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The Zero Carbon Harrogate column with Jemima Parker

Pedestrians wait over four minutes to cross Ripon Road at a key tourist location.
Pedestrians wait over four minutes to cross Ripon Road at a key tourist location.

Whether fighting your way back into Harrogate along the Wetherby Road after a long day at work or crawling along the Skipton Road trying to get to your children’s swimming lesson on time most of us hate sitting in a traffic queue. Traffic congestion not only wastes time and fuel it also damages local air quality and increases greenhouse gas emissions.

In North Yorkshire 26% of our greenhouse gas emissions come from transport – higher than the national average, and they are rising with the UK seeing a 4% increase in the past five years, according to a recent report from the UK Commission on Climate Change, which charged the government to do more to reduce emissions from transport.

The Zero Carbon Harrogate column with Jemima Parker.

The Zero Carbon Harrogate column with Jemima Parker.

In response North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) have instigated a traffic congestion review across Harrogate and Knaresborough and established an engagement group with representatives from transport organisations, local councils and businesses, and community groups concerned about transport, including Nidd Gorge Community Action and Zero Carbon Harrogate. Initial meetings have been very constructive with a broad consensus reached that the volume of traffic needs to be reduced. A variety of possible interventions to reduce traffic congestion have been prepared for discussion by NYCC’s consultant engineers WSP.

As the Zero Carbon Harrogate representative I have asked WSP to make it clear in their report which of the suggested strategies would improve traffic flow and which would actively reduce traffic. While improvements to flow may help in the short term it is a genuine reduction in traffic that is needed. While switching to electric or fuel cell vehicles means we can stop burning fossil fuels in our cars and improve air quality, about half the greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles comes from their manufacture, roughly equal to the amount an average UK householder creates in a year – 15 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent.

With nearly half of current vehicle journeys in Harrogate and Knaresborough being 2.6km or less there is real potential to reduce traffic volume by putting in place the right infrastructure and provide more choice about how we travel.

Zero Carbon Harrogate is providing the local knowledge and ideas valued by WSP to supplement their engineering expertise, which includes mapping out possible locations for bus lanes, pedestrian routes and safe cycle routes to schools and sites where park and ride/rail could be located across Harrogate and Knaresborough.

We have also highlighted successful schemes from other parts of the country, such as London’s Waltham Forest mini Holland project which saw motor traffic fall by over half in ‘home zones’ and by 5% on the main roads, as a result of local residents reclaiming their streets with “low traffic neighbourhoods”.

We want NYCC to be bold in putting in place infrastructure across the District that ensures we can be a leader in this clean transport revolution and we would like to get more of your views and ideas to feed in to the NYCC engagement process. Our “Fed up with traffic congestion?” public workshop facilitates discussion and captures local feedback and we would be happy to run a session for your business or community group. Find out more about this workshop, our ideas and how to get in touch via our website www.zerocarbonharrogate.org.uk.