The Harrogate and Knaresborough Congestion Survey last year, acknowledges that the town’s streets are overcrowded and steps need to be taken to encourage other forms of travel than the motor car. Some of the startling statistics to come out of the survey include that at peak times of traffic flow, half the car journeys are under 1.6 miles and at an average speed of just 5.5 mph (https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/background-harrogate-and-knaresborough-congestion), this is a trip easily taken by bicycle by many people.
There are already some cycle lanes and shared use paths around Harrogate along with several proposals to build more although progress to date has been very slow. However, for these schemes to be successful and to be used by people who may not usually cycle, we have to create a network and not just build cycle lanes. People need to feel safe and confident cycling from outside their door to the cycle lane and from the cycle lane to their final destination. As well as building cycle lanes more general actions to encourage active travel around our streets should be taken. As we come out of lockdown, we have never had a better opportunity to re-invent what we do and how we travel and so must not let this opportunity go to waste. We recommend the following steps:
Introduce 20MPH Speed Limit Throughout Town
One of the key factors affecting people’s confidence to travel by bicycle is safety. One of the key ways of reducing accidents and the impact of accidents is to reduce speed limits. Implementing a 20mph speed limit throughout the Harrogate and Knaresborough urban area would have minimal impact on travel times (the congestion survey last year showed that many people are travelling on average speed of just 5.5 mph at peak times), but would have a huge impact on road safety.
There is a national campaign for supporting reductions in speed limits called 20’s Plenty for Us which you can read about here: http://www.20splenty.org/
School Car Exclusion Zones
The school run is believed to be one of the biggest causes of traffic congestion around Harrogate. Restricting car access around schools at peak school opening and closing times has been tried in may towns and found to significantly cut vehicular traffic as pupils find it easier and safer to cycle or walk to work.
Stop Car Drivers Parking In Cycle Lanes
While cycle lanes do not give any protection, they do create a sense of security for many inexperienced cyclists. However, when they come across a parked car, the cyclist has to move out into the main flow of traffic which is dangerous enough. The cyclist also runs the risk that they will be hit if the driver of the parked car decides to open the car door without looking properly first.
If the road is too narrow to make it possible to have safe cycle lanes in both directions, then perhaps the council should consider making streets one-way for vehicular traffic and using the other lane for bicycles? As an example, Oatland’s Drive is the main route to two of Harrogate’s schools and cars are regularly parked in the cycle lane by the Stray. This could be stopped to make it safer for pupils to cycle to school.
In order to make our neighbourhoods safer, we need to stop our them from being used as rat runs. Modal filters which allow pedestrians and cyclists to pass through while blocking cars can do this very effectively on many of the side streets. These can be readily implemented with semi-permanent barriers such as large plant holders to let pedestrians and cyclists through but not cars, and can contribute to making our streets and neighbourhoods safer for road users other than car drivers.
An additional benefit of this is that they can make our streets safer places for children to play.
Safe Cycle Storage
A main concern among many people who cycle to town for shopping, work or to take public transport is safe cycle storage. Bicycles can be very expensive, especially some of the newer electric assist bicycles that so many people are buying right now. Thus, secure bicycle storage is needed at several points around town and not just at the train and bus station.
In some towns, councils are installing cycle storage units, like the one illustrated above, on the streets so that residents with limited storage can store their bicycles safely outside.