Harrogate cycle prioritisation map
Harrogate cycle prioritisation map

North Yorkshire Council (NYC) has published a report detailing its cycle prioritisation work for Harrogate.

The report’s recommendations to proceed with ‘stakeholder engagement’, and to extend the work to Knaresborough, will be considered at a council meeting on 22nd February 2024.

HDCA’s Position

We support the principle of developing a list of priority cycle routes for improvement. Indeed, this work began at our initiative.

The problem is that NYC is simply not delivering the schemes on the map.

The way it ought to work is : scheme gets to the top of the list and is funded > scheme is delivered > move on to the next one.

The way it actually works (or doesn’t work) in North Yorkshire is: scheme gets to the top of the list and is funded > scheme is diluted or abandoned > move on to the next one.

This is demonstrated by the yellow shaded area on the map, where the council had funding for Otley Road Cycleway but failed to deliver it, and had a scheme in place on Beech Grove but took it out again. This leaves two broken links in the network.

Because of this, and 10 years of failure to deliver, we have no confidence that NYC’s paper plans will lead to meaningful on-the-ground improvements.

Conditions if NYC Wants Our Support for its Active Travel Plans and Bids

If NYC wants us to support its cycle network plans and bids for funding, there are conditions.

To demonstrate its good faith, the council must deliver the schemes it was committed to but then abandoned. They include:

  • Otley Road Cycleway Phase 2
  • Beech Grove (meaningful scheme not just 20mph) and
  • Oatlands Drive (ambitious scheme)

In default, we will conclude that the council is not committed to a high-quality, joined-up cycle network. We will not support its plans and bids because they will only lead to isolated and low-quality schemes.

Background

Consultants WSP were commissioned to write a Cycle Infrastructure Plan (CIP) in 2017. By 2019, they had produced a Phase 1 and a Phase 2 report.

The CIP included a cycle network map showing all the routes that ought to be made safe for cycling. The consultants also identified four priority routes, and produced designs for them.

NYC didn’t do anything about any of the routes identified – the consultants’ report sat on a shelf gathering dust.

We took the initiative to look at all the routes on the cycle network map, and came up with high-level designs for them – what infrastructure would be needed to make them safe and attractive.

In 2021, we started working with NYC to turn that into a formal list of cycling priorities that could be adopted by the council as policy.

That work was completed by December 2022, but the council then delayed for the whole of 2023. Now the cycle prioritisation report has been published, the work is moving forward again.

Cycle Priority Assessment

NYC looked at 160 routes or sections of routes, and rated them according to criteria which included:

  • forecast increase in number of cycle trips and
  • Benefit Cost Ratio

Short, Medium and Long Term Priorities

Government guidance for Local Cycling & Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIPs) tells councils to divide proposed infrastructure improvements into priorities – short-, medium- and long-term.

NYC’s Short-Term Priorities (< 3 Years)

Short-term cycle priorities
Short-term cycle priorities

The short-term priorities demonstrate the fundamental problem here.

Otley Road Phase 2 was funded, but NYC diverted the funds to other non-cycling schemes instead. The short-term priorities only include Otley Road west of Phase 1 (i.e. Phase 3). Phase 2 is excluded, which is indefensible from a network point of view.

NYC had a scheme in place on Beech Grove but took it out, despite 66% support for keeping it. That was pure failure of political will.

That leaves two broken links in the cycle network – Otley Road Phase 2 and Beech Grove.

Otley Road Cycleway
Otley Road Cycleway

NYC’s cycle prioritisation map (top of the page) tries to fudge the problem area by putting yellow shading on it and calling it a “Study Area”.

In reality, no studying is being done.

Otley Road and Beech Grove got to the top of the list, were funded, but then a political decision was made to abandon them instead of delivering them, resulting in two broken links.

The cycle prioritisation report says:

‘It is important that a cohesive network exists and as each priority route develops officers will work to ensure appropriate links are identified that connect into key destinations and existing provision’.

cycle prioritisation report, para. 3.10

Unfortunately, NYC only understands the importance of a cohesive network in theory; in practice, to the extent that they are delivering anything at all, it is a network of broken links.

What is the implication for future schemes? Does anyone believe that NYC will have the backbone and determination to deliver the next scheme that gets to the top of the list and make sure it fits into a cohesive network?

We do not.

Medium-Term Priorities (3 to 5 Years)

Medium-term cycle priorities (1)
Medium-term cycle priorities (1)
Medium-term cycle priorities (2)
Medium-term cycle priorities (2)

Long-Term Priorities (> 5 Years)

Long-term cycle priorities
Long-term cycle priorities

It is shocking to see Oatlands Drive relegated to the list of long-term priorities. This means the council does not intend to implement an ambitious scheme for 5 years or more, and claims to have “no defined infrastructure solution”.

A scheme for Oatlands Drive was funded by Active Travel Fund 2, before being dropped. The council has since spent the money on a consultants’ report, asking them to come up with infrastructure solutions, which they did.

So it is incorrect to say that there is no infrastructure solution: there is. What is missing is the political will to implement it.

Just as with Otley Road and Beech Grove, the NYC Executive refuses to deliver a scheme to make cycling safe on Oatlands Drive.

There are warm words in the cycle prioritisation report about a coherent cycle network, but we have no confidence in NYC’s ability to deliver it.

Pipeline of Schemes

The report says (para 3.12) that Active Travel England expects councils to have a pipeline of schemes and a clear strategic plan of how cycle routes will link up.

Once again, a strategic plan for how cycle routes will link up is not the present reality when the council is only delivering broken links.

Engagement not Consultation

NYC does not want to hold a public consultation on the cycle priorities, only an engagement with selected stakeholders.

It is part of a pattern of behaviour on the part of the council – excluding the public from knowing about its plans, probably due to fear that if people knew about them, there might be pressure to deliver them.

We believe that now is the right time to consult with local residents on the cycle priorities, to get feedback and buy-in.

Knaresborough

Harrogate Cycle Action only looked at Harrogate, but the council intends to extend the prioritisation work to Knaresborough, which was included in the original CIP.

This is sensible.

Appendix B

Appendix B (several pages) includes the Harrogate Cycle Prioritisation Summary/Top 30.

Harrogate Cycle Network Prioritisation

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