Campaigners issue their own proposals for new Harrogate-wide cycling network

Dedicated Harrogate campaigners are launching a new initiative to kick-start the town’s faltering hopes of creating a town-wide cycle network.

By Graham Chalmers
Thursday, 5th May 2022, 11:27 am

Disappointed by what they say is the slow rate of progress so far, Harrogate District Cycle Action isn’t just calling for a better approach, they have gone to the trouble of submitting their own detailed proposals to the county’s transport authority.

Kevin Douglas, chair of Harrogate District Cycle Action, said: “Our proposals are a great example of how local knowledge and expertise can be used to provide a local community with a long term plan supported by the local people.

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Harrogate has endured a bumpy road on the way to implementing a cycle network that everyone - including car drivers - can be happy with.

"The approach is based on local knowledge and a lot of hard work.

“We didn’t feel that the current North Yorkshire County Council cycling plan offered a comprehensive picture as when new housing developments came up they were not able to point to what was needed.

"Our plan does that for Harrogate point by point.”

Harrogate District Cycle Action was formed originally in 2003 in response to a request from Harrogate Borough Council for local cyclists to help and guide the council in building a cycle network.

After North Yorkshire County Council took over responsibility for Harrogate’s road network, Harrogate District Cycle Action has been engaging in a positive manner with both councils.

But moves by the county council to implement a series of transport schemes in various parts of Harrogate in recent months in a way that accomodates both drivers and cyclists have been dogged by controversy and delay.

Disappointed by the progress - or, as they see it, lack of progress - of multi-million pound projects at locations including Otley Road, Oatlands Drive and Pannal, HDCA has become concerned the council may fail to achieve its own objectives on improving transport and the environment when it comes to cycling.

In its latest newsletter, the campaign group dedicated to encouraging cycling as a healthy, safe and enjoyable mode of transport describes its ideas for a fully-linked up cycling network around Harrogate.

A spokesperson for HDCA said: “We have done a comprehensive survey of Harrogate’s cycle network, zone by zone, and come up with proposals that would bring it up to a good standard.

“Our routes are based on the Cycle Network Map produced by consultants WSP for North Yorkshire County Council in July 2019.”

The detailed set of proposals break the greater Harrogate area down into 24 zones, covering everywhere from Station Parade to Starbeck, Kings Road to Bilton, Jennyfield to Penny Pot Lane.

Cycling campaigners in Harrogate hope their efforts will play a constructive role in a process which has disappointed many in their ranks so far.

Earlier this year, members of the group spoke out about the results of Phase One of the troubled Otley Cycle Path project running from Pannal Ash Road to Harlow Moor Road,

HDCA’s vice-chair John Rowe said it was “far from the high quality scheme that we had hoped for and that is needed if we want to see significant shift in journeys from cars to bicycles, reducing long term congestion, pollution and carbon emissions”.

Meanwhile, Phase Two of the scheme, which will run from Cold Bath Road to Beech Grove, has been delayed while North Yorkshire conducts another engagement process with the public later this month. The sense of frustration in response to the news is almost palpable.

A spokesperson for HDCA said: “We welcome any effort to improve the design standards, but funding was secured at the end of 2017, and there has been far too much delay already.”

Despite growing concern from supporters of cycling over what they say is a pattern of consultation, opposition and backtracking, hope remains that Harrogate may still achieve a change of direction on its troubled journey to hit targets for reducing carbon emissions - and traffic congestion.

Harrogate District Cycle Action hopes that, by taking a fresh look at a map which is part of the county council’s own Harrogate Cycle Infrastructure Plan, they can highlight how cycling could improve daily lives and free up Harrogate’s clogged-up traffic system.

The group has shared its detailed proposals for a better version of a cycling future with North Yorkshire County Council in a bid to ensure the quality meets the brief.

HDCA's end goal is that Harrogate should adopt ‘best practice’ in any new cycle network with the hope the town will emerge with a superb cycle infrastructure.

Harrogate District Cycle Action is inviting members to a presentation by vice-chairman John Rowe about its plans on Thursday, June 9 at Westcliffe Hall, 2 Harlow Terrace, Harrogate.

HDCA is also welcoming feedback on its cycle network survey proposals.

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How Harrogate's cycling future is being influenced by Government

Harrogate may be experiencing birth pains in delivering a new cycle network but the scheme’s inspiration lies at a national level.

The idea was hatched by the Government in 2017 with the publication of its Cycling & Walking Investment Strategy (2017) which set out the Department of Transport’s aim to make cycling and walking the natural choices in Britain for shorter journeys, or as part of a longer journey.

This was the genesis of official plans and policies at national, county council and borough council level which form the current framework within which North Yorkshire County Council and Harrogate Borough Council are trying to improve cycle provision.

The Harrogate Cycle Infrastructure Plan or HCIP, which was drafted by consultants WSP and adopted by the county council in July 2019, led to the Harrogate cycle network map which Harrogate District Cycle Action has recently studied in depth.

The group isn’t questioning the map itself, just the practical action being taken to achieve it.