1) Introduction

East Parade bike lane
East Parade bike lane gives way to a bin

This is an assessment of cycle provision in Harrogate District by North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) in the context of the DfT’s Decarbonising Transport Plan and Cycle Infrastructure Design LTN1/20. It is intended to provide local knowledge to Active Travel England (ATE) when it assesses provision here.

We would like ATE to assess NYCC as soon as possible, because provision for cycling in Harrogate District is poor and very little concrete progress has been made in the last 5 years. Worse, new housing developments are being built without making proper provision for active travel.

There are hopeful signs, but in the context of a lot of talk and many broken promises, we now need to see action.

The picture given below will change over time, so it is important to know when this page was last updated: 22nd May 2021.

2) General Attitude of the Highways Authority

The Minister’s Foreword to Cycle Infrastructure Design says that ‘cycling must no longer be treated as marginal, or an afterthought’, but that is exactly how it has been treated by NYCC for years.

NYCC has had a very negative attitude to requests for crossings, faster responses from pedestrian lights, safer speed limits, School Streets, and cycle provision. Requests for 20mph limits are all rebuffed. Safe crossings near schools are refused on the basis that motorists might not see them and so might not stop.

Investment, officer time, and political capital are all overwhelmingly invested in provision for motor vehicles, not in active travel. Motor vehicles are regarded as important, and active travel as optional and unimportant. York is employing three active travel officers; North Yorkshire has none.

The lead is given by Councillors, with Executive Member for Access Councillor Don Mackenzie in the most important role. He is also NYCC’s Cycling Champion, but in reality he does not champion cycling. His public statements are mixed – sometimes he expresses support for active travel, but that has not translated into any actual improvements to cycling and walking in Harrogate. He has failed to drive through change to make active travel easier and safer. On the other hand, resources are given to big road projects, which go ahead on time and at great expense.

There are tentative signs of a change in attitude, with positive words from new Director of Business and Environmental Services Karl Battersby. The new attitude has not yet permeated NYCC Highways. For example, NYCC is now committed to applying LTN1/20 standards to cycle infrastructure in theory, but in practice in most specific cases officers simply refuse to do so.

Another issue is a lack of communication with us. Although in theory we are a consultee of the local authority, too often we find out about important developments through the local newspapers.

Cycle Infrastructure Design

HDCA produced a summary of 24 Key Points about CID for NYCC, with local examples of bad and good cycle infrastructure. We wanted to be sure that Councillors and officers were familiar with it and would apply it in future schemes.

We were told by NYCC (at a Cycle Forum meeting in late October 2020) that all officers “were aware of” LTN1/20, and that it “will be considered” in all new work. That is very different from officers having read it, and a commitment to ensure NYCC standards conform to it so that it is applied in all future schemes.

They are producing their own standards, but we have not seen them.

Crossings

Length of time it takes for lights to change. Systems of 5 sets of lights, all set up for motor vehicles with no regard to the interests of people who are not in cars.

Crossing of Otley Road near West End Avenue.

The key test will be action and results. Will we continue to get promises which are then broken? Will there be a lot of talk and reports, but nothing to show in terms of actual improvements to the cycle network? Or does NYCC have the will to commit funding and resources to make active travel projects happen in a reasonable timescale?

Meanwhile major road projects are given huge resources. They include:

  • J47 of the A1M, in partnership with Highways England and the City of York. This increase capacity for motor vehicles to access the motorway. 49% of Harrogate District’s CO2 emissions are from road transport, and it is certain that this project will increase them. NYCC says it plans to become carbon negative by 2030, but it is actively working to increase its main source of greenhouse gases
  • Kex Gill realignment
  • Killinghall Bypass. This was specifically rejected by the Congestion Survey, yet NYCC are committing funds to proceed with it. The word ‘bypass’ is not accurate, as in reality it is a project to double road capacity north of Harrogate. Killinghall would not be bypassed and left as a calm village – it would still have a busy main road through it. It’s just that there would be another main road on a slightly different route in addition.

3) Congestion Survey

Harrogate Congestion Survey
Harrogate Congestion Survey, walking and cycling answer

NYCC held a Congestion Survey for Harrogate and Knaresborough. It asked residents about a proposal for a so-called relief road – a bypass from north to east Harrogate. The bypass was decisively rejected, with 70% of 15,500 respondents strongly disagreeing with the proposal.

The Survey asked respondents about a number of other measures to combat congestion. 77% were in favour of better cycling & walking infrastructure.

The Congestion Survey results were published in August 2019. We feel that there should have been a response from NYCC – a commitment to implement the measures respondents said they wanted, with a timetable.

In fact, there has been no attempt to implement the conclusions of the Survey. Indeed, NYCC’s immediate response was to suggest another bypass road, this one from west to south Harrogate.

We are left with the distinct impression that the Congestion Survey gave the “wrong” answer, and it is therefore being ignored.

A large part of the blame for this failure must lie with the Executive Member for Access, Councillor Don Mackenzie.

Beech Grove

This is excellent but temporary. The only thing they have delivered since around 2015.

Beech Grove is an example of refusing to follow LTN1/20.

LCWIP

Otley Road Cycleway

This goes on and on.

Active Travel Fund

On 9th May 2020, the Secretary of State instructed councils to give more space and priority to cycling and walking. At the time of writing (mid-October 2020), NYCC has done nothing – nothing – for cycling. Nothing at all. There has been a token gesture for walking in Harrogate town centre.

NYCC did produce some good designs for EATF Tranche 2, which is encouraging. For a number of years, there have been encouraging ideas and plans which have produced no result, and so we no longer believe what we’re told. Action is needed now, not words.

Mistakes on Oatlands Drive.

Transforming Cities

It’s good, probably because the West Yorkshire Combined Authorities are driving it. If it was just NYCC, we would never have seen the level of ambition.

Cycle Forum

Links to documents

These are some of the relevant documents:

Housing Developments

A number of housing developments have just been built or are being built at the time of writing (October 2020) on the edge of Harrogate. Cycle provision is woeful or non-existent; the developments are totally car-centric, and will exacerbate existing congestion and pollution problems in Harrogate.

A few case studies follow, with specfic information about certain developments.

King Edwin Park, Persimmon Homes, Penny Pot Lane

Penny Pot Lane - Young's Drive
Penny Pot Lane – Young’s Drive

This development on the western edge of Harrogate is a little far from key destinations for walking to be a routine option. It’s within easy cycling distance; it’s hilly, but electric bikes make this less of a problem.

Penny Pot Lane is a narrow and twisty lane which is used as an alternative to the A59 Skipton Road. Levels of traffic are quite high. The speed limit changes from 50 to 40 to 30mph as the road approaches Harrogate.

The only cycle infrastructure is a shared use pavement (2m70) for a very short distance from the development to Young’s Drive. It then stops, and there is no cycle infrastructure for the next stretch towards Harrogate. The road is not suitable for inclusive cycling in mixed traffic due to the high volume of vehicles.

The other cycle path is a mud and gravel affair through Killinghall Country Park to the Jennyfield housing area on the north western periphery of Harrogate. There are a couple of trip generators here (Jennyfield Coop and Hydro swimming pool), but the main destinations (schools, town centre shopping) are accessed via Penny Pot Lane.

The development has not involved any improvement to the cycle network. It is 99.9% car-centric.

More details are in this correspondence with Harrogate Borough Council.

Dunlopillo site in Pannal (Bellway)

A59 Skipton Road development

Bellway development, Skipton Road
Bellway development, Skipton Road

There is a large housing development on the A59 opposite the Jennyfield area, on the northern edge of Harrogate. A shared use path runs along the front of the development; there is a signal-controlled crossing, and on the opposite side of the road the pavement is divided into cycling and walking by a white line. Both of these are Paths to Nowhere – they don’t go anywhere, and simply stop.

Divided pavement, A59
Divided pavement, A59

An obvious destination from this development is Oak Beck Park, with a DIY store and supermarket – but there is no bike path, and the road you have to take to get there is the busy and hostile A59.

When you get to Oak Beck Park, there is a 13 metre long shared use path, with a CYCLISTS DISMOUNT sign at one end and an END OF ROUTE sign at the other. Rarely has there been a more isolated and useless facility.

Very short, isolated cycle facility
Very short, isolated cycle facility

Beyond Oak Beck Park are more destinations (schools, town centre) along A59 Skipton Road and A61 towards Harrogate, but few people will access them by bike because there is no cycle route.

The only cycle route in the vicinity is alongside Jennyfield Drive, but:

  • a single route is not a network
  • it fails the ‘Direct’ Core Design Principle for many destinations
  • the route itself is not in line with CID guidance, as it is a shared pavement divided by a white line, and it gives way at all minor side roads

Kingsley Drive and the refusal to follow LTN1/20.

Junctions

Follifoot

Follifoot junction
Follifoot junction

The Follifoot junction is a problem on National Cycle Network Route 67, where it crosses the A658 south eastern bypass to Follifoot. (Route 67 can be seen on this map). The bypass severed the older Pannal Road link to Follifoot.

In 2013, Harrogate Rugby Club moved to a site just on the Harrogate side of the A658. It was a planning condition that the developer would improve the Follifoot Underpass, as a way of crossing the A658. Instead, £10,000 was paid to NYCC, then passed to HBC, and they were to do the work.

After 7 years of going round and round in circles, some work was finally done on the Underpass. It had been very muddy and waterlogged. Some drainage was added, and a fairly soft, crushed stone surface that is likely to deteriorate quickly – especially as the Follifoot riding school is adjacent to the Underpass and uses it routinely.

Follifoot Underpass
Follifoot Underpass

On the Follifoot side of the Underpass, there’s a 60-90cm wide mud and gravel path, which has not been improved. The Underpass also represents a detour for cyclists.

Follifoot path
Follifoot path

The real solution would be a light-controlled crossing of the A658, but NYCC currently refuses to do this. The details of the problems with the junction, and the solution, are set out in this Follifoot document.

The story of this junction is representative of NYCC’s approach to active travel in two ways:

  • delay – 7 years of delay to carry out basic work on the Follifoot Underpass, even when a sum paid by the developer was being held
  • failure to make proper provision for cycling – a focus on motorised transport only, with no priority or investment in quality provision for walking and cycling

Sainbury’s Wetherby Road