Before and after...Rossett Drive barrier removed
Before and after…Rossett Drive barrier removed

In 2022, North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) removed a barrier on Rossett Drive. This was welcome, but it was the only meaningful improvement they made to Harrogate’s cycle network.

There was also a major backwards step when NYCC took away the only active travel infrastructure they had installed since the start of the pandemic – the modal filters on Beech Grove.

Overall, the year was another huge disappointment.

2022 was the year when we came to the realisation that the Area Highways team has no intention of improving Harrogate’s cycle network.

There are always future plans, like carrots being dangled from a long stick in front of our noses. The plans never materialise.

We spend a lot of time on emails and meetings, on reviewing designs, and on drumming up support for active travel consultations. Without expertise and commitment from the council resulting in on-the-ground improvements, that time spent is never going to achieve anything. It is wasted.

January

Phase 1 of the Otley Road Cycleway was finished towards the end of 2021, and Phase 2 was to follow on swiftly after. In the event, no work on Phase 2 was done in the whole of 2022.

We walked the route with Area Highways and their consultants and made detailed comments. There were items to rectify on Phase 1 and lessons to be learned on design issues for Phase 2. When the Phase 2 plans were eventually put to consultation (October 2022), none of our points had been taken on board.

A draft Local Cycling & Walking Plan (LCWIP) for Ripon was due to published early in 2022, but it was not published in January or any other month of this year.

February/March

The ATF2 schemes on Victoria Avenue and A59 Knaresborough Road were due to start construction in February or March 2022 – which already represented a delay from the previous start date of November 2021.

The original DfT deadline for completion of construction was 31st March 2022.

In the event, no construction work started in February, March, or at any point in 2022.

The schemes have now been pushed back to “the New Year” 2023. Even then, it’s not construction that is scheduled but a third consultation.

May

After passing a key vote in January, a final business case for Harrogate Station Gateway was to be presented in May 2022. Work was due to start later in 2022, and finish in 2023.

As it turned out, no business case was prepared in May and instead the project was put to a third consultation. At the time of writing, we are still waiting for the outcome of the consultation. A report in the Stray Ferret says that Harrogate & Knaresborough Councillors will now be asked for their views, and construction work will start in late 2023.

The team running Harrogate Station Gateway (a dedicated team, not Area Highways) is very good, and the third consultation was held to make sure there could be no challenge to the legality of the project.

Designs and decisions are vetted by the project’s funders, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which means that there is a level of expertise and professionalism not seen in other projects. We still have a reasonable degree of confidence that Station Gateway will eventually go ahead.

Also in May, we learned the outcome of NYCC’s Active Travel Fund 3 bid. Councils with bold and ambitious plans, and a record of delivery, won quite large sums. NYCC’s bid failed altogether.

June

In June we presented our work on a Harrogate cycle network to 30 Supporters who kindly attended an early evening meeting.

We did the work on Zone Plans for the network voluntarily and gave it to NYCC. It includes suggestions for the types of intervention needed on all the routes on their Harrogate cycle network map.

It is being worked on by a very good NYCC officer, in order to produce a List of Priorities – one of the key outputs of an LCWIP. We are hoping to receive the draft List of Priorities this month. The List of Priorities would inform bids for active travel funding.

The Zone Plans were also given to Harrogate Borough Council’s planning team, so they can be taken into account in new developments. So far there is no indication that they are being taken into account.

Also in June, Harrogate Borough Council removed some barriers in Stonefall Park.

July

The third consultation on Harrogate Station Gateway started.

August

The active travel scheme on Beech Grove was installed in February 2021. It was the only reallocation of space to walking and cycling in North Yorkshire, the only scheme that complied with Cycle Infrastructure Design guidance, and the first meaningful improvement to Harrogate’s cycle network in 8 years.

In August 2022, NYCC removed it.

It was hardly a golden age for active travel under the previous Executive Member for Transport Don Mackenzie, but we are confident that he would have held firm and made the Beech Grove scheme permanent.

The removal of the scheme represented the first major decision of the new Executive Member, Cllr Keane Duncan. He says he is ‘committed to promoting active travel’, but:

  • NYCC needs to enable active travel through safe infrastructure, not ‘promote’ it, and
  • actions speak louder than words

In failing to publish an evidence report and make an evidence-based decision during the period of the Experimental Order, NYCC breached their Network Management Duty. We made a complaint about this to NYCC.

They promised to launch a consultation (yet another consultation!) on the return of the modal filters, or an alternative design, in September 2022. When they failed to launch the consultation in September, we forwarded our complaint to Active Travel England.

The removal of the Beech Grove scheme was bitterly disappointing. As a result NYCC have lost much of our confidence and goodwill.

October/November

In October, HDCA Chair Kevin Douglas made a statement to the Harrogate & Knaresborough Area Committee council meeting. He put forward a number of proposed solutions to the impasse on active travel, but despite promises of action no progress has been made on any of the proposals.

Also in October, NYCC began a consultation on designs for Beech Grove and Otley Road Cycleway Phase 2.

On Beech Grove, the consultation presented a choice between the return of the modal filters or a second option. Option 2 is a really poor design involving a narrow painted cycle lane that would be of zero benefit to active travel. The lack of expertise demonstrated is a real concern.

On Otley Road, three options were put forward. The fact that ideas are still being floated 5 years into this project should set off alarm bells. Further, none of our main concerns about the core design have has been taken on board.

We are told a construction date is ‘to be confirmed but likely spring/summer 2023.’ We have been given so many start dates for construction over the last 5 years, nearly all of them missed by a mile, that we no longer believe any of them.

Summary

NYCC removed a single barrier in 2022, and Harrogate Borough Council took down some more in Stonefall Park.

NYCC ripped out the only meaningful active travel scheme they had installed since the start of the pandemic, Beech Grove, ignoring their Network Management Duty in the process.

NYCC has signed up to the Routemap to Carbon Negative, which commits it to a 900% increase in cycling by 2030.

Routemap to Carbon Negative
Routemap to Carbon Negative

If the Routemap’s goal for cycling is to be achieved, removing one barrier is not enough; the rate of progress needs to be far more rapid. More significant improvements to Harrogate’s cycle network are needed.

The backwards step on Beech Grove is deeply unhelpful and far outweighs the removal of a barrier on Rossett Drive. NYCC must commit to its active travel schemes even when there is some opposition, starting with Beech Grove. If it folds at the first sign of dissent, it will achieve nothing.

Future plans are all very well, but after so many years of failure to deliver on-the-ground improvements it is difficult for us to believe in them. We are left feeling that we are being strung along with false promises of schemes that never materialise.

2022 has been another year of failure to deliver.

Is There Any Hope?

Reasons to be cheerful are thin on the ground but they could include:

  • the possibility that Harrogate Station Gateway will go ahead in 2023
  • the hope that NYCC will set up a dedicated active travel team with the commitment and expertise to see projects through
  • the fact that Active Travel England is up and running, and might intervene in North Yorkshire to provide the oversight and supervision of designs that is so desperately needed
Review of 2022

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