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York Local Transport Strategy

Decorative cycle sign, York
Decorative cycle sign, York

York’s new Local Transport Strategy started to emerge at a council meeting of the Climate Change Policy & Scrutiny Committee on 12th April 2020.

The City of York Council (CYC) Sustainable Transport Manager Julian Ridge made a presentation about the strategy he is helping to develop.

Mr Ridge said that CYC is still waiting for government guidance on preparing a new Local Transport Plan (LTP), which is a statutory document. In the meantime, the council is preparing a Local Transport Strategy (LTS) which will form the basis of the LTP.

Trends & Projects

Traffic crossing city centre bridges has been declining since 1965; it is down by about a third.

Traffic on the A64 and A1237 orbital routes is increasing. Mr Ridge said:

‘You can see that there is a movement away from the city centre and towards the orbital routes.’

sustainable transport manager, york

I suggest this is a misleading interpretation of the trends, because he makes it sound as though the same people, the same vehicles, and the same trips are moving from the city centre to the orbital routes – but he didn’t present any evidence to support this.

It is just as likely that the trips on the A-roads around York have nothing to do with the decline in traffic in York city centre. The Outer Ring Road traffic could be retired people from Harrogate driving to Castle Howard – trips that would never go through York city centre.

Bus trips are up by two thirds. CYC don’t have statistics for walking and cycling.

York does have some active travel projects, but its biggest and most expensive transport projects involve increasing capacity for motor vehicles by dualling York Outer Ring Road to the north of the city, and dualling the A64 north east of York.

If you spend a lot of money on capacity for cars, you will inevitably get more cars. CYC accepts that this is what will happen – the image below shows red lines where they expect traffic increases by 2033.

Projected traffic increases by 2033 shown by red lines
Projected traffic increases by 2033 shown by red lines

CYC’s objective is to reduce car miles very substantially, but its policy does the exact opposite. They don’t even seem able to acknowledge the logical disconnect.

Policies

CYC’s stated policies include a 71% reduction of emissions from transport.

York LTS Policies
York LTS Policies

The carbon strategy as it applies to transport is broken down onto 4 slides. The first re-emphasises the hoped-for 71% carbon reduction.

York LTS Carbon Reduction 1
York LTS Carbon Reduction 1

The second slide goes on to say what this means for car trips: the total number must be reduced by 3%, and car miles must be reduced by 25%. All this is supposed to happen by 2030.

York LTS Carbon Reduction 2
York LTS Carbon Reduction 2

But when you think back to the current projects, which involve a major increase in orbital road capacity, traffic volumes and emissions, you wonder – what on earth is CYC doing?

Dualling York Outer Ring Road represents huge emissions during the construction phase, then a major new source of transport emissions coming on stream when the road would be completed in 2027. It does not align with the carbon-reduction objectives, and makes for an incoherent strategy.

The third carbon slide refers to minimising the impact of vehicle use that does take place.

York LTS Carbon Reduction 3
York LTS Carbon Reduction 3

The final carbon reduction slide is the most interesting.

York LTS Carbon Reduction 4
York LTS Carbon Reduction 4

It sets an objective of increasing:

  • walking and cycling by 33%
  • bus use by 25%

I come back to a point I’ve already made: CYC should spend its money on the modes it want to encourage and increase, not the mode it wants to discourage. The chasm between its words and actions, between its stated objectives and the projects it is funding, is gaping.

Micro-Management by National Government

Mr Ridge commented several times during the presentation that central government is taking more of an interest in the detail of what councils are doing on active travel than they ever have before. He described it as micro-management.

What he didn’t say is that this is because overall councils have been doing a terrible job on active travel so the government has to make sure standards are radically improved. Otherwise we would get the same rubbish as before.

York Local Transport Strategy

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