Dear Reader: New headaches on Harrogate traffic + Beryl Burton would have loved UCIs

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Friday, 30th August 2019, 11:42 am
Pioneering cycling legend Beryl Burton who rode for Knaresborough Cycling Club and was twice road world champion in the 1960s.

The battle of ‘Nidd Gorge’ relief road appears to be over but is a new front about to break out in the complex war against traffic congestion?

After public consultation by North Yorkshire County Council to test what the likes of you and me think on the subject in all its complexities received a massive response, it appears to be green for go for sustainable measures in Harrogate and Knaresborough.

But, as well as supporting environmentally-friendly ideas such as giving priority to public transport, the report on the public ‘s views also offers up the possibility of two new roads.

One, at Killinghall, was already on the table. The other, from Otley Road area to Pannal, is a bit of a new arrival.

To be fair, this mix of ‘sustainable’ measures and new infrastructure is exactly the sort of thing the county council appeared to favour from the start.

But it still feels a little like a case of back to square one and it presents potential new obsctacles to overcome to create a unified strategy for improving matters.

The pressure points come from the sheer amount of new housing developments in Pannal and the western parts of Harrogate such as Pannal Ash, Otley Road and Beckwith Road.

Residents facing thousands of new housing in areas where traffic congestion is already bad and plans for new infrastructure are inadequate or non-existent can hardly be blamed for seizing on hopes of relief.

One of our readers wrote to this newspaper recently saying categorically that “cars are not the future.”

I think that reader is right.

But the truth remains, comprehensive steps are taken to change directions, the motor car will remain in the driving seat.

The UCIs are coming!

As a phrase it’s not quite “abandon ship” but for some people in Harrogate and neighbouring areas the idea of welcoming the world’s greatest road cycling event to the Harrogate district shortly is weighted with negative connotations.

In recent weeks I’ve picked up on claims, rumours and whispers that people were booking holidays abroad during the nine days when this area will take centre stage in the UCIs.

The late great local cycling legend Beryl Burton OBE, who rode for Knaresborough Cycling Club at one point and won the road world championships in 1960 and 1967, would probably turn in her grave if she thought these stories were anything but Harrogate’s equivalent of an urban myth.

As for me, I’m pleased we are about to play host to 1,400 riders of the world’s greatest cyclists from 90 countries and up to a million visitors with accents not usually heard in our cafes and bars.

I realise getting around town when I feel like it is not going to be easy.

But my viewpoint is not based on the value of the UCIs in marketing terms or the potential huge boost to tourism or any of those hard-headed, purely practical considerations, albeit that they do matter.

My test is a little simpler.

It involves replacing the word “UCIs” in the phrase “the UCIs are coming” with the word “Olympics.”

Put like that, I, for one, am excited.

And I’m sure Beryl Burton would have been, too.