There have been quiet murmurs of disatisfaction from some ever since it was first announced that Harrogate was to host the ‘Olympics’ of cycling.
But in the last few weeks the debate has broken out into the open, as if, with 58 days until the world’s greatest riders arrive in Harrogate for the 2019 UCI Road World Championships, the reality of the situation has finally hit home.
The event may have been hailed widely as the most exciting opportunity of the century for Harrogate as a whole but some residents and businesses are worried about the disruption on daily life and business during the nine days the town becomes the focus of the entire cycling world.
Some small businesses have told the Harrogate Advertiser they intend to close for the whole nine days from September 21-29 while some residents have even said they fear becoming ‘prisoners in their own street.
Such concerns are dismissed by organisers and local authorities who have invested much in an event which will no doubt raise Harrogate’s profile at home and abroad with a worldwide audience.
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They also point out that last year’s UCI Road World Championships is calculated to have delivered an additional £40 million to the host city of Innsbruck during the event.
Charlie Dewhirst, head of communications of organisers Y2019 - Yorkshire 2019 UCI Road World Championships - said: “We would encourage all businesses to try and capitalise on the opportunities presented by hosting such a major sporting championships.
“But this is not just about the short term impact over the nine days. Hosting this event gives Harrogate an unprecedented opportunity for global exposure.”
Coun Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for access, said: “Harrogate will be very much open for business during the UCIs. We are trying to keep as much of the local road network open as possible, to ensure that people have the ability to travel around the town.
“We are encouraging residents and visitors to come to the town centre and sample both the world championship racing and the shops, restaurants, cafes and bars.”
A spokesperson for Harrogate Borough Council, which says it has not been involved in the planning of road closures as the highways fall in the county council’s area of responsibility, rejected the idea that the event would amount to a cycling ‘armageddon’ for the town.
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The spokesperson said: “Harrogate town centre will not be inaccessible during the races.
“We are aware that there are a few businesses which see the championships as being akin to Armageddon but the event organisers and the county council have planned road/route closures to allow access to business in Harrogate town centre for deliveries.”
The championships will see approximately 1,400 athletes from 90 different countries arrive in the region, along with support teams, journalists and other visitors from across the UK and overseas.
Road races will start from different towns across Yorkshire but each day’s racing will finish in Harrogate, with all except one using the same Harrogate town centre road circuit.
Organisers Yorkshire 2019 have a tricky task. This week has seen them issue an updated list of road closure timings for Harrogate which include additional closure times for parts of Parliament Street.
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Such are the number of roads affected and the complexities of the effort to close and reopen streets regularly to mimimise disruption, some residents are complaining that planning car journeys during the UCI championships is a task for a qualified mathematician.
But a spokesperson for organisers Yorkshire 2019 said rolling road closures would be largely used on the race routes in the rest of Yorkshire but, due to the nature of racing on the Harrogate circuit time trial routes, and the Yorkshire 2019 Para Cycling International, fixed road closures would also be in place to maintain safety.
The spokesperson said: “Closures will generally be in place from about two hours before the first rider is due, with dedicated vehicle crossing points at selected locations open until about 30 minutes before the first rider. The roads will be reopened as soon as it is safe to do so after the last rider has passed.”
Not all businesses in Harrogate town centre are expressing alarm at the prospect of the UCI championships.
With the town’s remaining spare hotel rooms already being snapped up fast for the event, Simon Cotton of the HRH Group, said many businesses in the town were planning to make the most of the opportunities presented by the race by planning deliveries and staffing rotas well in advance.
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Mr Cotton, who is managing director of the group, which owns the Fat Badger pub and two hotels on the race circuit, including the Yorkshire Hotel, said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for local businesses. People will be coming here, spending their money locally, staying in hotels and restaurants and seeing what a beautiful area this is to visit.”
Despite the excitement of the idea of the world’s greatest cyclists competing - and staying - in Harrogate for nine days, there have always been elements of the town which have seen the UCI Road World Championships as a disruption rather than a positive.
Even people who do like cycling, have expressed concern.
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Award-winning hairdressers Dangerfield & Keane: Harrogate Hair & Beauty Salon, which is located on Cold Bath Road, told the Harrogate Advertiser in May he was considering closing for the whole week for fear that his staff - and clientele - will not be able to drive to appointments on time.
Harrogate BID (Business Improvement District) organised a meeting about the UCI championships earlier this month in response to town centre traders’ concerns about the effect of this international cycling event in business.
The doubters, many of whom prefer to remain anonymous, have concerns which extend beyond business worries, however.
Top Readers’ top 5 worries over UCI ‘disruption’:
* 1. The UCI roadshows have been too positive with too much focus on great cycling and not enough advice on how residents can go about their daily lives;
* 2. The road closure programme is far too complicated for residents to plan their movements;
* 3. People have schools, weddings, children’s parties and other events with specific times attached to them. Even if they can drive out of their street at the right time, how do they get back in?;
* 4. The length of the event will upset the ability of local businessses/shops etc - and their customers - to carry out their normal business. So worried are some local businessses and shops, they are planning to close during the whole UCI period as they say they cannot afford to pay wages, utilities etc when customers cannot reach them;
* 5. How do people get to medical appointments at specific times? Have local doctors been warned? Have patients been told to get their medication supplies in advance?
Have people who need regular medical support/appointments been informed of times of road closures? Some people can walk but elderly people who are infirm cannot.