Part of North Yorkshire's Victoria Avenue scheme
Part of North Yorkshire’s Victoria Avenue scheme

North Yorkshire Council (NYC) has published proposals for changes to Victoria Avenue, Harrogate. It is consulting on them from 15th April to 12th May 2024 (extended from the original 5th May deadline). This is the consultation letter.

The council intends to spend what it has left of the £1 million it won from Active Travel Fund 2 (ATF2) in 2020 on the Victoria Avenue changes.

The 2020 bid was for four cycling schemes, three of them in Harrogate and one in Whitby. NYC has not delivered any of the cycling schemes.

Active Travel Fund schemes, Harrogate
Active Travel Fund 2 schemes, Harrogate

The new scheme for Victoria Avenue is unambitious, and all the cycling elements have been stripped out of it.

Among other things, the council plans to spend the ATF2 cycling money on car parking ticket machines and a bus stop.

Please Respond to the Consultation

You can respond to the consultation up until 12th May 2024, by emailing Area6.Boroughbridge@northyorks.gov.uk.

Here is our suggested response. Of course, please feel free to amend it to reflect your own views.

Dear Area 6,

I do not support the council’s proposals for Victoria Avenue.

The ATF2 funding was won for four ambitious cycling schemes. North Yorkshire now plans to deliver none of them, which is unacceptable.

There is an urgent need to improve cycle facilities so that everyone from 8 to 80 years old feels safe cycling into town. North Yorkshire should deliver its original promise of dedicated cycle tracks on Victoria Avenue – supplementing the ATF2 money with its own transport funds if necessary.

Beech Grove also need to be made safe for cycling, either by reinstating the modal filters or with another high-quality cycle scheme to make it genuinely safe. 20mph on its own will not work.

Drivers should be prevented from making illegal movements from Beech Grove to Victoria Avenue, and I support a modification of the Beech Grove/West Park/Victoria Avenue junction to achieve this.

Overall the council’s plans for Victoria Avenue are of marginal benefit at best, and are very unlikely to result in more walking into town.

Spending cycling money on a bus stop and car parking ticket machines is wrong.

suggested response to the victoria avenue consultation

The Details of North Yorkshire’s Victoria Avenue Scheme

The details of the Victoria Avenue scheme put forward by NYC are shown in this plan.

This is what is proposed, starting from the West Park end and finishing with the Station Parade end.

1) Light-Controlled Crossing at West Park End of Victoria Avenue

Proposed light-controlled crossing at West Park end of Victoria Avenue
Proposed light-controlled crossing at West Park end of Victoria Avenue

NYC intends to put in a light-controlled crossing of Victoria Avenue at the West Park end.

This could be of marginal benefit – unless, as usual, the council sets the timings to favour motor vehicles and makes people on foot wait ages to cross.

Illegal Movements Straight on from Beech Grove to Victoria Avenue

Every day, tens or hundreds of drivers ignore the Left Turn Only at the bottom of Beech Grove and drive straight across to Victoria Avenue. This puts people crossing Victoria Avenue in danger because vehicles are coming at them from an unexpected direction. A light-controlled crossing will not change this.

Drivers illegally going from Beech Grove to Victoria Avenue can also endanger cyclists legally making that movement.

The plan shows a modification of the mouth of Victoria Avenue to discourage these illegal vehicle movements, specifically extra footway on the north side of Victoria Avenue that narrows the road. The consultation letter describes:

‘layout improvements to help prevent vehicles from making the illegal straight ahead movement from Beech Grove to Victoria Avenue’

consultation letter

We support this aspect.

Victoria Avenue/West Park Junction Right Turn Only

The council should make Victoria Avenue Right Turn Only at its junction with West Park, as this would remove a significant proportion of through traffic from Beech Grove. Beech Grove is not suitable to be part of the main road network, but is currently used as such.

2) A New Bus Stop

Proposed new bus stop
Proposed new bus stop

NYC wants to spend part of the money on a new bus stop, just up from the West Park end of the road. We have no objection to the council building a new bus stop but not with cycling money.

Whenever we ask for improvements to the cycle network, we are told by the council that it is not possible due to lack of funding. A lament about “budgetary constraints” is even included in the Victoria Avenue consultation letter.

Then when they do have funding for cycle improvements, they spend the money on a bus stop instead.

It is not good enough.

3) Street Lighting and Tactile Paving

Tactile paving and street lighting
Tactile paving and street lighting

The plans include improved street lighting. We don’t object to changes to the street lighting, but not with cycling money.

Similarly, if tactile paving will help people who are blind or visually impaired, we support it – but then the council should be doing this anyway, and not raiding the cycling budget to pay for it.

4) Car Parking Ticket Machines

Plans for new car parking ticket machines
Plans for new car parking ticket machines

We do not support the use of precious and limited cycle funding to pay for car parking infrastructure.

5) Moving the Zebra Crossing

Zebra crossing to the Library
Zebra crossing to the Library

NYC’s plans include removing the existing staggered zebra and replacing it with an inline zebra.

We have never heard anyone complain about the current zebra crossing, and it seems to work perfectly well. A zebra without a stagger might be a marginal benefit, but it is unlikely to make any practical difference.

It is wrong to spend money that was intended for cycle infrastructure tinkering with this zebra crossing.

We have no problem with Belford Road being made Left Turn Only. We support anything that reduces traffic past St Peter’s Primary School, and encourages parents to walk or cycle to school with their children – even if it’s just the last little bit of the journey to school.

6) Light-Controlled Crossing at the Station Parade End of Victoria Avenue

Proposed light-controlled crossing at the Station Parade end of Victoria Avenue
Proposed light-controlled crossing at the Station Parade end of Victoria Avenue

NYC are proposing a two-stage light-controlled crossing of Victoria Avenue near the junction with Station Parade.

A light-controlled crossing is of marginal if any benefit here. A two-stage crossing means people on foot having to press two different buttons to ask for permission to cross the road. The time taken is likely to be more than just waiting for a gap in the traffic.

We have no strong objections to this crossing in principle, but it should not be paid for with cycling money.

Summary

The new Victoria Avenue scheme does nothing at all for cycling. Given that the successful bid for this funding was to build four ambitious cycling schemes, that is unbelievably disappointing.

Unambitious Proposals

The proposals are unambitious.

It’s as though the council is trying to get rid of money it no longer wants by putting forward an anodyne scheme it hopes no one will object to.

As far as we can tell, these are proposals that no local people asked for.

Meanwhile, we and others have been asking again and again for improvements to make cycling to town safe, and the council is refusing and failing to do what is needed.

Modal Shift

The purpose of the Active Travel Fund is to enable modal shift from the private car to walking and cycling.

These Victoria Avenue proposals are for very minor changes to what is already a pleasant street. It is extremely unlikely that, if implemented, they would result in more walking trips and less driving.

North Yorkshire’s Promises of Jam Tomorrow

The consultation letter says:

‘Whilst unfortunately is it not possible to include the desired cycle lanes within this proposed scheme, the proposed works will not prevent the installation of the cycle lanes in the future, and this will be the ambition within a future funding bid. North Yorkshire Council is committed to delivering a cycle scheme on Victoria Avenue’.

extract from north yorkshire’s consultation letter

North Yorkshire has been making promises of ‘jam tomorrow’ for cycling for at least 10 years. It is always just about to deliver a meaningful cycling scheme, but then at the last minute it changes its mind.

Examples include:

  • Otley Road Cycleway promised in 2017 then abandoned in 2023
  • Beech Grove modal filters put in in February 2021 then taken out again in August 2022
  • these ATF2 schemes funded in 2020 and still not delivered in 2024
  • Station Gateway, which started out as an ambitious active travel scheme but has now turned in to a plan to get more motor vehicles along Station Parade faster

North Yorkshire say they are committed to delivering a cycle scheme on Victoria Avenue, but based on their track record over 10 years we simply don’t believe them.

Please respond to the consultation and support cycle infrastructure, not the reallocation of cycling money away from cycling to bus stops and parking meters.

Victoria Avenue Consultation – Please Respond

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