A cycling campaign group in Harrogate has called the withdrawal of plans to build safe cycling infrastructure as part of an £11.2 million 'Station Gateway' project, including the construction of a Dutch-style roundabout, a "huge disappointment" with "the worthwhile elements" for cycling now "stripped out of the scheme".
North Yorkshire Council has pulled the plug on many of the infrastructure proposals, a judicial review launched by commercial developer Hornbeam Park Developments initially temporarily halting work — the cycle lanes, reduction to the width of the road, and plans for a Dutch-style roundabout now scrapped permanently.
A bus lane and new cycle parking at the railway station is the extent of the new proposals for cyclists, campaign group Harrogate District Cycle Action (HDCA) releasing a statement, published in The Stray Ferret, accusing the council of removing "most of the worthwhile elements" for cyclists.
"From a cycling point of view, most of the worthwhile elements have been stripped out of the scheme," the group said. "If cycle parking had been proposed on its own, we would have supported it. If cycle parking is all that's left of what was an ambitious scheme which would also have enabled people to reach the station by bike in safety and comfort, it will inevitably be a huge disappointment.
"Driving is, by definition, unsustainable transport, and in our view TCF [Transforming Cities Fund] money should not be spent on this. Five sets of lights are coordinated along West Park/Parliament Street. What is the effect for pedestrians? Extremely long wait times.
"To see the long wait times at the prestige town centre location outside Bettys is shameful. We can expect the same thing on Station Parade."
Malcolm Margolis, a member of the group who was awarded a British Empire Medal in 2019 for services to cycling in the town, added his belief that the scheme would have "made Harrogate a better place to live".
"The main way that Station Gateway could have made Harrogate a better place to live was by reducing the dominance of motor vehicles – and the noise, danger and pollution that they cause – in the town centre, by reducing Station Parade to one lane," he said.
"It seems that is now not going to happen, so TCF will not have a transformative effect on Harrogate, whatever the final details. The most disappointing aspect of all is that it is proposed to spend sustainable transport funding to prioritise cars."
Work on the amended scheme is not expected to begin until next autumn, the council now required to run a public consultation, publish Traffic Regulation Orders, and submit a business case to West Yorkshire Combined Authority first.
There are concerns the autumn 2024 start date could leave works perilously close to the deadline set by the Department for Transport for the project to be completed before March 2025.
When news of the judicial review was first announced in the summer, HDCA said it was "desperately disappointing" to see the project put "in jeopardy".
The year's events come four years on from the town hosting the world's best professional cyclists for the UCI World Championships in 2019, just last week HDCA accusing the council of "failing our children" following no "significant cycling infrastructure" being built "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," the group said, in criticism similar to what has been heard again this week.
And in September, Harrogate cyclists branded plans to upgrade a minor, largely traffic-free road into an off-road cycle route as an "outrageous waste of money", campaigners saying the new proposals will "not make a meaningful difference to the cycle network" and that cyclists "need safe routes, not more signposts".
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.