Going green: Harrogate's transport future up for debate as four major schemes set to be discussed
Four major transport schemes aiming to get Harrogate walking and cycling towards a greener future are set to be debated at a meeting later this week.
North Yorkshire County Council's Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee will meet on Thursday to discuss the next stages of the £7.9m Gateway project, Otley Road cycle path, Beech Grove Low Traffic Neighbourhood and schemes under the government's Active Travel Fund.
The projects are funded from different sources and are at varying stages of development but all have the same aim to cut carbon emissions by making the towns more accessible by bike or on foot.
It is all part of a push for people to leave their cars at home in the post-pandemic world and while transport officials say they are well aware a major switch in attitudes won't happen overnight, radical and accelerating changes are needed.
The Harrogate Gateway project has the potential to be the biggest shake-up in the town centre for decades and a report to Thursday's meeting says it is focusing on "investment in infrastructure to improve public and sustainable transport connectivity".
What that means in simple terms is giving priority to pedestrians and cyclists which could involve Station Parade being reduced to one lane of traffic and the full or partial predestination of James Street.
Under the plans still being drawn up are also two new bus priority areas at Lower Station Parade and Cheltenham Parade, junction upgrades, new cycle lanes and cycle storage facilities, as well as an increase in safe space for people on foot, new flexible public events spaces and water features.
A consultation on this scheme is currently underway and once it ends on 24 March the aim is to finalise designs for construction to begin by summer 2022 with completion in 2023.
The long-delayed Otley project Road cycle path was first unveiled in 2017 as part of a wider £4.6m package of sustainable transport measures for the west of Harrogate.
Four years on and North Yorkshire County Council has still not started construction because of delays with utility works and drawn out discussions over changing byelaws so parts of the Stray can be used for the two-way cycle path.
But the report to Thursday's meeting says preliminary roadworks are now underway and that it is hoped construction of a first phase could finally start in Autumn this year.
The Low Traffic Neighbourhood on Beech Grove caused controversy when it was introduced earlier this year with planters placed on the road to stop through traffic and create quieter streets where residents feel safer when walking and cycling.
It has made getting around the area by car more difficult and that is the idea behind it - to drive down car use.
The report to Thursday's meeting says it should be noted that the Low Traffic Neighbourhood is temporary for now but could become permanent subject to an ongoing consultation which ends in August.
The final scheme set up for debate on Thursday is the Active Travel Fund from which North Yorkshire County Council has received more than £1.2m of government cash to get more people walking and cycling as the nation emerges from the pandemic.
The cash will be used for three projects in Harrogate, including segregated cycle lanes and improved crossings on the A59 between the town and Knaresborough, as well as the same upgrades plus bike storage in the Victoria Avenue area of Harrogate.
There are also plans for cycle lanes and a one-way system for vehicles on Oatlands Drive but this has been met with a hostile response from residents, with 50% of respondents to an online survey strongly opposing the plans.
North Yorkshire County Council previously said it acknowledged the concerns over traffic levels and how much existing cycle lanes are used and added all comments would be taken into account before a final decision is made.
The meeting on Thursday will start at 10am and can be viewed on the county council's YouTube channel.
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter