Slingsby Walk, crossing of Wetherby Road
Slingsby Walk, crossing of Wetherby Road

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) are to discuss a crossing for Slingsby Walk of Wetherby Road at a Business & Environmental Services meeting this week.

A report by NYCC officers recommends that a traffic light-controlled crossing be installed, instead of the current ‘uncontrolled crossing’ – which is not a crossing at all, just wait for a gap in the traffic and take your chances.

Here are 8 points about the proposed crossing.

1) Experience Shows that Announcements and Plans Rarely Translate into On-the-Ground Improvements

Potentially, it is good that NYCC are proposing a proper crossing here, but experience shows the need for caution.

In 2017, we were pleased when NYCC announced that they had won funding for an Otley Road cycleway; in 2022, only a small section has been built, and we’re still waiting for the rest.

In 2020, we were pleased when NYCC won funding from the Active Travel Fund 2 for schemes on Victoria Avenue, A59 Knaresborough Road, and Oatlands Drive; in 2022, we’re still waiting for any on-the-ground improvements at any of those locations.

It’s the same story time and again – for all the talk, nothing actually happens.

While we would welcome a crossing of Wetherby Road, let’s wait and see if NYCC get around to building one.

2) When Might it Happen?

A crossing here was discussed in 2014, but Cllr Richard Cooper vetoed it.

The latest round of discussions began in March 2020. It’s now December 2022, and an in principle decision to go ahead might be taken. Then the designs and safety audits would have to be done.

It is not planned to build a crossing in this financial year, so any work would be done in the year to March 2024.

Ten years after it was first proposed, we might get this most basic infrastructure for walking and cycling.

3) Most of the Discussion from NYCC Is about Cars

In the NYCC report in advance of the meeting, most of the discussion is about cars. People on foot and on bikes are mentioned, but the impression given is that we are largely an inconvenience to the all-important goal of “traffic flow”.

National policy in the Cycling & Walking Investment Strategy is to make cycling and walking the natural choices for short, local trips. Even NYCC want to ‘encourage people to choose active travel’, according to their Local Transport Plan, and provide the infrastructure ‘where possible, appropriate and affordable.’

In practice though, even where it is as plain as day that the most basic infrastructure of all, a safe crossing, is needed, NYCC agonises about whether it might impact motor vehicles.

4) Consultants WSP Say a Crossing Will Have Minimal Impact on Traffic Flow

Consultants WSP did traffic modelling for a crossing of Wetherby Road and Oatlands Drive. They concluded that there was no problem with traffic flow:

‘…model results show that the Toucan crossing on Oatlands Drive is likely to have negligible impacts on traffic even if the crossing is activated once every cycle. The crossing on the A661 is likely to have bigger traffic impacts than the other one, but it is still likely to operate with spare capacity and the average delays and queues are likely to be manageable.’

wsp report about crossings of oatlands drive and wetherby road

It appears there is a Stage 2 report based on traffic modelling done in April 2022, and it should be attached to the NYCC report as Appendix B, but does not appear to be there.

5) NYCC Officers Ignore the WSP Modelling and Say Traffic Flow is a Problem

In the Officer Discussion section of the report in advance of the meeting, NYCC officers appear to ignore WSP’s conclusions that traffic flow is not a problem. They say:

‘any additional crossing of the A661 Wetherby Road will likely cause further delays for people travelling on the road.’

NYCC report

The report goes on to say that the crossing would be of benefit to pedestrians and cyclists, so in the end it recommends the approval of the crossing.

One thing that NYCC have not taken into account is their commitment to reducing traffic in the Routemap to Carbon Negative.

Routemap to Carbon Negative
Routemap to Carbon Negative

If NYCC was genuinely committed to reducing vehicle miles travelled by 48% by 2030, they would not be worried about a crossing causing traffic congestion. As it is, the Routemap isn’t even considered.

6) Harrogate Borough Council is Paying for the Crossing

Paragraph 9.1 says that Harrogate Borough Council is providing £75,000 to pay for the crossing. NYCC are not paying for it.

The paragraph goes on to say that if it turns out that £75,000 is not enough, NYCC might not build the crossing after all.

It would be nice if, just for once, NYCC would commit to an active travel scheme and make it happen without dithering, caveats, excuses, and second thoughts.

7) It’s All in the Timings

Anyone who uses light-controlled crossings in Harrogate knows you have to wait absolutely ages for them to change to green for pedestrians (and, for Toucan crossings, cyclists). This is another aspect of the way NYCC prioritises motor vehicles.

A crossing of Wetherby Road would be welcome, but if they make you wait around for a minute before the lights change, the value to active travel is hugely reduced.

8) What Happened to Oatlands Drive?

The WSP report is about crossings of Oatlands Drive and Wetherby Road, but this week’s meeting only deals with Wetherby Road. The crossing of Oatlands Drive has gone missing.

We remain committed to campaigning for a crossing of Oatlands Drive, and the Oatlands ward consultation on Commonplace will show a groundswell of support for such a crossing.

A parallel crossing of Oatlands Drive would be far better than a traffic-light controlled crossing.

Parallel crossing, Leeds
Parallel crossing, Leeds

It means people can cross straight away, rather than enduring whatever extended wait time NYCC has decided to inflict on them. It’s likely to mean less delay for drivers too.

8 Points About a Slingsby Walk Crossing of Wetherby Road

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