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York cycle lane farce risks descending into tragedy as council ignores safety warnings

Council admits changing road layout will comprise safety - but it plans to reinstate filter lane, regardless

Councillors in York are to make changes to a controversial junction in the city despite admitting that alterations to a cycle lane there, installed two years ago at a cost of more than half a million pounds, will make the road more dangerous for cyclists.

The story of the cycle lane at the junction of Water End and Clifton Green is one that we have covered here on road.cc for two and a half years, and it’s a tale that now seems to have descended into farce, but one with a potentially tragic outcome should road safety be compromised.

The cycle lane replaced a left hand filter lane for traffic at the junction, but what the City of York Council didn’t apparently envisage was that drivers would simply change their route, meaning that neighbouring streets have become clogged up with traffic.

Prior to this year’s local government elections, the council had been under the control of the Liberal Democrats, the largest party but without an overall majority, and with parties jockeying for votes, the junction became an issue in the electoral campaign.

Labour, which had promised in its manifesto to reinstate the filter lane, won outright control of the council in May’s election, reports the York Press, which adds that Councillor Dave Merrett, the council’s cabinet member for city strategy, has given the go-ahead for the works.

What isn’t yet known, however, is exactly what layout the revised junction will follow, with consultation due to take place on two alternative proposals. One of those will see part of the cycle lane disappear, while the other will see left-turning traffic cut across it.

York Press says that the council’s own transport officers, Mike Durkin, Jon Pickles and Simon Parrett, believe that the options put forward for the junction have “potential safety issues” and are “less safe overall” than the present road layout.

It’s also unclear how much the works will cost, with estimates ranging from £10,000 to £35,000, depending on which option is selected. The original works to the junction cost £540,000 – an overspend of nearly a quarter of a million pounds on the forecast cost of £300,000.

Paul Hepworth of CTC, who is the chairman of committee that organises the annual York Cycle Show, told York Press: “I’m just sorry short-term thinking has come into this and I’d challenge anybody to go back to this junction in a year and say congestion has improved, because I’m willing to bet it won’t.”

Councillor Merrett insisted, however, that changes were necessary although he accepted that it would be impossible to find a universally popular solution. “It is a difficult issue for the city because our traffic system is severely overloaded,” he said.

“There needs to be consultation on which option we proceed with and we are not going to satisfy everybody, but we will try to reach the best compromise we can in these circumstances.”

In an editorial accompanying its article, York Press said that “in a sense, Labour have been left a poisoned chalice by the previous administration.” However, it queried whether it was “worth compromising on safety” in order to alleviate “the chronic traffic congestion and rat-running the original changes created.”

News of the proposals comes as a working group at City of York Council considers a report commissioned from JMP Consultants regarding the future of transport in the city over the next two decades.

According to York Press, proposals included in the report include barring the centre of the historic city to traffic, making the city centre a 20mph zone, banning traffic from the Ouse and Lendal bridges.

 

 

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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