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.


Post a Comment