18th February 2021
Beech Grove Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) was finished yesterday. Really, it's a cycling and walking route into town, with the added benefit of less traffic for residents.
People will drive wherever you let them drive. No one needed to use Beech Grove as a through route, but plenty did. Commercial vans, commuters in cars, grocery delivery drivers, taxis, and many more.
Those using Beech Grove as a through route were often in a hurry.
In the limited space, that made it quite hostile for cycling. For those on foot, there was just enough traffic to make it a bit harder to cross the road, and not always possible to walk in the road in order to socially distance.
Drivers displace everything else. It has little do with being a considerate driver or not (although driving considerately does help). It's just the way it is: cars go fast, take up a lot of room, and cause danger; most people don't want to share the same space when riding a bike.
Until now, people on bikes have had crumbs from the table: the odd bike path, usually lumped in with pedestrians, always giving way to motor vehicles, and generally coming to a stop all of a sudden when it was too difficult to work out how to continue.
The LTN on Beech Grove is proper provision. It should transform Beech Grove into a cycle route into town that's safe enough even for families with young children.
It took a bit of courage from the Highways Authority, North Yorkshire County Council, so well done to them.
One advantage of a scheme that involves a total of eight planters and four bollards is that it's cheap as chips! £10,000 is peanuts in highways terms.
Now it's there, please use it - whether on a bike, a mobility scooter, an e-scooter or any other low-impact form of transport.
I have a good feeling about Beech Grove. I think it will settle down quickly and drivers will accept it; and this Spring and Summer, the bicycle traffic will grow.
Beech Grove is a really good step forward, and provides a link from Otley Road into town. Lots of people live in the residential areas south of Otley Road, and can use Beech Grove as a bike route to the town centre.
Still, it's just one short road - a link, but not a network in itself. The lesson from Seville is to build a complete network quite quickly - then it works, people see that it works, and they support what you did.
I hope to see Harrogate's bike network take shape quite quickly too.
Of course not everyone is happy about the changes on Beech Grove.
Some say the traffic will simply be displaced onto other routes. That may not happen: Rachel Aldred says that just as building more roads tends to generate more traffic, reducing space for motor traffic tends to reduce motor traffic.
There may be an element of traffic displacement, but if drivers starting from Victoria Avenue use Station Parade and York Place to get to Otley Road, so much the better. Keep through traffic on main roads, and reserve residential roads for the people who live there.
In any case, the 'traffic displacement' objection is a dead end. If you embrace that idea, the corollary is that you would never do anything to limit motor vehicles, and there would be no routes left only for those walking or on bikes.
The 'traffic displacement' argument is the first cousin of the failed 'build more roads to accommodate more traffic' point of view. The road-building policy we have followed for decades hasn't reduced congestion, and there is clear evidence that more road capacity induces more traffic.
Cutting out through traffic on Beech Grove has the added benefit of improving the value of West Park Stray: now, the Stray will only have traffic streaming along two of the three sides of the triangle, so it will be that bit less noisy and polluted.
To take an extreme example, imagine having a picnic by the side of the M1. With all the noise and pollution, it would be horrible. The M1 is very useful for people to get where they are going by car, but as a place, it is awful.
The same applies, on a less grand scale, to other roads. The more traffic there is, the less pleasant places they become for those not in cars.
It follows that we should make conscious choices about our roads - which should be useful for people getting around by car, and which should be nice places.
Walking down Beech Grove yesterday evening, it was such a pleasant relief not to have cars bombing along the road. I feel hopeful that others will notice and agree.