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Active Travel England Lets Harrogate Cyclists Down with Lame Victoria Avenue Scheme

Part of Victoria Avenue scheme
Part of Victoria Avenue scheme

Active Travel England (ATE) is letting Harrogate cyclists down, as well as people who would like to cycle around town but find it too hostile, by rubber-stamping a lame scheme for Victoria Avenue.

North Yorkshire Council (NYC) won just over £1 million from Active Travel Fund 2 (ATF2) in 2020.

The ATF2 bid was for four cycling infrastructure schemes, three of them in Harrogate and one in Whitby.

Harrogate ATF2 schemes
Harrogate ATF2 schemes

NYC has delivered none of the schemes. In fact, the council has built nothing at all with the funding, although it has used up some of it by commissioning consultants to do designs that were never implemented.

Now NYC is proposing to spend all the funding it has left on Victoria Avenue, Harrogate. All the cycling has been stripped out of the new design.

Details of NYC’s New Victoria Avenue Scheme

Proposed crossing at the West Park end of Victoria Avenue
Proposed crossing at the West Park end of Victoria Avenue

The proposals for Victoria Avenue include a light-controlled pedestrian crossing at the West Park end of Victoria Avenue (above), and another at the Station Parade end (below).

Proposed crossing at the Station Parade end of Victoria Avenue
Proposed crossing at the Station Parade end of Victoria Avenue

A new bus stop is included in the design.

Proposed new bus stop on Victoria Avenue
Proposed new bus stop on Victoria Avenue

Buses are not active travel.

The funding is also to be used for street lighting and tactile paving.

Proposed street lighting and tactile paving on Victoria Avenue
Proposed street lighting and tactile paving on Victoria Avenue

Astonishingly, another part of the active travel funding is to be spent on car parking ticket machines.

Proposed new car parking ticket machines
Proposed new car parking ticket machines

Finally, an existing zebra crossing is to be moved very slightly (image at the top of the page).

Full details of the scheme are shown on this plan.

NYC Has Set the Bar for the Number of Consultation Responses Required

Harrogate Cycle Action does not support the scheme, and asked its supporters to respond to the consultation opposing it.

When NYC held a consultation on proposals for Otley Road and Beech Grove in Autumn 2022, there were just over 200 responses, with a majority in favour of both schemes.

The council said that the 200 responses were not enough to justify going ahead with the schemes. This is what it said in its consultation report.

‘With just over 200 responses and 48% of those stating no support for either the Phase 2 cycle route or the Beech Grove filter the consultation did not generate a significant response in favour of any of the proposals’.

NYC consultation report on Otley road and beech grove, autumn 2022

The bar has therefore been set: NYC would need far more than 200 responses to the Victoria Avenue consultation for there to be ‘a significant response in favour of’ the proposals.

If it does not receive hundreds of responses, it would be absolute hypocrisy for NYC to go ahead with the scheme.

Active Travel England Letting Us Down

Active Travel England launched in January 2022, and started work in Summer 2022.

At the time, there was a great deal of hope that they would make a real difference to active travel facilities, even in North Yorkshire.

They promised to deliver a golden age of cycling and walking, which would be put at the heart of transport, place-making and health policy.

In the two years since then, they have made no difference at all in on-the-ground improvements in North Yorkshire – none.

Yes, it was always going to be difficult to work with a backward council like North Yorkshire that lacks ambition and skills. Nevertheless, the absence of any results at all is bitterly disappointing.

The lame Victoria Avenue scheme now being proposed is another blow. Instead of four flagship cycling schemes, North Yorkshire – apparently supported by ATE – is going to move a zebra crossing by a few metres and put in some parking meters.

Hands Tied by Pro-Motorist Anti-Cycling Sunak Government?

Why is ATE’s performance so disappointing? One reason might be the lack of support from Sunak’s government.

The cycling agenda was driven by Andrew Gilligan, special advisor on transport to Boris Johnson. Once Johnson was disgraced and forced out, we go Liz Truss then Mr Sunak.

It was always obvious that Sunak had no interest in active travel, and when the Uxbridge by-election suggested that there might be political capital to be made posturing as pro-motorist and anti-cycling, Sunak the unprincipled opportunist had no hesitation in seeking to cash in.

(It is worth noting that Sunak’s stance has not proved to be popular).

As for ATE, there were already indications that there may be trouble ahead in February 2023. ATE said ATF4 bids should focus on walking and wheeling, not cycling.

Unease deepened when Brian Deegan, ATE’s Head of Inspections, appeared at Active Travel Café in January 2024, and explained that the government’s new mantra was ‘all modes’.

‘All modes’ fails to take account of the fact that Active Travel England is there to focus – as its name suggests – on active travel. Why? Because we have a transport system skewed in favour of the private motor car, and cycling facilities in particular are woeful and need radical upgrading.

But apparently here we are with an active travel agency that is being asked to build bus stops and put in parking meters, and is doing nothing for cycling, in Harrogate at least.

It seems that this will only change if and when Mr Sunak is voted out of Number 10. It can’t happen soon enough.

Active Travel England Lets Harrogate Cyclists Down with Lame Victoria Avenue Scheme

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