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Cyclists blast plans to upgrade “already safe” cycle route as “outrageous waste of money” after major active travel schemes axed

Campaigners say the new proposals will “not make a meaningful difference to the cycle network” and that cyclists “need safe routes, not more signposts”

Cyclists in Harrogate have branded plans to upgrade a minor, largely traffic-free road into an off-road cycle route as an “outrageous waste of money” – just months after the council axed a major active travel project that included the expansion of a cycleway on a nearby busy road.

Harrogate District Cycle Action (HDCA) has argued that North Yorkshire Council’s proposal, announced earlier this month, to spend £100,000 on upgrading Nursey Lane, just off Otley Road, is “not sensible because it would not make a meaningful difference to the cycle network”, as the no-through-road is already tarmacked and gets very little motor traffic, the Stray Ferret reports.

At the start of September we reported that North Yorkshire Council unveiled a new £585,000 package of ten sustainable transport schemes, including new 20mph zones, crossings, signage, and cycle parking.

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 scrapped 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.

Campaign groups such as the HDCA have been scathing of the decision to replace the expanded Otley Road cycleway scheme – which was initially intended to create a network of connected cycle routes in Harrogate, but is now deemed a “failed project” by local cyclists – with measures that they feel will do little to encourage active travel or make life safer for people riding bikes in the town.

> Campaigners blast “hugely disappointing” decision to abandon “failed” cycling schemes, four years on from hosting world championships

Speaking this week at a meeting of the council’s Harrogate and Knaresborough area constituency committee, Conservative councillor Paul Haslam said that the town’s cycling community had told him that the proposal was a “complete waste of money, because that lane is already safe”.

Meanwhile, the Yorkshire-based cycling blog Hedgehog Cycling accused the council of intending to build “ribs but no spine” when it comes to Harrogate’s cycling infrastructure.

“Nursery Lane is already fine as it is,” the blog said. “There is very little traffic, no through traffic, and a sealed surface. There is absolutely no need for a cycle track. Spending £100,000 on it would be an outrageous waste of public money.

“Nursery Lane could be a useful cut-through from an Otley Road cycleway to Harlow Moor Road – but there would need to be an Otley Road cycleway.

“As it is, North Yorkshire Council is intent on building ‘ribs but no spine’ which is brainless.”

Otley Road cycle lane (via Twitter, Harrogate Cycle Action)

> Council scraps £500,000 Harrogate cycle lane expansions… even though majority support plans

Meanwhile, the HDCA’s David Mitchell also criticised another of the ten measures proposed by the council this month, which pledged to review the town’s cycle route signage.

Mitchell told this week’s council meeting that the signs had already been improved in 2014 and that cyclists “need safe cycle routes not more signposts”. He also claimed spending £25,000 – the cost of the signage review – “presumably to consultants WSP would be a waste of public money”.

However, the council’s area highways manager Melisa Burnham told the meeting that the new revamped measures had been compiled by an officer group that had met with members of the HDCA while drawing up the plans.

She also defended the Nursery Lane project and claimed that “there’s certainly been a historic desire from locals to see that widened and improved to improve the links that side of Harrogate”.

One of the other measures set to be introduced by the council – a £200,000 upgrade of the traffic lights at the junction of Otley Road, Cold Bath Road, and Arthurs Avenue – was also criticised by Green councillor Arnold Warneken, who said the proposal was “sustainable for cars but not sustainable for active travel and the environment”.

However, Burnham argued that the upgrade would “relieve congestion” and that the junction upgrades would “create a safe space” for vulnerable road users.

> “Desperately disappointing”: Cycling group urges council to stand firm after legal challenge puts active travel project “in jeopardy”

The latest row over North Yorkshire Council’s plans for cycling in Harrogate comes as another major active travel scheme in the town looks set to be scrapped, 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)

Harrogate Station Gateway plans (North Yorkshire Council)

The scheme, which aimed to introduce a number of bus and cycle lanes, as well as pedestrian zones around Harrogate’s railway and bus stations, had been criticised by local business owners, who claimed it will harm footfall in the town centre.

North Yorkshire Council put a halt to the project after the judicial review was launched, which claimed that the local authority 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 – but very few cycling-specific initiatives.

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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