Hurray for Cycle City York
After a decade of underinvestment in which York has sunk in cycling league tables, with investment per capita below London, and cycling uptake only moving at a snail’s pace, we’re finally getting an injection of cash to get us pedaling again. So to celebrate, I took a ride through the center of town at about midday on Sunday. Erm, yeah, don’t think we’re meant to do that…
Lets start with the completely anal understanding of the word “pedestrian” in the city center. Across Europe it is generally understood that this term means “human powered”, not just walking. It would be perfectly acceptable to keep the cross streets bike free, as it would be a nightmare having people cycle past DUSK, and the one way system is more than tolerable, but really, why no cycling at all in the zone? Then it really would be faster to cycle to shops than drive, because the speed lost on approach to town would be made back up when pedaling through. (p.s. It turns out this is an option on the table. Option? Would highly recommend making the Parliament Street/Davygate run two way for cycles, thus leaving the two narrower routes to shoppers (“Coneygate”) and tourists (“Peterwopmagate”)).
I have a significant number of cycling gripes about this city. its meant to be great for cyclists, but half the cycle lanes disappear into nothing and most of the dedicated cycle paths are such pedestrian affairs as to be almost worthless. Speed is actually one problem: the reason cycling is such a slow affair has nothing to do with people’s physical abilities, its because people keep having to stop and then rebuild speed. We should be encouraging people to cycle faster, because in a city this small, speed is the only way to make it more
There’s the cycle lane that stops half way up the Queen Street Bridge, itself a complete travesty of city mobility for which I can see no purpose other than random hill creation. I’m coming to the conclusion that the in-bound cycle lane should actually be moved to go around the bridge. There’s nothing specific beneath the bridge, only access to offices, so it wouldn’t cause any real problems, and would save people cycling up a hill only to come back down it.
And cycle racks. I know York is meant to have lots of them, but the thing is, we simply haven’t got enough, and so bikes get left in unsightly places. Increasing the number of ‘hoops’, adding a third line to the double-ranks in Parliament Street, replacing and increasing rack space in the Minster/St Mikes area and sorting the chronic lack of cycle parking at the Spurriergate corner of town. All in all, we need something like 200 more hoops to really accommodate the beginnings of any discernible growth. Plus, there’s a few pubs that really need encouraging in this area: The Black Swan is my usual case in point.
There needs to be some thought about where cycle lanes actually need to obey traffic lights. The Scarcroft Road and James Street junctions are both brilliant examples. In both cases, when traveling towards the city, there is no conflict between traffic coming from the right and the space occupied by a cycle lane. indeed, at Scarcroft road, the entire bus lane is only conflicted twice an hour by the number 11. The rest of the time, even the buses could just keep going into town, while the car drivers need the lights to ensure they don’t crash with each other. At James Street, a cycle lane adhering cyclist is under no threat at all from cars, making this just another pointless stop along the way.
We do also need some process of bike removal from racks where they are left abandoned, particularly at the station. We could also use some signs at busy cycle parks recommending others: everyone knows where Parliament Street bike park is, but St Andrew’s Gate and Merchants Gate just get forgotten, leaving them below 50% capacity even when Parliament Street is running at more than 2 bikes per stand, i.e. greater than 100% capacity.
So while York is definitely a city worthy of being known as a cycle city, I’m glad to hear that there’s cash coming with it. Unfortunately, we’re going to hear even more of the nauseous arguments about cyclist behaviour and people being anti-car. So what, I’m against kids getting asthma/run over and against the social isolation and insulation that cars have done so much in creating. And as for cyclists going through red lights, we’re not the reason the lights were put there, and if we can get enough people out of their cars and onto bikes, we’ll be able to remove quite a few sets of lights from around the city.
And we’re probably going to see some the money wasted on completely pointless schemes. But hopefully we’ll also see a bit of innovation and some really good consultancy advice put into practice, and we’ll find cycle journeys in the city faster and more common. And I suspect that even if its celebrated as a success, we won’t see much talk of the difference its made on real-figures car journeys in the city (i.e. number of times people get into the driving seat). All in all, very welcome, but there’s a lot that can go wrong.