sustainable transport options...[h]owever I am not in favour of badly designed schemes that take no account of local residents.'
This type of argument is often heard from campaigners seeking to block sustainable travel infrastructure - we are in favour of it in principle, but not in practice, or not where we live.
But a campaign against infrastructure for active travel is just that. Whether the campaigners are against active travel altogether, or just against it being made possible in a particular instance, the outcome they seek is the same.
A pleasant urban environment
'I believe the scheme will be a huge detriment to our area...it will alter our pleasant urban environment by taking away important green spaces and some trees...'
- I strongly suggest that far too much traffic is a detriment to our area. It causes noise, pollution, and danger. Blocking alternatives to the private car means that traffic will only increase. I find it very strange when people are blind to the negative impacts of motor vehicles, but very sensitive to other aspects of the environment
- Nobody wants to cut down the trees on Otley Road. I believe that NYCC intend to fell two trees, which is the minimum consistent with safety
- I understand that ten (relatively immature) trees are going to be removed in order to widen Otley Road at the Harlow Moor Road junction, for motor vehicles. Why are there no leaflets about that? Apparently, if it's to allow people to ride bikes, it's a huge problem, but if it's for cars, that's fine
Driveways and side streets
'...driveways, side streets, businesses, visually and physically disabled people...street furniture...the design will be totally inadequate.'
If you don't build any cycle routes where there are driveways and side roads, you won't build any cycle routes at all.
Yet we know that it's possible to build quality cycle infrastructure, because it is done in other countries, and in a very few places in the UK. And we know that if it's good enough, a lot of people will use it.
I don't agree with all the design decisions on Otley Road, but I tried to engage with NYCC during the consultation so they could improve it. But this leaflet isn't really about trying to improve the scheme, it's simply trying to block it altogether.
Survey after survey shows that most people won't ride bikes if they have to mix with the traffic, and parents won't let their children ride to school if they have to dodge 4x4s and trucks. 62% of people in England agree with the statement 'it is too dangerous for me to cycle on the roads'.
It is very clear that blocking this cycleway on Otley Road means preventing most people from cycling there at all. If someone doesn't want to use a cycleway on Otley Road, that is their choice, but it is disappointing if they are determined to prevent everyone else from having that opportunity.
I do have some sympathy for residents with driveways on Otley Road, but I strongly suspect that their fears will turn out to be unfounded.
'I should add that none of us were ever told of these plans before they acquired money to implement them.'
It is correct that there was no consultation by NYCC before they bid for this sustainable transport money, but there was an extensive and well-publicised consultation after they were successful, in autumn 2018.
'You may be aware that both of the grass verges from the main body of the Stray to Cold Bath Road and Arthur's Avenue are part of the Stray. In order to construct this cycleway, NYCC wish to remove large parts of these.'
I am not sure how much grass will be removed, but I do know that NYCC must and will replace any area of Stray grass with an equivalent area elsewhere. They are entitled to do that under the Stray Act 1985. The fact that no net area of Stray grass will be lost should really be mentioned in the leaflet, to give people a full picture.
It is fair to say that the grass verges on Otley Road are not useful parts of the Stray. Under the Act, residents of the borough have free access to the Stray for the purpose of '...enjoying recreation...'
How often have you seen people having a picnic on the verges by Otley Road? Or flying kites, or playing frisbee? Never, because it would be awful. It would be awful because of all the traffic. You couldn't hear each other speak, and you'd be breathing in traffic exhaust fumes.
The grass verges on Otley Road are not useful parts of the Stray, and they would be better replaced with an area of grass which could be used for recreation.
Harrogate's existing cycling facilities
We know from the local MP's recent Retail Inquiry that most Harrogate residents think cycling facilities in the town centre are poor (48%) or very poor (26%). Only 22% think they are good, and 3% believe them to be excellent.
Here is a scheme on a road where physically protected cycle facilities are needed. It isn't perfect, but it will be closer to modern standards for safe, convenient cycle routes than almost anything else in Harrogate. The money is in place. So please don't ask the Duchy of Lancaster to try and block it.