Beech Grove cycle route, Harrogate
Beech Grove, Harrogate, by Hedgehog Cycling
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.
Beech Grove is a road which is marked as a cycle route on the map
attached to the council's 2013
Harrogate & Knaresborough Cycling Implementation Plan.
While it is better than the alternative of Otley Road/West Park, it is not a
good cycle route.
Beech Grove cycle route, Harrogate: why it's less than ideal
Cyclist & traffic, Beech Grove Harrogate
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
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
Parked cars on Beech Grove, Harrogate, by Hedgehog Cycling
The specific issues when cycling on Beech Grove are:
- *overtakes which are too fast and too close due to the limited
- *vehicles coming in the opposite direction and passing too fast
and too close
- *when riding past parked cars, some drivers don't understand the
need to for the bike rider to leave space to avoid getting
- *some people driving cars assume that they always have priority
over anyone on a bike
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: 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. I'm told that occasionally the cycle
lights fail to work. If that's the case the fault should be
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.
Cycle path across the Stray
A limiting factor here is that 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 best solution purely in terms of creating a good cycling route
would be to have 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
In a poll
for Cycling UK in May 2018, 45% of respondents said that more
cycle paths away from roads, for example in parks, would make them
more likely to cycle.
Protected bike lane uphill
Other than a path across the Stray, an obvious way to improve
conditions for cycling on Beech Grove would be to remove car
parking, and replace it with a protected bike lane on the left when
going uphill away from town.
Car parking is a very emotive issue for some people. The parking
here is free, time-limted disc parking, and I guess it is handy for
those who use it. Still, 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
If removing car parking is not found to be desirable, is there
anywhere else could space be found? The footpath next to the road is
around 2 metres wide for much of the length of Beech Grove, so that
might be a possibility.
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
Currently, space allocation (road and pavement) is roughly one
third for walking, one third for driving, and one third for parked
cars. This could 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. 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) who would
benefit from a safe cycle facility.
Filtered permeability and 20mph limit
Filtered permeability, Rossett Drive, Harrogate
Since creating a protected bike lane is not uncontroversial,
filtered permeability could be considered. 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 well 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 could be combined with a 20mph speed limit.
One advantage is that no parking would be lost. Another is that it
would be easier for people to cross Beech Grove on foot, and safer.
Using that part of the Stray would be more pleasant and safer
without fast traffic along the edge of the park. 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 a very 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
Beech Grove cycle route, Harrogate: crossing at Otley Road
Beech Grove meets Otley Road, by Hedgehog Cycling
Otley Road is often very busy. It can be difficult for vehicles to
pull out of Beech Grove, and difficult and intimidating for people
While on this point, I'll mention that 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 foot.
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 might be an objection to this on the basis that it would slow
traffic on Otley Road, but there isn't a strong case against a
crossing. 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? Plus, the interests of the people
of Harrogate should be given at least as much weight as the
interests of people driving through Harrogate. In any event, getting
past the end of Beech Grove faster in a car almost certainly just
means arriving at the next traffic queue sooner.
For these reasons, I suggest a crossing near the end of Beech Grove
in addition to the crossing near Queen's Road.