Does 'no preference' mean the same as 'opposed to'? In the case of proposed cycle lane expansions and active travel improvements in Harrogate that would appear to be the case, with North Yorkshire County Council arriving at the conclusion that not enough people support the plans despite its report showing that 110 out of 212 respondents were in favour of at least one of the proposals. On the other side, the report bunched those who expressed no preference with those in opposition.
The expansion plan was proposed as a part of the Otley Road project that’s been underway since 2018. The Council secured the funding for active travel measures in 2017 ‘to reduce congestion, improve safety and provide sustainable travel enhancements’; but Harrogate District Cycle Action (HDCA) has lamented this latest development as a "complete abandoning of plans to promote active travel."
A majority of residents and commuters from the area were in favour of the active travel schemes in West Harrogate — a cycle lane in Otley Road and an LTN in Beech Grove, along with a one-way traffic flow on both the roads.
Of the 212 respondents of the consultation which concluded in December, 110 were in favour of at least one of the three proposed options for improving active travel. On the other hand, only 86 were opposed to the plans entirely. Unfortunately, the Council seems to have lumped them together with those who gave an inconclusive response and those who didn’t have a preference due to a lack of understanding, to come up with a figure described as "misleading" by HDCA.
Executive Member for Transport Councillor Keane Duncan told the Stray Ferret that ‘none of the options have found significant favour with members of the public', although the report does show that 52% of respondents were in favour of some sort of active travel scheme.
Kevin Douglas, chair of HDCA, said that he is ‘very, very disappointed with the decision’ and that ‘it made no sense’.
"The county council has effectively abandoned active travel completely. Since active travel talk began on the subject in 2016, there have been no real measures to impact on car travel in Harrogate,” said Douglas.
“This was their scheme, they secured the funding for it. It was their idea,” he added. “Why would the Government give money to a council which has shown no political will to deliver its own ideas?”
This is not the first time that North Yorkshire County Council has come under fire from cyclists in Harrogate over plans in Otley Road. In October last year, the Council proposed one of the options in its consultation as an unsegregated cycle lane against the flow of traffic, which the HDCA referred to as ‘nonsense’ and a ‘murder strip’.
The poorly thought-out plans and the backlash against measures to promote cycling are apparent in the city despite there being some criticisms that the Council was spending the majority of its cycle route money in Harrogate.
For a town that played host to 2019 UCI Road World Championships, this latest abandoning of active travel measures in Harrogate may seem surprising; however, road closures and damage to green space in the Championships' spectator zone made the event unpopular with some locals, leading Harrogate Borough Council to temporarily refrain from hosting any similar major events at the time, such was the ill-feeling.
North Yorkshire County Council has said that instead of spending the funds on the scrapped cycle lane and LTN proposals, it will be working on an alternative set of measures for Otley Road, which may include speed reduction measures, improved cycling crossings, better signs and improvements to the bus infrastructure.
Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after completing his masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He also covers local and national politics for Voice Wales, and sometimes writes about science, tech and the environment. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him riding his bike on the scenic routes, fighting his urge to stop pedalling and click photographs (apparently not because he's bonking).