Organisers of the world’s biggest cycling event are working to allay the fears of some Harrogate residents that they will be ‘imprisoned in their own streets’ during the week of the UCI championships.
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In response to the continuing fears over the disruption involved in Harrogate hosting the lucrative global sporting event for nine days, organisers Yorkshire 2019 say the authorities are getting ready to unveil concrete steps to help, including changes to school opening hours and a clearer picture of road closures.
Speaking to the Harrogate Advertiser about schools hours during the Yorkshire 2019 UCI Road World Championships, James Gilroy, transport planning officer at North Yorkshire County Council, said: “A number of schools in the Harrogate district are considering changes to their opening hours in the UCI week, depending on the routes each day.
“We are awaiting a handful of responses from schools and we will be publishing a comprehensive list of changed opening hours on our website once they are all confirmed.”
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Charlie Dewhirst, head of communications for Yorkshire 2019 UCI Road World Championships, said new signage on road closures was also on its way.
He said: “We are working with North Yorkshire County Council on a comprehensive signage plan across the town which will assist drivers navigate the lengthier closures on West Park and Parliament Street.”
He added that, as organisers, they had so far organised and attended 14 public meetings in the Harrogate district, in addition to the many other individual meetings they have had with schools, businesses and resident groups.
He insists this is a huge opportunity for Harrogate to be placed in the shop window: “We want Harrogate to celebrate hosting a global sporting event whilst also giving people the information they need to be ready for any changes to business as usual.
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“Our roadshows are open to all; they help to explain the magnitude of the event as well as the impact it will have over the nine days and allow an opportunity for everyone to ask questions.
“In order to address operational concerns, we are working with the Harrogate BID and other business groups to assist their members.
“We are working directly with all schools to help them plan for the event.
“Likewise, we are in touch with wedding organisers across the area to assist with their planning.
“In terms of medical appointments, we have a multi-agency working group which brings together the NHS, Emergency Services, Local Authorities, utilities and other relevant service providers.
“We are working together to ensure that no vital services are interrupted during the championships.
“We would advise against any unnecessary car journeys during the races but it is important to remind everyone that they will be able to move freely across the race routes at all times on foot or by bike.
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“We want Harrogate to benefit from the long-term tourism impact. We can maximise that impact together by giving the spectators a proper Yorkshire welcome and making sure the town looks as beautiful as ever.”
Reacting to some readers’ complaints that the daily road closures were too compex to follow, Coun Don Mackenzie, the county councils’ executive member for access, said more user-friendly information was on its way.
As someone who will be closely involved with North Yorkshire’s plans for when the county welcomes the UCI Road World Championships in September, he is confident that solutions will be found.
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He says that while the county council was not instrumental in bringing the event to Harrogate in the first place, they had been happy to take on the major responsibility of ensuring that all the activities which take place on the roads, and which affect traffic management of the event, run smoothly, efficiently and safely.
The county council’s executive member for access said: “There was a lot of useful information in the residents information leaflet that was distributed by Y2019 in May, but it is quite difficult to understand the road closure information which is complex.
“We recognise that the UCI Championships are very different from the Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire events that Harrogate has hosted in the past.
“We have been working with Y2019 to provide some more user-friendly information to make it easier for residents and businesses to understand what is happening. We are also working with Y2019 for new plans for the town centre highlighting closure times. Both sets of plans will form part of the further road closure information that will be published in the next couple of weeks.
“We have been working with the UCI and Yorkshire 2019 to keep road closures to an absolute minimum.
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“The county council will continue to publish road closure maps on our website based on specific localities in order to take some of the complexity out of the existing closure map.”
A statement released by North Yorkshire County Council this week revealed how plans were already being finalised for a special Park and Stride bus services to run alongside shuttle bus services during the UCI event.
While not confirmed, it is expected that one of the Park and Stride bases will be situated at the Great Yorkshire Showground.