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Campaigners accuse council of “failing our children” after failing to deliver “significant cycling infrastructure for nine years”

“Harrogate could have had a first-class walking and cycling network… but we’re bound by a focus on people in their cars.”

A local cycling campaign has launched a scathing criticism of the North Yorkshire Council as it accused it of not delivering any "significant active travel infrastructure" in Harrogate in the last nine years and said that the council is "failing our children and grandchildren" by continuing to only focus on people in their cars.

Harrogate District Cycle Action (HDCA) has slammed the council's track record in delivering schemes to promote cycling and walking in Harrogate, with some of them abandoned in between and funding bids for others rejected.

The council has been under incessant fire from the campaign group in recent years, with the HDCA previously questioning the council's decision to scrap the much-maligned expansion of the Otley Road cycleway and a low-traffic neighbourhood on the Beech Grove, as well as the one-way system on Oatlands Drive, despite a majority of residents supporting the plans.

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

Meanwhile, funding bids submitted by the council for new cycle paths on Knaresborough Road and Victoria Avenue have been rejected by the government, given the council's track record of delivering them.

And besides the council's flagship active travel scheme, the £11.2m Harrogate Station Gateway, has been thrown into "jeopardy" following a legal challenge on the scheme, with doubts circulating amongst the residents that if cyclists will even enjoy any benefits from the project being completed, if it does go forward at all.

Harrogate Station Gateway plans (North Yorkshire Council)

Harrogate Station Gateway plans (North Yorkshire Council)

Campaigner Gia Margolis, speaking at a meeting of Harrogate and Knaresborough councillors at the Civic Centre earlier this week, said the council is "failing our children and grandchildren" due to its dodgy record on delivering active travel schemes, reports the Stray Ferret.

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

Speaking on behalf of Harrogate District Cycle Action, Ms Margolis said: "Consultants have written reports which have all come to the same conclusion — most short journeys [in Harrogate] are less than 1.6 miles and too many are made by car.

"We’re asking you to stop talking and giving us false hope that things will change and look at why the council has failed to deliver any significant active travel schemes over the last nine years."

Ms Margolis also referred to the various housing estates on the edge of Harrogate that suffer with poor active travel infrastructure and bus routes. She added: "Harrogate could by now have had a first-class walking and cycling network which would have made a difference to all our lives but we’re bound by a focus on people in their cars."

Ms Margolis’ statement was not debated by councillors but instead officer Mark Codman read out a pre-written response.

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

He referred to the West of Harrogate Parameters Plan, a document that was produced last year to improve infrastructure at the same time as thousands of new homes are built.

Mr Codman said: "The group’s disappointment has been noted and acknowledged. The west of Harrogate promoters have given consideration towards active travel as part of the West of Harrogate Parameters Plan and a proposed bus route extension.

"In addition, walking and cycling schemes have been put forward including Otley Road phase 3, at Windmill Farm and Harlow Moor Road, plus an active travel scheme encompassing Whinney Lane and Pannal Ash Road."

The council's predecessor, North Yorkshire County Council, had undertaken a much-publicised Harrogate Congestion Survey in 2019, which showed there was an appetite for improving walking and cycling infrastructure in the town so people are incentivised to leave their cars at home.

In February, the council had come under fire for taking liberties in assessing data when collecting the consensus for active travel improvements in Harrogate, conveniently bunching those who voted "no preference" with the ones who were "strongly opposed" to the measures.

In fact, almost 50 per cent of the respondents of the report were in favour of at least one of the traffic-calming and cycling scheme proposals. However, that didn't stop the county council from scrapping the Otley Road cycle lane and Beech Grove LTN projects.

> Pub owner who blocked cycle lane says he’s “being punished” after council asks to remove all barriers

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

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

Kevin Douglas, chair of the cycling group HDCA, had said that at the moment that he was "very, very disappointed with the decision" and that "it made no sense". He said: "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."

And just two months ago, cycling campaigners had criticised the 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".

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.

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a 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 has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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4 comments

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peted76 | 7 months ago
1 like

This seems to smack harder than 'other' councils terrible records.. by which I mean Yorkshire is a bit of a cycling mecca for many in the UK.. Harrogate hosting the worlds the other year should have cemented it's place as a cycling area powerhouse, but with all the shithousery after the worlds it seems like the NIMBY and Victor Meldrew brigades have a firm grip within the council offices.

The Harrogate area 'could be' a global cyclo tourism hotspot, but instead it gets moton protection and status quo. Vote them all out at the next election. 

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Car Delenda Est | 7 months ago
3 likes

I used to have hope for Brighton until Labour got in and cancelled every active travel project.
Is there any town in the UK (not London) that's survivable for a cyclist?

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chrisonabike replied to Car Delenda Est | 7 months ago
1 like

Everywhere is extremely variable in the UK and - outside of e.g. intentional communities like Scoraig - car dependent.

Towns? not sure, obviously the standard is Cambridge. Metropolitan areas like London are probably so variable you need to check by borough.

Edinburgh suits me but a) I've adapted my routines to the infra and am confident - if less joyful - about using the road b) there are lots of traffic-heavy areas where you're not going to be cargo biking or cycling with kids and c) if a small number of those driving started using the existing walking or cycling infra instead it would quickly become much less pleasant, if not be overwhelmed.

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eburtthebike | 7 months ago
7 likes

This is a tale, unfortunately, much repeated throughout the UK.  Councils making all the right noises, producing lots of glossy strategy documents, then fail dismally to actually do anything.  Like many councils, they've probably declared a climate emergency, they certainly have road congestion, and it is also likely that their constituents suffer from obesity and the related health effects, but then refuse to do the single most effective measure to tackle all of them.

HDCA are right, and the council is failing in their duty to their existing and future constituents.

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