Thursday, 8 November 2018

Even more thoughts on a Harrogate Relief Road

Cairn Hotel in town this morning, NYCC are presenting their addendum to a report on congestion in Harrogate.

We are now offered:

A modified package B - sustainable interventions of many kinds, but including bus lanes, bike lanes, town centre pedestrianisation and crucially road space taken off cars, (not sure why no park and ride in this package seems daft).


Package E (iii) which is the sustainable stuff above, plus a park and ride, plus a relief road (the blue line above) but with no junction on Bilton Lane.

Many people speak at the start, the best for me are a guy Tony Hart (sorry if I got your name wrong) who is hilarious but also eloquently opposes the route in many ways.

The Keeping Nidd Gorge Gorgeous guy also has a go and was rousing and clearly angry, he feels North Yorkshire Council have produced a report that is not fit for purpose, as we still don't have enough detail on the proposed route. I cheered at the end, many loudly applauded and the meeting chair gave up on asking the crowd to be quiet, he must have known when he was beaten.

This morning Andrew Jones MP was on the front page of the Advertiser opposing a relief road. Graham Chalmers was dishing out papers at the start, nice touch it set the scene.

When Councillors commented on the report, Richard Cooper - Harrogate Borough Councils leader did the same as Andrew Jones and rather well. I have had my fallings out with Richard in the past over a bike crossing, but he was good today. He essentially said he was dead against the road as it would destroy the gorge, the greenway, the golf course and a fair few people's houses (he didn't mention Henshaws, but they look like they are in the line of fire too). He said we should go for sustainable initiatives big time and then if people still wanted to drive they can sit in the traffic. Music to my ears.

Don Mackenzie defended the idea of consulting on both packages, his view though is I feel to build a road. He said something along the lines of getting people out of cars is dead hard and people in his constituency want less traffic in Harrogate. I don't know if Don is motivated by a belief a road will work, or if he is interested in East -West connectivity but he seems willing to defend his view against a fair bit of political and public opposition.

What happens now is I guess that both packages will go to public consultation. What matters if that happens, is that all 100,000 Harrogate residents get a chance to respond and not the whole of North Yorkshire. Don Mackenzie said that was what would happen let's hold him to his word.  Richard Cooper though thinks the road will never happen even if it gets to the funding stage. We shall see.

For me ultimately I think the clinching questions are, and bear in mind initially I thought a relief road was an ok idea but it would be fair to say my view has changed.

  1. Will a relief road work? Based on the report(s), which I think fail to make a convincing case and the experience of other places were roads like this have been built and overall traffic volumes have increased. I have profound doubts, and so I don't believe it is worth a 100 million quid punt.
  2. Is it worth stuffing up the gorge, the golf course, Henshaws and the Greeenway for now we know that's where it would go? For me no, I would rather do sustainable stuff and over time behaviour will change or people will sit in cars.

More on the meeting from the advertiser here

To be continued...

Posted on 11:33 | Categories:

Friday, 26 January 2018

A Barely Defrosted Steak Pie - Leeds Commuting

No one likes biting into a  barely defrosted steak pie, at least no-one I know. That's how I feel about travelling by Northern Rail at the moment. It will keep you alive but it is not satisfying and you end up with gravy and ice on your face.

I have been taking the train more recently, my car died. I bought a folding bike. I end up on the Harrogate Leeds train one or twice a week now.

The trains usually run on time, there are new ticket machines, you can buy tickets online via an app and there are more, quicker trains on the route I travel. The staff are pretty friendly these days and they are trying to turn around a brand that was badly tarnished by under investment in the last decade.

Northern Rail get quite a lot of stick and in fairness some is deserved. I am often one of those  winding up their social media account on twitter, I doubt doing this though is the vehicle for change I would wish. It is more a reflex action for their decision to run an account that seems to designed to deflect people's attention away from the reality of the service they provide. A service which even they know is far from perfect. If their account was one that was actually interested in helping travellers who are often stuck at a station as a service fails, or is short formed and so rammed to the gunnels, or because in my most recent case water was leaking in though the window seals as we wound our way to Harrogate in an overstuffed 2 car train where 4 cars is the norm. Perhaps people would be more inclined to give them a break?

The fact that they are still running some 1980's bus bodied pacer trains long beyond their design life is shocking. My dad helped design these at the end of the1970's they were a 15 year stop gap that's a very long gap to stop. I make it 35 years or so. I have not travelled on such poor trains since I rumbled round the Peloponnese in the 1990's. These leaky, inefficient, noisy, hangovers from the last millennium do nothing to justify the £10.60 return I pay to travel 34 miles. The industrial action that is a blight on services sporadically is not helping their cause. Two train crew operation seems likely to endure, sort it out Northern.

Trains are full, even outside of rush hours they are busy, they must be turning a profit and they receive considerable government subsidy. If we are to get even more people into trains and off the roads we need a better railway yet. The train operators have to do more and they need to keep up the pace or they should expect more whinging and scrutiny form people who are in my case at least trying to travel more sustainably than a single occupancy car journey.

They must do more though, even though I think things are on the up they could do worse than consider some of the following:

1. Carnet style tickets you get a 10% discount  or some such for buying your journey's upfront in blocks of 10 or a dozen (and Northern get the cash upfront too) and you use them over a maximum 6 month period. This works well elsewhere and the regular but not daily commuter like myself gets some benefit.

2. Do something about their pricing structure. Some fares are discounted if you buy upfront some are not. Working out season ticket prices requires the persistence of a saint. If you split your tickets you save money, this is all just avoidable and exploitative crap.

3. An oyster card style app has got to happen hasn't it? Buying a ticket is still a right faff.

4. Travel for kids and students is priced as though they are merchant bankers, they deserve way more price breaks than they get. We should do better for our young people.

Much of the whinges above are probably not even things that Northern could fix but WYCA and Chris Grayling could, we deserve better. I'm not asking for Crossrail 2 just something that doesn't leak and is cheaper to travel in than a car.  I want to do my bit to fix congestion, but I can't do it on my own.

Posted on 07:01 | Categories:

Friday, 15 December 2017

More thoughts on a Harrogate Relief Road

North Yorkshire County Council's chances of getting a relief road in the Nidd Gorge took a hit today. Don Mackenzie deferred putting his Relief Road out to consultation for 6 months or so. I imagine in no small measure as a result of the hue and cry the idea was attracting. He has toned down his rhetoric but I feel he is still struggling to "see beyond the bonnet", here is a quote.

He said "sustainable transport and demand management measures would need a carrot and stick approach to encourage people to use public transport, walk or cycle and discourage them from using their cars. As well as looking at such things as an improved cycle network and pedestrian schemes, options now to be considered in greater detail could include steep increases in parking charges, the extension of on-street parking charges, congestion charging and other measures."

Now that sounds like scaremongering to me or at best an inability to look at the whole picture. Try this... What if you raised your parking charges in town but used the revenue to fund a free circular mini-bus service round town, this is where the traffic data suggests many local journeys are made? That is a carrot and stick measure. Leeds Beckett where I work runs a similar shuttle bus service in Leeds, there is also one run by the hospitals of Jimmies and the LGI. Both are well used and cost about 30K per bus per annum.

He also suggests the conventional bus services are good and under used. True but they could be better, why use the bus if it is no quicker than your car because it is stuck in the same congestion? So increase your bus priorities, give them lanes to themselves in rush hour, this stuff is fairly well understood and it's use is wide spread. 

Do all and more of the bike and walking stuff that we already have plans for. It won't solve your problem, but it can contribute around about 10% modal shift, or half of a relief road's alleged effect on town centre traffic at a fraction of the cost.

Put Park and Ride schemes in. One at the Show Ground, one the Skipton Road side Jennyfield way. They are fairly standard in many big towns and cities. All of the above suggestions are absent or under represented in the current sustainable transport and demand reduction package (option B).

What I propose above is option B+. I'm sure we could do way better  than the above (option B++) if we really looked hard. Hopefully the impending 6 months of improving the sustainable and relief road offer will be evidence based and not just a way of polishing the relief road turd, whilst spreading fear about cars being crushed in a sustainable inferno. 

Don and NYCC seem to have a car centric view of the solutions to the problem and I guess that makes sense even if I think it's shortsighted. Cars are the overwhelming mode of transport in Harrogate.

However the answer for me is to encourage people to use their cars less in town. Not to build greater capacity. I think we have reached or are close to peak car in Harrogate if the congestion is a guide. If the solution from a road point of view is a relief road down the Gorge on balance I have failed to be convinced of the arguments advanced for it. It seems to offer too little benefit for the damage it would do. I have argued in the past a relief road might be a price worth paying, but I now believe it would not be. I changed my mind, I hope on the evidence or rather the lack of it and if I am honest because of the very strong public opposition to a road down the gorge.

I  think a relief road in the gorge is dead in the water now, too many of the people of Harrogate don't want it. Don is right about something though, the other choices mean people thinking about how they get around town, he calls these difficult decisions. For me the difficult decision would be to do nothing.  The first task is to get local people to understand that whilst a car is convenient because it is on the end of your drive. If you then have to spend 20 minutes sat in traffic before you can get into town, actually it is a right royal pain in the arse.

The final difficult decision is to implement a plan that looks at solutions to Harrogate's transport problems that look beyond the bonnet.

To be continued.

Posted on 08:51 | Categories:

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Ode to the Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny ambled in to Starbeck
Oddly for a vegetarian mammal it brought eggs,
It left them somewhere safe and said.
"Den access is not what it was, check it out small humans."
Then enigmatically but helpfully,
"Its all about the Last Straw."
Then he took himself off for another year.

Posted on 02:26 | Categories:

Thursday, 6 April 2017

A few specifics then Councillor Broadbent

It's election season, Starbeck is to have a new County Councillor after the frequently politically useless Liberal Councillor DeCourcey Bailey leaves the theatre of Harrogate politics. I only accuse her of being politically useless because she seemed to be totally reactive at her best, or mostly actively inert even when her residents were asking for her help, on issues her party supported. Phillip Broadbank is the new contender, I got their Party Leaflet through the letterbox yesterday and a wonderful mix of policy-lite soundbites and meaningless waffle it was too.

I would like to vote Liberal, hard as my heart is I can't support the Tories, they represent the dark side of armegedon in my mind coupled with all that is tooth and claw in human nature. Thing is I really need a few specifics form Councillor Broadbent before I can help vote him into office in Starbeck.

Will he commit to lobby actively for increased bus priorities on the Knaresborough Road? Will he try and progress the Harrogate sustainable transport plan which puts a cycleway Harrogate- Knaresbrough (via Starbeck) but seems to have ground to a halt in the Hands of Rebecca Burnett and Richard Cooper.

50K of public money has been spent on this where is the report? Do we have funding or have we just thrown the money away? Will he seek to find out?  If he says he wants to explore sustainable transport options.

Will he do something about some form of youth provision in Starbeck? A youth club, youth worker or bike project or perhaps skills training working with Carl Nelson at Veloheads in Starbeck who already does some of these things with kids, just not ones form Starbeck that kind of thing. If he says he wants to fight to reduce antisocial behaviour that would seem like a concrete form of action.

I'm sure I can think of a few others but that will do for starters. Over to you Phillip.

Posted on 08:03 | Categories:

Thursday, 30 March 2017

In the world of Harrogate Borough Council this makes sense

Begin forwarded message:

From: Harrogate Borough Council <>
Subject: Response to your Bins and recycling enquiries submission
Date: 24 March 2017 at 14:41:44 GMT

Dear Rachael Prince

Thank you for your enquiry, received on 23 March 2017.

I appreciate that you returned the bin at the time it was offered, but once a bin has been refused, it is not possible to re-issue it. The garden waste service has been reviewed and restructured to make it more equitable for all residents, and it will be offered in the first phase in 2017 to those who currently use the service and then extended to other residents in 2018.

It is not simply a question of providing the bin, but of being able to provide sufficient vehicles to empty the bins.

The garden waste service is a non-statutory service, which means that your council tax does not include a charge for it, so you are not being charged to receive a different level of service from your neighbours and they will of course be charged from June 2017 if they wish to opt into the service.

If you need 
to contact us again about this enquiry, please quote your case reference FS-Case-20074126.


Customer Services
Harrogate Borough Council
PO Box 787

email: contact us
tel: 01423 500 600
Posted on 01:43 | Categories:

Thursday, 24 November 2016

How to make a Nidd Valley Beanie

This hat is crocheted using two different colours as a twin spiral.

You will need two standard balls of Aran weight yarn. One dark grey,  one yellow, I used Drops Alaska Dark Grey Mix  and Rico Essentials Sun yellow  along with a 4mm crochet hook, I like the knit pro Symfonie hooks, other hooks are available.

Most of my pattern is blatantly stolen from the Moriaty hat on little house by the sea  from whom I also nicked the pics (didn't seem a lot of point taking my own), but I have modified it as I find I get a hat that is too small otherwise.

When I crochet, I work the stitches pretty tight, I get an almost felted effect as I firmly snug the yarn up after each stitch.

Notes on sizing

I have an average size head and am pretty baldy, this hat fits snug with 120 stitches as the crown circumference.

If you crochet loose you might want to drop the 2 double crochet increases in round 18 and just double crochet into each stitch. Alternatively if you have a big head with thick hair or want a loose hat you could repeat round 18's 2 double crochets on round 19, you would then have 130 stitches and a bigger hat.


dc means double crochet

Shaping the crown

To start: with your dark grey yarn make an adjustable ring (this is just a slipknot) by making a loop with your yarn with the tail end of the yarn in front of the working yarn, insert your hook into the loop and draw the working yarn through, then chain 1.

Round 1: dc six times into the adjustable ring, then pull the yarn through so you have a big loop and remove the hook – remember to do this on every round so that you don’t accidentally unravel your stitches.

Round 2: Join contrasting yarn into the adjustable ring, pull the ring closed, then dc twice into each of the stitches in the previous round. (12 stitches)

Round 3: 1 dc into each stitch of previous round. (12 stitches)

Round 4: 2 dc into each stitch of previous round. (24 stitches)

Round 5: 1 dc into each stitch of previous round. (24 stitches)

Round 6: 2dc into first stitch, then 1 dc into next stitch. Repeat until end. (36 stitches)

Round 7: 1 dc into each stitch of previous round. (36 stitches)

Round 8: 2dc into first stitch, then 1 dc into next two stitches. Repeat until end. (48 stitches)

Round 9: 1 dc into each stitch of previous round. (48 stitches)

Round 10: – 2 dc into first stitch, then 1 dc into next three stitches. Repeat until end. (60 stitches)

Round 11: 1 dc into each stitch of previous round. (60 stitches)

Round 12: – 2 dc into first stitch, then 1 dc into next three stitches. Repeat until end. (75 stitches)

Round 13: 1 dc into each stitch of previous round. (75 stitches)

Round 14: 2 dc into first stitch, then 1 dc into next three stitches. Repeat until end. (93 stitches)

Round 15: 1 dc into each stitch of previous round. (93 stitches)

Round 16: 2 dc into first stitch, then 1 dc into next 4 stitches. Repeat until end. (111 stitches)

Round 17: 1 dc into each stitch of previous round. (111 stitches)

Round  18: dc into first stitch, then 1 dc into next 11 stitches. Repeat until end. (120 stitches)

Crown shaping is complete.

Main body of the hat

Continue to alternate your colours by dc into each stitch as before for 14 more rounds. It helps hide the transition to a single yarn if you chain 6 stitches as you switch to working a single colour yarn. You will see what I mean when you get there.

If you have enough yarn you can then work 8 rounds in black or yellow as you choose to make the final coloured band at the base of the hat. I ran out of dark grey so I did 5 rounds in Grey and then 3 in yellow.

Weave in all ends.

This hat fits half way down my ears and over the eyebrows, if you want longer do a few more rounds.

Finally dip in some warm water and plonk on head to dry and block it into shape.
Posted on 09:12 | Categories: