County Hall, Northallerton
County Hall, Northallerton

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 North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) for years.

We experience this negative attitude in dealings with officers, but we recognise that this stems from the lead given by senior Councillors. If there were a strong political drive to prioritise active travel and allocate resources to it, that would be reflected by officers.

2.1) Positives

Corporate Director

Karl Battersby was appointed Corporate Director of NYCC in August 2020. We welcome his appointment, because he has spoken about active travel in positive terms. He has also supported the Harrogate Station Gateway project in the face of opposition from some local people.

On the other hand, in our view he has not made significant progress in changing NYCC’s culture. Further, he committed NYCC to LTN 1/20 standards, but as soon as there were difficult practical choices to be made, that commitment was not upheld.

Harrogate Station Gateway

Proposed Dutch roundabout at the top of East Parade
Proposed Dutch roundabout at the top of East Parade

Harrogate Station Gateway involves money from the Transforming Cities Fund being spent on improving Harrogate town centre around the train and bus stations. This includes quality cycle tracks to LTN 1/20 standards. Harrogate Station Gateway has been backed by Karl Battersby and by NYCC Cabinet Member for Access Don Mackenzie and Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) Leader Richard Cooper, despite some opposition from local business.

Harrogate Station Gateway comes out of a bid by West Yorkshire Combined Authorities, and the approach and design standards are of a different order to anything we’ve seen in Harrogate before. The team working on the project includes officers from NYCC and HBC, and they have done an excellent job so far.

Beech Grove

Beech Grove modal filter
Modal filter on Beech Grove

A modal filter was installed on Beech Grove. This improves quality of life on the street, and creates a safe cycle route into town.

It was proposed as part of the EATF, but not funded by the DfT. NYCC funded it themselves on a trial basis, with the ETRO running until August 2022. It is the only reallocation of space to cycling in response to the pandemic in the whole of North Yorkshire, and we hope it will be made permanent.

The updated Network Management Duty guidance tells local authorities to roll out measures including segregated cycle tracks, school streets, new 20mph zones, modal filters, cycle parking and junctions to accommodate more cyclists. At the time of writing (January 2022), Beech Grove is the only such measure that has been put in place in Harrogate District since the start of the pandemic.

Those are the main positives. Our experience with NYCC on other projects and day-to-day matters is not so positive. Harrogate is within NYCC Area 6.

2.2) Communication and Meetings

The Cycle Forum brings together HDCA, NYCC and HBC. It is chaired by HBC. It involves meetings every month or so.

Councillors and officers have rarely raised issues proactively, so HDCA has set the agenda. Answers on specific issues are not given at meetings, but questions are taken away as action points. Unfortunately, most often they are still not dealt with before the next meeting.

More recently, we have had regular Keep In Touch meetings with a senior NYCC officer. We welcome this opportunity, but so far it has been hard to obtain substantive answers, and there has been little progress on ongoing projects.

HDCA members regularly contact Area 6 officers to try to move active travel projects forward. Responses are always polite, but involve promises to talk to colleagues, assess situations, or commission reports. Action almost never results. Unless we diarise to chase matters up, we hear nothing further.

2.3) Delay

Delay is a chronic problem.

Otley Road Cycleway was funded by the DfT in November 2017. Work was due to begin in March 2018, but from then on the project was delayed by 3 to 4 months at a time, kicking the start date down the road. After a while, we simply did not believe the new start dates announced.

NYCC divided the work up into phases, and work on Phase 1 finally started in September 2021.

No doubt officers are stretched, but it is frustrating that active travel improvements that could be made are delayed for years.

2.4) Crossings and Timing of Lights

Light-controlled crossing on Otley Road
Light-controlled crossing on Otley Road

NYCC has a very negative attitude to active travel crossings of roads, because they are 100% focused on moving motor vehicles.

Many of the crossings in Harrogate are uncontrolled crossings, where those on foot have to scurry across the road when they see a gap in the traffic. The Prince of Wales roundabout is an example of this.

At light-controlled crossings, NYCC typically make those on foot (and on bikes in some cases) wait 40-50s. Officers describe it as ‘balancing the interests of different road users’. It is no such thing, it’s plainly prioritising motor vehicles, but it’s hard to discuss a problem with people who cannot even describe it accurately.

There are standalone light-controlled crossings as on Otley Road near the junction with Queens Road, where the lights very explicitly prioritise motor vehicles by detecting them with sensors, and staying green for them if they are present. The lights only go green for pedestrians when there are no cars – but then the people can cross anyway.

On West Park and Parliament Street, there are five sets of lights. NYCC have told us that they are set up and coordinated for the benefit of motor vehicles, to provide them with a ‘green wave’. Even though this is the town centre, and it includes a very important crossing point outside Bettys, no regard is paid to the wishes of those on foot who want to cross.

An excuse we have heard on several occasions, when officers have refused to install a crossing, is that drivers might not see it and be able to stop. One case was outside a school, where the school had paid for a feasibility study for a new zebra crossing and was prepared to fund it. NYCC refused on the basis that drivers might not see the crossing and might not stop. We believe that any drivers who are unable to see crossings should have their licences withdrawn.

2.5) Prioritising Motor Vehicles

In communications with NYCC officers, they constantly refuse reasonable requests for active travel improvements because they explicitly prioritise motor vehicles.

We have told them on many occasions that those on foot and on bikes are ‘traffic’, and the highways authority has a duty to ensure the expeditious and safe movement of pedestrians and cyclists too. NYCC are not listening.

On the Otley Road Cycleway, the design is very poor largely because the designers have not been prepared to inconvenience motor vehicles in any way. Indeed, a major part of the design creates extra lanes for motor vehicles at the Harlow Moor Road junction, leaving inadequate space for those on foot and on bikes.

2.6) Design Standards and Attitude to LTN 1/20

Unfortnunately, LTN 1/20 has had little or no effect in Harrogate so far.

NYCC have said that they are aware of LTN 1/20 and it “will be considered” in all new work. That is quite different from having read it, and applying it consistently.

The most common tactic is to make reference to LTN 1/20 in statements or documents, then put forward plans or designs which are in no way LTN 1/20-compliant.

We would like officers to apply LTN 1/20 in good faith, in an attempt to produce the best cycle infrastructure possible. Instead, too often they are looking for loopholes or get-outs. If it says ‘where possible’, it will be impossible in North Yorkshire. If it says ‘preferably’, it won’t happen in Harrogate.

2.7) 20mph

There are quite a few 20mph zones in Harrogate, presumably dating from the period when HBC was the highways authority. NYCC are highly resistant to creating any more. All requests are declined.

NYCC recently produced a new 20mph policy which will ensure they can say no to every request.

2.8) Housing Development

New housing estates are going up all around the edges of Harrogate and Knaresborough. Most of them are rather far from the town centre for walking to be practical, but within a reasonable cycling distance. Unfortunately, none of them involve any useful cycle infrastructure.

Although HBC is the planning authority, HBC officers defer to NYCC on transport. NYCC Development Control have failed to ensure that the developments include useful cycle infrastructure. Their attitude has been that they can’t or they won’t require any useful cycle provision.

S.106 money for active travel infrastructure is either not collected, turns out to be insufficient to build any useful cycle tracks, or is spent years later on inadequate facilities

2.9) Lack of Presence in Harrogate

A large part of the problem is that Area 6 officers are not based in the town of Harrogate, rarely visit, and don’t understand the transport issues here. The main offices are at Boroughbridge.

NYCC frequently makes statement about North Yorkshire’s large area, its vast road network, and its dispersed population small market towns. That is true of much of North Yorkshire, but not of Harrogate. It is a densely-populated town, and most traffic is local people travelling short distances. There’s a lot of congestion and great potential for modal shift, but officers in based in other towns don’t grasp that.

2.10) Reluctance to Ride Bikes

This is another aspect of NYCC committing to LTN 1/20 in theory but not in practice.

Summary Principle 20 states that all designers of cycle schemes must experience the roads as cyclists, and they should travel through the area on a bike to understand it.

On many occasions, we have asked officers to ride a route or an area with us. Every time, the answer is no.

2.11) Cycling Champions

There is an HBC and an NYCC Cycling Champion. It’s a good thing that the roles exist. Ideally, the cycling champions would regularly get around the District by bike. They would understand the issues; they would be effective advocates and cycle campaigners.

That was the case when Councillor Rebecca Burnett was cycling champion, but currently it is not.

Summary

The picture is not entirely bleak, but there is a major problem of a negative attitude to active travel embedded deep in the DNA of NYCC. There are insufficient signs of change in attitude.

1) Introduction

This is the home page of the Active Travel England section, which contains the Introduction and links to all other pages in the section.

2) Attitude of the Highways Authority

Notes on the attitude of the highways authority, North Yorkshire County Council, and the way they approach active travel.

3) Cycle Infrastructure Design

The impact of LTN 1/20 Cycle Infrastructure Design in Harrogate, and the way it is applied (or not) by NYCC officers.

4) Housing Development

The active travel disaster zone that is recent and ongoing housing development in Harrogate District.

5) Projects

A brief overview of some current projects in Harrogate District, including Otley Road Cycleway and Station Gateway.

6) Junctions

This section highlights the issues which have not been addressed at two important junctions.