Friday 7 September 2012

York: the anti-cycling city

Students of CTC-speak may recognise some of the vocabulary:

He spoke of a planning and design hierarchy of road user groups with the needs of pedestrians, and cyclists considered first, and private motor cars last. He told us that the city of York had made many improvements on the basis of this hierarchy and as a result the number of collisions has reduced by a third, and cycling and walking have both increased. Cycling in York now accounts for 20 per cent of journeys compared with just two per cent in London. 

Yes, it’s our old friend Hierarchy of Provision (and for the actual York context of the CTC’s site-unspecific photograph, see this).

The claim that York is a city where the planners meet the needs of the pedestrian and the cyclist first and those of the motorist last seems to me quite extraordinary. York is a city in thrall to the car, with astonishingly bad transport management. Walking and cycling in York are, well, crap. I’ll return to Richard Lewis’s starry-eyed and highly questionable view of cycling and walking in York on a later occasion. The claim that York has a 20 per cent modal share for cycling is one long overdue for critical scrutiny.

For the moment let me note some recent events in this cycling-friendly city this year.

In April it was announced that “to ease congestion”

A CYCLE lane at a York junction is to be removed at a cost of £12,000 – only three years after it was put in. 

City of York Council’s cabinet last night approved taking away the bike route to make way for the reintroduction of a left-hand traffic lane at the junction of Clifton Green and Water End, despite emergency services and cyclists opposing the move. 


A TRAFFIC lane which was controversially removed from a busy York junction has been reinstated. 

The left-hand filter lane at the junction of Clifton Green and Water End was taken away in 2009 to make more space for cyclists, but the changes were blamed for longer queues of cars in the area. 

Emergency services and cycling campaigners had called for the cycle route to remain and council officers admitted it would make the area less safe for bikes but said returning to the original layout would cut congestion. 

(Below) Southbound vehicles on Clifton approaching the Green. This intersection is now exclusively dedicated to “smoother traffic flow” and the signalled junction in the distance doesn’t even have a pedestrian crossing. Pedestrians are expected to scamper across three lanes of traffic in between the signal phases.

Needless to say, the more York’s car-centric councillors and officers try to make things easier and more convenient for drivers, the longer the traffic jams grow and the more car-sick this very compact city becomes.

Meanwhile, in connection with plans for “improvements” to streets in central York:

A CYCLING campaigner says he is concerned that the council plan does not guarantee bike access to Fossgate in York. 

Paul Hepworth, who is press officer for the cycling organisation CTC, said: “It makes no commitment either way, in respect of daytime access for pedal cyclists along that street. 

Fossgate provides a useful and pleasant outbound link between many cyclists’ journey origins and destinations. A compulsory detour via the heavily-trafficked Piccadilly corridor, would reduce the attractiveness of cycling as a travel choice.” 

Not only has York never moved a centimetre towards the successful Dutch template for cycling, but now even bog standard vehicular cycling infrastructure is being removed “to ease congestion” and an important route for cyclists that cuts through the city in a straight line is being considered for closure to cyclists.

But cheer up!

CYCLISTS will be heading to York’s Rowntree Park this weekend when a Festival Of Cycling is staged. 

All types of pedal-powered bikes, from everyday two-wheelers to specialised three and four-wheelers, along with mega bikes seating up to eight people, will be available for people to try out. There will also be daredevil cycling stunt shows from The Clan on Saturday and Savage Skills on Sunday. BMX fans can also try out their skills. 

This is intended to

encourage non-congesting modes of travel, to improve air quality and to help boost the local economy. There will therefore be information on walking, bus travel, journey planning, and car sharing, and electric vehicles from Toyota, Mia and Smart will be on show. 

Because of course electric cars are just what you’d want to see at a Festival of Cycling, no?

With the characteristic dishonesty which permeates U.K. cycling promotion, this Festival is illustrated by smiley cyclists in a bucolic off-road vehicle-free location:

Photo taken from here

Students of masculinity and cycling should take a look at the illustration used to promote the Festival of Cycling here.

The one thing cycling promotion in Britain never does, of course, is show the actual urban conditions for cycling. Like here, for example. Keep right on for York’s historic Minster, which is visible in the distance. Yes, the Hierarchy of Provision really delivers here on Museum Street, does it not?

However, there is one admirable note of realism in this Festival of Cycling. Acknowledging the standard of driving to be found in York and its environs - and especially on the A64 - there will be

a special display/demonstration by the North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Extrication Team who will demonstrate how a car crash victim is cut free from a wreck.