NYCC failing in Coronavirus active travel response

17th May 2020

Coronavirus pavement-widening measures Harrogate
Pavement-widening for a single weekend, James St Harrogate

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) is so far failing in its active travel response to the Coronavirus.

On 9th May 2020, Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps gave a clear instruction to local authorities ' make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians.' This was to include wider pavements, pop-up bike lanes, and cycle and bus only streets.

NYCC's announcement on Friday 15th May in a series of six Tweets contained no meaningful measures. In Harrogate, some parking spaces on three town centre streets were to be blocked off for a single weekend; in Knaresborough, the same idea was to be implemented on parking spaces on the High Street.

Widening pavements

Widening pavements to give people more space so they can stay 2m apart is a good idea. The problem with NYCC's plan is:

Pop-up bike lanes

The government asked local authorities to give more space to people on bikes by creating pop-up bike lanes. NYCC has not done that. No pop-up bike lanes have been created or announced.

Statutory Guidance reinforces existing policy in North Yorkshire

The Statutory Guidance containing a government instruction to give more space to active travel should be an opportunity for NYCC. This already is (or should be) NYCC's policy for Harrogate. In the recent Congestion Survey, 77% of  respondents wanted better walking and cycling infrastructure and 75% wanted behaviour change and smarter travel choices. (This is a detailed council report on the outcome of the Congestion Survey).

Cabinet Member for Highways said he had listened

At the time Councillor Don Mackenzie said, 'We went into this engagement with open minds...we have now listened to what people have told us.' NYCC later committed to seizing funding opportunities for cycling and walking routes as they arise. Now there's a big opportunity to give local people what we asked for and we get...nothing.

Compare government instruction to NYCC action

Pop-up bike lanes
Government instruction
NYCC action
Create pop-up bike lanes

NYCC has given no indication that the measures announced so far are just a stopgap and a further announcement is to be made. Nevertheless let's hope that's the case. There is still time.

Bike and bus only streets

The government asked local authorities to implement these, but NYCC has so far taken no action.

Request to NYCC

I'm not criticising NYCC for the sake of it. No one will be happier than me if there is a further announcement of meaningful measures. Like many others I want to see NYCC implement the results of the Congestion Survey as it said it would, and follow the government's instructions.

There's no contradiction between what the government has told councils to do, and what Harrogate & Knaresborough residents want. It's the same thing: create quality walking and cycling routes.

Now NYCC please do it and we'll back you all the way.

Update: it seems the widened pavements on three streets are to stay in place until September, but no other locations have been announced and no cycling infrastructure has been installed.