Cycling campaigners in Harrogate have criticised the local council’s decision to abandon long-awaited projects and proposals which focused on improving cycling infrastructure in the North Yorkshire town, describing the now-scrapped plans for an expanded cycleway on the Otley Road as a “failed project”.
Earlier this week, North Yorkshire Council unveiled a £585,000 package of ten sustainable transport schemes, including new 20mph zones, crossings, signage, and cycle parking, the Stray Ferret reports.
The new measures have been pitched by the council as an “alternative package” to the controversial expansion of the Otley Road cycleway, a project that was started in 2018 but axed in February this year following what cycling activists in the town described as the “misleading” results of a report canvassing local opinion towards the scheme.
“We halted unpopular plans for phase two of the Otley Road cycleway to develop an alternative package of measures,” North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for highways and transport, Keane Duncan, said this week.
“This decision means we are now able to invest in signal improvements, new crossings, cycling improvements, and new bus stops instead. This alternative package will be of immense and lasting benefit to all road users – motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and bus passengers.”
However, the new package has been condemned by Harrogate District Cycle Action, who described the decision to remove most of the cycle-specific elements of the original scheme as “hugely disappointing”.
Malcolm Margolis, a HDCA member, told the Stray Ferrett that the government funding secured in 2017 was based on the provision for a cycleway from Cardale Park to the Prince of Wales roundabout in Harrogate, a project that has now been abandoned, along with other recent initiatives trialled or proposed by the council.
“This failed project, it should be noted, was the brainchild of the county council, not of cycling campaigners,” Margolis said.
“Six years later almost all the cycling elements have been removed. This is hugely disappointing, and adds to the council’s failure to deliver funded cycle schemes on Victoria Avenue, the A59 near Knaresborough and Oatlands Drive, and the removal of the successful modal filters on Beech Grove.”
As well as the cycle lane on the Otley Road, last month we reported that another active travel scheme in the spa town was under threat, following a judicial review launched by a commercial developer which claimed that the project would damage businesses.
In August, Hornbeam Park Developments, one of Harrogate’s biggest commercial property companies, instructed planning lawyers Walton and Co to mount a legal challenge against the £11.2 million Harrogate Station Gateway project, which the council initially claimed would “transform the area into one where you can walk, cycle, or take public transport more easily”.
Harrogate Station Gateway plans (North Yorkshire Council)
The scheme, which aims to introduce a number of bus and cycle lanes, as well as pedestrian zones around Harrogate’s railway and bus stations, has been criticised by local business owners, who claim it will harm footfall in the town centre.
North Yorkshire Council put a halt to the project after the judicial review was launched, claiming that the council had failed to hold a public inquiry before issuing traffic regulation orders for measures such as the partial pedestrianisation of James Street and reducing traffic on a 300-metre stretch of Station Parade to a single lane.
After the council admitting to failing to hold the requisite public inquiry, the project now looks set to be abandoned altogether, with the new proposals for the area including upgraded pedestrian crossings, bus shelters, and traffic lights.
However, there appears to be very few cycling-specific initiatives included in the revamped plans, with the exception of an upgrade to the no-through-road Nursery Lane, which is accessed off Otley Road.
A report to councillors about this scheme said it would “investigate the potential of a cycle track order and associated infrastructure works to the surface”, but added that “third party land would be required”.
The recent U-turn towards active travel and cycling infrastructure in Harrogate once again calls into question the legacy for people who ride bikes day-to-day of the town’s hosting of both the Tour de France and the world road race championships in 2014 and 2019, respectively.
In October last year, we reported that one of the proposals made by the council in an active travel consultation was none other than an unsegregated, 1.3-metre-wide cycle lane situated against the flow of traffic, which the HDCA unceremoniously referred to as a “murder strip” and “dangerous”, with no benefits for active travel.
Even setting aside the active travel legacy of the major cycling events that have graced Harrogate in recent years, the 2019 worlds has a somewhat contentious legacy of its own, with – just like the recent ‘super’ world championships in Glasgow – road closures, along with damage to green space in the spectator zone, ensuring that the event was unpopular with some locals, prompting Harrogate Borough Council to announce that it was temporarily refraining from hosting any similar large-scale events.
Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.