A so-called Harrogate relief road is
being promoted by North Yorkshire County Council's Business &
Environmental Services Executive ('the Executive'). The Executive
includes Councillors Don Mackenzie and Andrew Lee, and Corporate
Director David Bowe. A crude
map with coloured routes shows, roughly, the different
At an Area Committee meeting on Thursday 7th December 2017,
councillors voted 14-2 against continuing with the road proposal,
but the vote was ignored by the Executive, who decided
to push ahead with it.
Most of Harrogate's traffic is short, local journeys. In fact, 93%
of traffic in Harrogate is from journeys that begin or end in
Harrogate, or are entirely within Harrogate; only 7% is through
traffic. It's the people of Harrogate who are responsible for this
situation, not outsiders.
This helps explain why the name 'bypass' has not been chosen for
the unwanted road. A bypass option to the north of Harrogate that
only keeps non-local traffic out of the town would have little
Proponents of a new road would like to build it close to Harrogate,
through Bilton. They claim that it would cause a 20 to 40 per cent
reduction in traffic in Harrogate town centre.
Why Harrogate relief road is a terrible idea: a fatal flaw in the
A sparrow sings on Bilton Lane
There's a fatal flaw in the reasoning of the would-be
road-builders. According to them, if you create more road space, you
reduce congestion. The idea has a certain simplistic attractiveness.
But is it true? We've been building roads since the 1950s, and what
has happened to congestion? It has increased.
Andrew Gilligan exposed the logical weakness of a similar argument
in his foreword to Human Streets, a
report in March 2016 at the end of Boris Johnson's term as Mayor of
'Much of the opposition to cycle schemes is based on a belief that
motor traffic is like rainwater and the roads are drains for it. If
you narrow the pipe, these people say, it will flood. If you block
one route, they say, the same amount of traffic will simply flow
down the next easiest route. But that seldom or never actually
happens in practice. Because traffic isn't a force of nature. It's a
product of human choices. Our surveys tell us that huge numbers of
Londoners will choose to cycle if they feel safe doing so. If we
open up that choice, even more people will take it.'
Why Harrogate relief road is a terrible idea: Paris
in Paris, by Jean-François Gornet, Licence CC
On 7th June 2018, Paris
reported a reduction in motor vehicle traffic of 6.5% in the
first 5 months of 2018, compared with the same period in 2017. The
percentage reductions in rush hour traffic are even greater. These
reductions are added to a 3% reduction per year between 2003 and
2013, and 4% per year between 2014 and 2016.
The reduction in traffic is having an impact: air pollution down
30% between 2003 and 2013.
The reductions in congestion and improvements to air quality in
Paris haven't come from opening up more space to private motor
vehicles. Parking charges have gone up, there are some car-free
days, cycle lanes have been built, and more cycle routes and
pedestrianisations are planned.
In Paris, the idea that reducing traffic reduces air pollution is
succeeding. In London, the Mayor is imposing restrictions on
polluting vehicles with an extension
of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone.
Why Harrogate relief road is a terrible idea: a congestion
What is the Executive's solution for Harrogate? Build another road
to improve air quality and reduce congestion! Does anyone actually
believe it will work?
What happens in practice is that a new road generates more traffic,
which spills over onto existing roads and junctions, and exacerbates
existing congestion and air pollution problems. When the Campaign for the
Protection of Rural England looked at bypasses built over the
past 20 years, they found exactly that: road schemes generate
traffic. They also result in a highly car-dependent pattern of land
Harrogate residents currently make short, local journeys by car.
The fact that everyone else is driving everywhere means that the
roads are too hostile for them to consider cycling. It's a Catch 22
situation. There is some provision for cycling, but it's a million
miles from being a safe, convenient, complete network of
We are finally seeing enlightened changes to transport systems in
some towns and cities around the world. What about us in Harrogate -
do we have the imagination to see how our town and borough could be,
if it were less dominated by motor vehicles?
The Executive wants to continue with the failed model of the past.
It wants to destroy a much-loved place, Old Bilton, and turn the
delightful Bilton Lane into a major road carrying 1,000 cars an
hour. Where now there is wildlife, peace, tranquility, recreation,
walking, and cycling, they want thousands of vehicles generating
noise and pollution - and inevitably increasing Harrogate's
It mustn't be allowed to happen.