Walking around part of Harrogate just to the south of the centre at
8/8.30am, I noticed that none of the kids going to school by bike were
using the roads. They were pushing their bikes across busy junctions,
then riding on paths and pavements - in the absence of protected cycle
routes. The lesson I draw from this is that we are failing them by not
providing safe bike routes.
Summary (tl;dr): how to improve or replace Beech Grove as a cycle
Beech Grove is a key part of Harrogate's official cycle network. It
often can't be avoided when going to and from the town centre, but it is
a bad cycle route. I've set out why and what to do about it in more
detail further down the page. This is a quick summary of suggested
Remove the car parking on Beech Grove, and create a two-way bike
lane with kerb protection from the traffic, or if not
Create a cycle path across West Park Stray, parallel to the
footpath; replace the Stray land taken with other grassland, for
example from Coach Road, or if not
Put bollards on Beech Grove to prevent it being used by through
traffic, reduce the speed limit to 20mph and enforce the limit, and
put in traffic-calming measures; take the parking spaces for
replacement Stray land if needed
Beech Grove cycle route, Harrogate: why it's a bad cycle route
Beech Grove isn't as busy and intimidating as Otley Road and West Park.
Nevertheless, there is quite a lot of traffic during the
morning and evening commutes, with some vehicles going quite fast.
Conflict is built into Beech Grove, because it isn't very wide, and
there are always parked cars on one side. On the narrower sections,
there isn't space for vehicles travelling in opposite directions to
pass, so one has to wait while the other or others go first. This also
means that there's limited space for people on bikes, and there are
interactions and 'negotiations' with vehicles, which can feel dangerous.
The specific issues when cycling on Beech Grove are:
overtakes which are too fast and too close due to the limited space
vehicles coming in the opposite direction and passing too fast and
when riding past parked cars, some drivers don't understand the need
to for the bike rider to leave space to avoid getting 'doored'
some people driving cars assume that they always have priority over
anyone on a bike, and they drive right at you assuming you will get
out of the way
A person on a bike is more vulnerable when going uphill, away from
town, than downhill, towards town. This is because the ability to go
faster downhill enables you to better keep up with the traffic and gives
you more options.
Beech Grove cycle route, Harrogate: how to make it better
If there is to be a high-quality, protected bike lane on Otley Road, it
makes sense to have good quality cycle provision on Beech Grove, which
links to it. These are my suggestions, starting with what I think is the
1) Protected bike lane to replace car parking
An obvious way to improve conditions for cycling on Beech Grove would
be to remove the car parking, and replace it with a protected two-way
bike lane - on the left when going uphill away from town.
The parking here is free, time-limted disc parking, and I guess it is
handy for those who use it. Still, the roads are primarily there for
getting about, not parking. Nobody driving a car is afraid to use Beech
Grove because of bikes, but plenty of people won't use it on a bike
because they are afraid of the cars; if more cars, parked ones this
time, are preventing a safe cycle route from being built, can that be
There's car parking on both sides of West Park, and on both sides and
up the middle of Victoria Avenue, so it's not as if spaces are in short
supply; and residents on Beech Grove all have their own car parks (for
the flats) or driveways (the houses). The exception is the eight houses
nearest Otley Road, where there are double yellow lines anyway; they can
park on Park Avenue, just the other side of Otley Road.
Don't take space away from pedestrians
There is a wide footpath on Beech Grove, but I don't think it's right
to take space away from pedestrians.
In creating a cycling
network in Seville, the principle adopted was to take space away
from cars, not people. I think that is correct: if your town is spoilt
by too much traffic, and you want to encourage people to use active
travel for short, local journeys, trying to cram people on bikes and
people on foot together into a small space is not the right approach.
Currently, space allocation (road and pavement) is roughly one third
for walking, one third for driving, and one third for parked cars. This
should be changed to one third for walking, one third for driving, and
one third for cycling.
I anticipate that a protected bike lane wouldn't be popular with all
the residents of the buildings on Beech Grove, but I hope this wouldn't
be an insurmountable problem. Even if some residents don't cycle
themselves, they may have friends or relatives (including families with
children who wish to cycle to school or into town) who would benefit
from a safe cycle facility. Plus, their view of the Stray would be
greatly improved by removing all those vehicles cluttering up the place.
2) Cycle path across the Stray
The Stray is a public amenity which is much-valued by local people
including me. It is not desirable nor legally allowed to reduce its
area. There's a path diagonally across it which meets the Otley Road by
the end of Beech Grove, but that is for walking only, and it isn't wide
enough to accommodate cycling. Harrogate BC
painted 'no cycling' on the path in enormous letters.
The council could create a good cycling route by laying a second path
across the Stray, parallel with the walking path, and with some sort of
dividing line (eg plants) between the paths. That's what the Dutch would
do - and it's what they have done, for example in the Wilhelmina Park in
Utrecht (see this
video, at about 5 minutes). If grass is removed from one part of
the Stray, it can be compensated by increasing the grassed area
elsewhere. One suggestion is to return Coach Road to Stray grassland.
If the council refuses to create a protected bike lane or a cycle path
across the Stray, I suggest filtered permeability. Bollards would be
placed about in the middle of Beech Grove. It would remain accessible to
motor vehicles, but it could no longer be used as a through route.
This would make it more attractive and safer as a cycling route,
because the volume of traffic would be reduced. The speed of vehicles
could be lowered too, because through traffic is likely to be the
fastest; vehicles of residents, and those just looking for a parking
space, are likely to be going slower.
The measure should be combined with a 20mph speed limit and
It would become easier for people to cross Beech Grove on foot, and
safer. Using that part of the Stray would be more pleasant without fast
traffic along the edge of the park. Reduced traffic would make the
street nicer for residents. What's more, it would be cheap - just the
cost of installing some bollards.
It would be important for residents to have their say. You could easily
do it on a trial basis for 3 months, and see what people think. (I
believe there are systems where certain people have a key or remote
control to make the bollards retract, so they can pass. I seem to
remember reading about such a scheme in Durham).
I suggest that filtered permeability is an effective solution, to make
Beech Grove more attractive for people on foot and on bikes, a more
pleasant street to live on, and to make West Park Stray even nicer.
Combine this with removing the parking spaces and turning that land
into Stray when Stray verges are lost elsewhere and new Stray land is
Beech Grove cycle route, Harrogate: traffic lights for bikes
Where Beech Grove meets West Park, there are traffic lights just for
bikes, and a little lane that allows you to go straight on, onto
Victoria Avenue. Vehicles are obliged to turn left on West Park.
This is a really helpful bit of imaginative design. I don't know who
had the idea, or how long it has been there, but credit where credit is
due, it is excellent.
Beech Grove cycle route, Harrogate: crossing at Otley Road junction
Otley Road is often very busy. It can be difficult for vehicles to pull
out of Beech Grove, and difficult and intimidating for people riding
It's not a good junction if you're on foot either. The path across West
Park Stray brings you to this junction when you're walking away from
town, but there's no crossing over Otley Road - and there should be. On
foot, you have to walk further up Otley Road to the pelican crossing
near Queen's Road. Even when you get there and press the button, you'll
have to wait. There are sensors which detect if there's traffic or not:
if there is, it gets priority; if not, you will be allowed to cross.
(The lights will eventually change for pedestrians). This is North
Yorkshire County Council's idea of balance, but most other people
recognise it for what it is - prioritising people in cars over people on
As part of any scheme to create a protected bike lane on Beech Grove,
there should be a light-controlled crossing of Otley Road, which would
benefit people on bikes and on foot. Better still, a cycle
zebra crossing of Otley Road - then NYCC's usual policy of making
people wait an eternity to cross a road would not apply.
There are lots of good reasons to make walking and cycling more
attractive and convenient for local journeys. It reduces congestion,
pollution, and is better for people's health. I have no interest in
delaying traffic for no reason, but if it's given priority in all
situations, how are we going to persuade people to make short journeys
in other ways?
For these reasons, I suggest a crossing near the end of Beech Grove in
addition to the crossing near Queen's Road.