Is this the worst cycle path in Harrogate?

22nd October 2020

Oak Beck Road bike path
Oak Beck Road 'cycle path'

Could the Oak Beck Road 'infrastructure' be the worst cycle path in Harrogate?

It's on the corner of Oak Beck Road and the A59, and it's about 13 metres long. This surrealist work of bicycle-related art is adorned at one end with an END OF ROUTE sign; a CYCLISTS DISMOUNT instruction is the humorous accessory at the other end.

Cycle signs on Oak Beck Road

This is a monument to brainlessness, in tarmac and steel.

A lot of intelligent and well-qualified people are involved in highways infrastructure: Councillors, local authority planners, highways officers, contractors and engineers. How on earth do they manage to sign off and build something so idiotic?

Housing development on the A59

There is a massive housing development on the A59 Skipton Road between the New Park and Old Spring Well roundabouts. Developers include Bellway and Persona. The people who live in these houses should be able to get to Oak Beck Park (their nearest supermarket) by bike. Can they?

The developers are building a shared use path along the front of the development. It doesn't go anywhere.

Shared use path, Bellway Skipton Road
Shared use path, Bellway development, Skipton Road

There's a crossing to the other side of the A59, where the pavement is divided in two by a white line. This is also a Path to Nowhere: at both ends, the permission to cycle on the pavement (not that that's what people want) terminates.

A59 divided pavement
Tempting cycle infra? Dodge the metal post then give way to the side road...A59 divided pavement

The answer is, no they can't get to Oak Beck Park by bike - unless they're happy for huge trucks to thunder past them, or they illegally use the pavement. 'No we can't' is not what Obama would have wanted to hear.

In their applications for planning permission, developers search for the nearest path that they can claim as cycle infrastructure, regardless of whether it actually takes people to the places they want to go. Then the developers don't have to spend any money contributing to a network; they just claim active travel is already provided for. In this case, it was probably Jennyfield Drive they identified. It seems that Harrogate Borough Council rubber stamped that as acceptable.

It isn't acceptable. Jennyfield Drive cycle path is of poor quality, and must be improved to modern standards. People must be guided from developments to cycle routes, and looked after all the way. That's not the case.

More importantly, Jennyfield Drive is one route, not a network. People need to be able to get to many destinations by bike - that's made crystal clear in Cycle Infrastructure Design.

Cycle Infrastructure Design

Cycle Infrastructure Design is a truly excellent document. We now have first-class standards for cycle infrastructure on paper, but we need to see them applied, so we have the physical cycle routes to match.

Cycle Infrastructure Design says:

According to Cycle Infrastructure Design, new housing development provides a major opportunity to create new and improved cycle infrastructure. Developments that do not adequately make provision for cycling should not be approved. It will not usually be acceptable to maintain an existing poor level of service.

Ride from the development to the Oak Beck Park miracle bike path. Can you honestly say that the existing poor level of service has been improved?