Last week North Yorkshire County Council Highways Authority announced the start of the consultation on the proposal to put a modal filter on Beech Grove to create an LTN and make it easier and safer for people on bicycles, in wheelchairs and mobility scooters to get into Harrogate town centre from Otley Road. So what is a modal filter and why do we need one in Harrogate? Any while we’re at it, what is an LTN?
A modal filter is designed to filter out certain types of traffic on the roads to allow some types of vehicles through while blocking others. Typically this can be done using bollards spaced across the road at a wide enough interval to allow cyclists, pedestrians, mobility scooters and similar modes of travel while filtering out cars, vans and lorries. As well as using bollards, other approaches include using planters spaced out across the road. By putting in a modal filter, you can stop cars and other large vehicles using the street as a rat run, making them a safer and more pleasant environment for people to cycle and walk, and for kids to play in the street, thus creating a low traffic neighbourhood or LTN.
We already have a few examples of this in and around Harrogate such as along Waterside in Knaresborough and on Rossett Drive near Ashville College as pictured below. The modal filter on Rossett Drive makes it harder for cars to cut across to Leadhall Lane and the Leeds Road from Otley Road, thus restricting traffic flow through these streets.
Modal filters and LTNs are becoming more and more common in the UK and have become very popular despite the opposition of a small by a very vocal minority as described in this article by Peter Walker.
So Why is a Modal Filter on Beech Grove a Good Idea?
Beech Grove cuts the corner between Otley Road and West Park so can be used as a short cut to get into town without having to use the Prince of Wales Roundabout and so it gets used by some drivers as a rat run to get into town. For experienced cyclists it can be quite challenging at times as you have to negotiate with oncoming and overtaking cars and can be quite narrow in places because of the cars parked on either side. For inexperienced cyclists and family groups it can really be quite scary. Once the Otley Road cycle path is completed, it will not go as far as the roundabout, so for cyclists being able to cut down Beech Grove will be a handy route into town, joining West Park by the traffic lights. From here, however, things will get difficult again if you want to turn left towards the cenotaph, however, there are also plans in the pipeline to build a cycle route along Victoria Avenue that will link up with the train and bus station from where people will be able to access town and the transport hub. If secure cycle parking is installed at the station, this will make it easier for people to cycle to the station to get the train to Leeds, York and many other places.
We have written up a more detailed description of the Beech Grove scheme which is to be trialled for a 6 month consultation period here.
Yes, all that, but what else are the benefits of this idea?
It has been said that bicycles are the solution to many of society’s problems. Hypebole perhaps but here are a few problems where the bicycle is the solution:
- Man made climate change is a serious problem and in North Yorkshire, transport accounts for nearly 50% of our greenhouse gas emissions. Making a choice to leave the car at home and cycle instead, helps us to reduce our personal CO2 emissions
- Undoubtedly the streets around Harrogate suffer from congestion. In the Harrogate Congestion Survey it was found that half of the trips made by car in Harrogate at peak times are under 1.6 miles and driven at an average speed of less than 5.5mph. Quite often these trips are made in single occupancy vehicles. If a bicycle is used to make the trip, then it takes up much less space on the road and so helps reduce congestion for other road users who may be disabled, elderly or in emergency vehicles. This distance is also readily walked in 30 minutes by many people.
- Diseases such as diabetes, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases have been linked to inactivity and according to much research cause 100,000 deaths per year in the UK. Building activity such as cycling and walking when we want to go a short distance instead of driving can help to combat an inactive lifestyle and make us and our children healthier.
I’ve heard that they are only choosing Beech Grove to implement this idea because it has lots of expensive houses so it only improves life for the wealthy residents?
It is true that Beech Grove has some very impressive homes over looking the Stray. It is good that people can see the obvious benefits of the scheme in terms of improving the local environment and it has also been suggested that LTNs could be implemented around other parts of Harrogate and Knaresborough including a proposal for Bilton. Hopefully this will also get support.
Sounds great, why the fuss?
Some people think that it will stop people going into town and so further add to the demise of the town centre.
Will it ?
No, most people who drive into town go via the Prince of Wales Roundabout. If it encourages more people to cycle into town then that will mean additional shoppers. If such a significant amount of traffic does use this road, then measures should be taken anyway to stop so much traffic cutting through a residential street.
Others say creating this traffic filter will lead to more congestion and pollution as vehicles travel to avoid the area.
What do you say?
No, cycling and walking do not burn fossil fuels or cause congestion but cars, vans and lorries do. If the LTN encourages people to leave their cars at home, then it will help decrease pollution and congestion. Studies of similar schemes have shown that once a scheme settles down there is rarely a significant impact on adjoining streets and often traffic is reduced. This is known as traffic evaporation and has been quite well documented overseas and in places around the UK
Since the 1950’s studies have shown that building roads attracts more traffic. Taking road space away achieves the reverse and explains the ‘evaporation’ effect.
Where can I find more information on North Yorkshire County Council’s engagement around congestion?
NYCC have put a page up on their website with links to the Congestion Survey, background to issues around congestion, proposals and much more:
Can I comment on the current proposals?
More details on the scheme can be found on the NYCC website here. If you would like to make comments on the scheme then please email to firstname.lastname@example.org – the deadline is 14 August, 2021.