Pedestrian Crossings in Harrogate

24th January 2021

Pedestrian crossing on red
Pedestrian crossing on red

North Yorkshire County Council prioritises cars over people in Harrogate. Anyone driving a car is a VIP, as far as the County is concerned; people wishing to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing are not important, and must wait.

North Yorkshire call this "balance" but it is no such thing.

Crossing Outside Bettys

Crossing outside Bettys Harrogate
Crossing outside Bettys, Harrogate

I went and watched the light-controlled crossing outside Bettys for 10 minutes. Like all crossings, the default is green for vehicles, red for people.

When someone pushes the button to request permission to cross, it takes between 20 and 50s for the lights to change. The lights stay green for about 10s, to allow people to scurry across. Then it's back to red for people, green for cars.

These were the total shares of green time, vehicles vs people, when I watched.

Green/red time for vehicles and people

Green
Red
Vehicles
9 minutes 10 seconds
= 92%
50 seconds
= 8%
People
50 seconds
= 8%
9 minutes 10 seconds
= 92%
Total
10 minutes/100%
10 minutes/100%

Is this balance? Only if you believe scales with an elephant on one side and a mouse on the other would be well-balanced.

North Yorkshire call this "balance" but it is no such thing.

Bettys is Harrogate's top attraction. People trying to cross the road there are often spending money in Harrogate, helping the town centre to thrive. They get 8% priority, while those passing through Harrogate in cars get 92%. It's an embarrassment.

Otley Road Crossing

Otley Road pedestrian crossing
Crossing of Otley Road

North Yorkshire have excuses for the Bettys crossing, saying that it's one of a series of linked traffic signals on the way down to Royal Hall.

There are no such excuses for the crossing of Otley Road near West End Avenue and Queens Road - it is a standalone crossing. Do we see "balance" there? No.

You push the button and if the sensors detect cars, you wait while the motor traffic is given priority. When there are no more cars, the lights change and you may cross - but you could have crossed anyway.

North Yorkshire call this "balance" but it is no such thing.

Since the default for people is red, there's no reason why the lights couldn't change to green as soon as you press the button, except if someone has just crossed.

After all, it is government policy to make cycling and walking the natural choices for short journeys, but it's not going to happen by magic. If you want people to walk, make it easy and attractive. Give them priority; show them they are valued, not treated as an inconvenience and an afterthought.

Traffic Flow

If you speak to officers at North Yorkshire Highways about crossings, or any active travel improvement, they only ever mention one thing: traffic flow. It is clear that this is their only consideration. They want to keep traffic moving around Harrogate, and nothing else comes into the equation.

North Yorkshire call this "balance" but it is no such thing.

North Yorkshire may have misunderstood its statutory duties. It does have a duty to ensure traffic flow.

It is the duty of a local traffic authority to manage their road network with a view to...securing the expeditious movement of traffic on the authority's road network...
Section 16, Traffic Management Act 2004, The Network Management Duty

Perhaps officers believe this only means motor vehicles. If so, they are wrong.

Cyclists and pedestrians are considered to be 'traffic' within the meaning of the...Traffic Management Act 2004, and therefore duties to manage the road network to secure 'expeditious and safe movement for all traffic' apply to them as well as motorised modes.
Paragraph 1.4.6, Cycle Infrastructure Design

Change of Attitude Needed

There are so many good reasons to prioritise active travel; it's also government policy.

But prioritising motor vehicles is deeply embedded in North Yorkshire's corporate culture - to such an extent that they either don't even realise they are doing it, or they believe it is part of the natural order of the world.

A change of attitude is desperately needed. If that happens, Harrogate can reap huge benefits in livability and quality of life.

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Bike Rides in Harrogate and Nidderdale

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