Part of Otley Road Cycleway
Part of Otley Road Cycleway

In theory Phase 1 of Otley Road Cycleway is from the Arthurs Avenue/Cold Bath Road junction to Harlow Chase, just beyond the Harlow Moor Road junction.

Work finished for the time being on Tuesday 21st December 2021, but the contractors will come back after Christmas to do the jobs they didn’t have time for.


Here’s a summary (too long; didn’t read) before the detailed analysis.

(1) The funding bid for the Otley Road Cycleway succeeded in 2017, and it has taken 4 years to get this small part of it (‘Phase 1’) built.

(2) There are space constraints on Otley Road, and in making criticisms of the design we have borne that in mind.

(3) The one big improvement on ‘traditional’ North Yorkshire cycle infrastructure is that the cycleway has priority over minor side roads. It’s disappointing that pedestrians aren’t also specifically given priority too (although in theory the new Highway Code gives them priority over turning vehicles).

Priority cycle track across mouth of Pannal Ash Drive
Priority cycle track across mouth of Pannal Ash Drive

(4) Notwithstanding (2) above, nearly all difficult decisions have been ducked. Where there was a choice to be made, motor vehicles have been prioritised to the detriment of cycling and walking.

Cycle Infrastructure Design guidance states that space for cycling should be taken from the carriageway, and the level of service for pedestrians should not be reduced. At major light-controlled junctions on Otley Road, North Yorkshire has done the exact opposite: it has given nearly all the space to motor vehicles, and crammed pedestrians and cyclists together into what’s left over.

(5) Following on from point (4) above, arrangements for cycling at the light controlled junctions with Arthurs Avenue and Pannal Ash Road are very unsatisfactory. Cyclists are asked to go a short way up the side road, wait at a Toucan crossing, then share a very small amount of space with pedestrians.

(6) The Harlow Moor Road junction arrangements are unforgivable. In clear breach of the guidance, North Yorkshire has created extra lanes for turning vehicles, and left a tiny amount of space for those on foot and on bikes. The designers have considered the interests of drivers to the exclusion of any other road users.

(7) The guidance says that CYCLISTS DISMOUNT and END OF ROUTE signs should not be used, but North Yorkshire is still using them as a matter or routine.

(8) When the contractors finish off Phase 1, it will represent only a fraction of a cycle route, and as such it won’t be of much use yet. People need complete routes that join up to form a network.

Tl;dr Distilled

To distill the review even further:

  • there are genuine space constraints on Otley Road, and we do not criticise North Yorkshire where it has done its best in the space available, but
  • Cycle Infrastructure Design guidance says that space for cycling should be taken from the carriageway where this is possible, not from pedestrians. North Yorkshire has not done this. Indeed, this project involves more space being given to motor vehicles, at the expense of those on foot and on bikes

Following Pages

On the following pages, there’s:

  • a detailed look at the infrastructure, starting from Arthurs Avenue and going uphill on the south side of Otley Road to just beyond Harlow Moor Road
  • a detailed look at the infrastructure coming back down on the north side of Otley Road to Cold Bath Road
  • a summary of minor snags and major design flaws
  • a summary of the relevant Cycle Infrastructure Design guidance
  • a word about the future and turning Otley Road Cycleway into a complete route, linked into a cycle network
Otley Road Cycleway Phase 1 Review

8 thoughts on “Otley Road Cycleway Phase 1 Review

  • 1 February 2022 at 5:59 pm

    Agree with the analysis – what a mess and waste of money

    • 2 February 2022 at 9:38 am

      Hi Imran,

      Thanks for the comment. It’s just disappointing that the design is so poor and car-focused.

      If the other sections can be built to a better design, including a cycle track out to new housing beyond Harlow Carr, it could still end up as a useful route.

  • 2 February 2022 at 9:39 am

    Totally agree, well done for the analysis.

    Fundamentally it seems to me that NYCC do not see cyclists as commuters on a valid form of transport, simply as leisure riders prepared to dawdle over journeys on a sunny weekend. Their refusal to even cycle the route says it all

    On a purely practical level, surely they should see their mish-mash of styles and inconveniences to cyclists and pedestrians as unsatisfactory ?

    No doubt NYCC will be hailing their ‘progess’ as proof of green ambitions, when it could have been so much more. We all need to keep pushing.

    • 2 February 2022 at 9:43 am

      I agree. Let’s hope the next phase can be built to a better design.

  • 2 February 2022 at 12:24 pm

    Have taken a ride round on my trike this morning – starting from Harlow Moor Road shared cycle path. Generally agree with the comprehensive analysis. Pointing out though that the Cyclists Dismount sign before Harlow Chase has been taken down – perhaps because I pointed out the equality implications for inclusive cycling. Will be tweeting this and other points with photos as seems to be no way of including here.

  • 2 February 2022 at 1:44 pm

    The traffic lights for the left and right turning lanes on Otley Road, at the Harlow Moor Road junction, could surely have been used to allow traffic going straight-on to continue and for cyclist to cross Harlow Moor Road at the same time? It was practically impossible for me to reach the Toucan crossing button when waiting to cross northwards there given that I cannot stand and manipulate my trike. Again an equality failure.

  • 4 February 2022 at 10:10 pm

    I walked along Otley Road several times during November, December and January as construction was taking place. I started off feeling optimistic that at last we were going to get the long awaited Cycleway, but then optimism turned to pessimism as the construction progressed and I saw more and more improvements taking place to the road, with little evidence of new cycle paths on either side. Your excellent analysis of the end result confirms my feelings. I doubt if I will be using the new Cycleway, as cycling on Otley Road will be much quicker especially when the shared pavements in the vicinity of Harrogate Grammar School are overcrowded with pupils at the start and end of the school day.

    When I attended public meetings in Harrogate Grammar School 4 years ago, and discussed the plans with councillors, I was aware the Cycleway was going to be a mixture of cycle lanes and shared usage pavements, but I was under the impression we were going to have something much better than what has been delivered: something that would look like a cycle path! I feel that the funding has been used primarily to improve Otley Road for motor vehicles by widening various junctions, and improving road surfaces, and by getting cyclists out of the way. What has been delivered for cyclists is completely substandard and inadequate as your analysis shows. Have NYCC used the funding exactly as planned, or have their plans been modified once the funding was obtained? Dare I ask: has funding been misappropriated?

    I know this is just Phase 1, and we are being urged to reserve judgement until the full Cycleway route is completed, but sadly I have no confidence NYCC will deliver anything better in later phases unless they are called to account over the delivery of Phase 1, which seems to break all of the Cycle Infrastucture Design Guidelines.

    • 6 February 2022 at 1:26 pm

      Hi Eric, Thanks for your comment. I agree the key thing now is to learn lessons so as to build to a better design in future phases.

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