Major improvements are being put forward for the Bootham / Gillygate and Exhibiton Square traffic junction and surrounding public realm by the Civic Trust.

Following the recent announcement that urgent works need to take place at the junction of Gillygate and Bootham, York Civic Trust is urging City of York Council to be bold in its longer-term ambitions for this area of the City Centre. 

Local residents at Queen Margaret’s Arch holding copies of our shared vision to improve the Bootham / Gillygate junction. Unsightly street furniture and standing traffic on Gillygate can be seen beyond. IMAGE: Iona Miles.

The Trust have been working with local Councillors, and a number of residents, businesses and interest groups to look at potential improvements that could be made to the junction and to the layout of Gillygate, Bootham and Exhibition Square.

The review was prompted by the Council’s consultation in the spring on options for the junction.  We pointed out at the time that the scheme now being implemented as an emergency measure does nothing for safety, pedestrian and cyclist access in the junction, or for pollution in surrounding streets or the wealth of heritage buildings in the area; this is the most polluted junction in the city centre, blighting the lives of local residents and visitors alike.

We believe that the Council’s proposals for this junction are a missed opportunity and that the possibilities for the wider area are not being adequately considered. We have built on the changes included in CYC’s consultation such as reducing the volume of traffic entering the junction by limiting the entry from St Leonard’s Place to a single lane.  We propose a number of additional changes which could hugely improve the aesthetic, environmental and commercial vitality of this key part of the City Centre.

Working in partnership with local stakeholders

We have looked at and discussed various options with a number of local stakeholders. The favoured choice, which achieves the greatest improvement in the public realm and with the least disruption of traffic, involves the transformation and expansion of the Exhibition Square area to the front of the Art Gallery and improves its connectivity.   This would include the removal of the existing fountain, which the Trust helped to fund in 1971, and repositioning the William Etty statue in Exhibition Square so as to better protect it from car pollution. 

Our favoured option would improve road safety, air quality and pedestrian and cyclist access by restricting the immediate approach to the junction on Gillygate to buses, taxis and emergency vehicles.  It includes the limiting of traffic down Gillygate, the increase in pavement space, direct crossing of the junction in all directions, provision of a through cycle route from High Petergate, and the levelling of paving throughout the junction to illustrate it is a ‘slow traffic’ surface to better protect pedestrians and cyclists.

Details of the proposed extent of the raised junction as a ‘slow traffic surface’ also showing the setting back of stop lines for vehicles and bus gate on Gillygate, so as to make for safer crossings at the junction for pedestrians and cyclists and improve air quality (to enlarge, right click image to download or open in new window). IMAGE: York Civic Trust.
Details of the proposed reform of the junction, showing the traffic directions across the junction, the improved pedestrian crossings, and the location of advanced signals with early starts for cyclists (to enlarge, right click image to download or open in new window). IMAGE: York Civic Trust.

Creating a destination space; celebrating our heritage

We believe that the benefits arising from these changes would make the junction a safer, healthier place to live, work and visit.

The effect would be to make the public realm around the junction an attractive and desirable place to be, a destination rather than a place to move through as fast as possible, as it currently is, to a safer, quieter, friendlier space. The widening of paving on Gillygate and the city-end of Bootham would make for a more pleasant experience in shopping here, just as restrictions on traffic using Micklegate have brought similar benefits on that street.

Details of our proposed changes to Exhibition Square, including widening of pavements throughout the junction (to enlarge, right click image to download or open in new window). IMAGE: York Civic Trust.

The other main gain would be Exhibition Square. This is currently a huge missed opportunity, despite it holding the largest collection of listed buildings and historic monuments in the city, and uniquely charts its history from AD 71 to the present day.

By decluttering the junction of street furniture, setting back stop lines, and reducing traffic volume going through the junction, historic sightlines, such as key views between the Art Gallery and Bootham Bar, when looking down the length of St Leonard’s Place or the Bar and City Walls when approaching on Bootham, can be fully appreciated.

It is time to reclaim Exhibition Square from the road junction and its ills, and to make it the destination space it deserves to be.

Impact on Traffic

York Civic Trust is determined that any changes to the road layout of the junction should not be seen as in purely traffic terms, but to take into account a range of factors including public safety, air pollution levels, green space, improving the public realm, and protecting and better presenting heritage and key sightlines.

We have assessed the traffic impact of changes to the junction using the expertise of the Civic Trust’s Transport Advisory Group, led by Anthony May, OBE, Emeritus Professor of Transport Engineering at the University of Leeds, with additional external data analysis support.

The Council’s second option (Option B) in its spring consultation reduces traffic in the junction, but does so by reducing its capacity and using that reduction to encourage rerouting.  As a result it leads to increased delays in the junction.  We have adopted an alternative approach, which reduces the amount of traffic using the junction by removing certain movements completely from the junction.  Our starting point was to determine which movements incurred the least delay if diverted away from the junction.  This led us to four options:

  1. Closing the entrance from Bootham other than for cyclists
  2. Banning the turns between Bootham and Gillygate in both directions
  3. Closing Bootham other than for buses and cyclists 
  4. Closing Gillygate other than for buses, taxis, emergency vehicles and cyclists.
  5. (We have also reassessed, as Test 0, the Council’s Option B, and have compared them all with current conditions (the Council’s Option A))

Tests 1-4 all have a single lane on St Leonard’s, signals set back on all arms of the junction, an entry for cyclists from High Petergate, and advanced signals for cyclists on all approaches.

Our assessment shows that none of the options has significant impacts on the overall network, with a difference of 1% in average speed.  The greatest reduction in speed on the Inner Ring Road, of 8% in the PM peak, arises with Test 2.  All other speeds are within 4% of the Base values.

On balance, it appears that Test 4, which introduces a bus gate on Gillygate, may be the most appropriate option to develop further – and is as a result the basis of the Trust’s design scheme.  In summary, it:

  • reduces traffic entering the junction by 40%
  • reduces traffic on Gillygate by around 90%
  • should, with a shorter cycle length, reduce delays in the junction
  • but potentially diverts some traffic to Water Lane, Burtonstone Lane and Ouse Bridge, which would require remedial action.

In addition, as with the other options tested (but not in all cases the Council’s Option B) it:

  • enables St Leonards to be reduced to a single lane
  • provides for an all-red stage for pedestrians to cross in all directions
  • enables cyclists to enter via High Petergate, with priority access from all directions
  • allows the signal stoplines to be set back to provide more space for pedestrians to cross, cyclists to leave the junction safely, and public realm to be enhanced
  • provides a quicker route for emergency services and more efficient bus timetabling, especially for ambulances which otherwise can become pitifully trapped along Gillygate or the junction when responding to emergency calls.

A fully annotated version of the design scheme can be downloaded here, with an explanatory note found here.

Have your say

Commenting on the need for an improved scheme for the junction, Andrew Morrison, CEO of York Civic Trust, said:

“Over recent months we have worked closely with a wide range of stakeholders to come up with ideas and solutions which we think will provide huge opportunities to enhance this important location in the City Centre.  

“The junction is currently an unattractive and chaotic public realm space.  We feel currently there are major issues for all forms of users and transport methods, and it could be enjoyed by residents and visitors in a much better way.”

Speaking as Ward Councillors and local residents, two local Councillors have also welcomed the partnership with stakeholders that the Civic Trust has led on.

Cllr. Janet Looker: “As a local Councillor I know and appreciate the many frustrations, and risks, so many of us deal with on a regular basis when trying to cross this junction – pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles often struggle to manoeuvre safely across. I therefore welcome the work that has been led by the Civic Trust to come up with some new ideas. This has involved a lot of work by volunteers and extensive consultations with residents and traders in Gillygate.”

Cllr. Denise Craghill: “I really welcome all the hard work that has been done on this, on a voluntary basis, by the Civic Trust’s transport and heritage experts – as well as the hard work that has been contributed by Gillygate, Bootham and St Leonard’s Place residents and traders. This has been an excellent example of co-production, working with local people to produce design proposals.

These proposals give an inspiring view of what could be possible to improve this junction and the surrounding area for all users whilst also improving air quality and the setting of the historic Bootham Bar.

I hope that these proposals can form a key part of taking forward the new Local Transport Plan.”

The intention is to now reach out to make sure all local retailers and residents have their say, as any changes principally effect them the most.

…But what do you think? Have your say using the comments section below or emailing us at for us to repost here.

20 thoughts on “Bootham / Gillygate junction: design scheme

  1. The comments which question the validity of disrupting the inner ring road along Gillygate ignore the unacceptable levels of pollution which we residents have to suffer in our lives every day.
    The existing closure has hardly affected traffic disruption however air quality has already noticeably improved for the better. Motorists change habits very quickly as is proved by what is occurring right now!
    What long term damage are the high levels of pollution already doing to our health? Perhaps it will take a Court case against Council negligence in not changing the existing road situation to bring this all to a head? In the meantime this proposal tackles the issues. Traffic will continue to pollute if it is not restricted. The removal of inner city traffic pollution is a stated policy of York and most inner city high traffic environments. Obviously there needs to be more traffic imitative outside the inner ring road sustem. However this should not deter us from changing what is currently clearly an unacceptable road traffic situation. The “I’m all right Jack” attitude of existing motorists must change with the obvious exceptions of emergency vehicles, residents, public transport, disabled car users, deliveries and cyclists. Let’s be bold and applaud this exciting initiative.

  2. While I like the majority of the suggested improvements, I can’t support the closure of Gillygate to all but specific types of vehicles unless and until adequate alternative provisions are in place and honestly I don’t know what form those alternative provisions could take.

  3. I find hospital access to be the most convincing criticism of these proposals together with the steadily increasing lack of blue-badge parking for those who can walk very short distances. High Petergate should not follow Castlegate as a detriment to their lives. I too like the fountain and would regret its loss very much…I remember its installation.

  4. I like the idea of moving traffic lights further back and removing the traffic island.
    Also I see the benefits in improving the space in front of the Art Gallery.
    I can’t see the practicality of closing Gillygate to most traffic. It will simply move traffic onto longer routes.
    Stopping vehicle traffic going through High Petergate will remove parking spaces and increase the number of vehicles turning into Duncombe Place which is already heavily over used, especially now that it is the waiting spot for Deliveroo style meal deliverers. I wish it were otherwise but any change needs to consider the impact on Duncombe Place and its surrounds.

  5. Hello, Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your proposals.

    Whilst traffic is self-evidently a huge concern in this area, I would like to add my voice to the comments that have already raised the issue of access to the hospital. Closing Gillygate to private vehicles would reduce access for patients, staff and visitors. It would increase distance travelled, and create/add to congestion on Crichton Avenue and Wigginton Road as well as the roads mentioned in the plans.

    Is additional space needed for markets and street performers etc? There is a market every day in York that struggles for customers, and plenty of pop up and seasonal markets in Parliament Street and elsewhere. I cannot see reference to input from York Museums’ Trust in the plans. Turning Exhibition Square into a venue would surely block or hinder access to the art gallery? Crossing King’s Square or navigating Parliament Street during performances or markets/festivals can be difficult and unpleasant.

    Finally, it’s disappointing to see a hackneyed dry plaza fountain included in the scheme. Your own website says:

    ‘The Trust is open to all who wish to enhance and protect York’s architectural and cultural heritage, to champion good design and to advance the high place which York holds amongst the cities of the world.’

    Yet your proposals include this most ubiquitous of modern water features, which can be found around the world everywhere from public spaces to offices and shopping malls. Such a fountain would not add anything that visitors and residents couldn’t see in countless other places.

    The current fountain is attractive and well used. Queuing for admission during a recent visit to the gallery, I noticed that it was a popular space with people pausing to look at it or to sit by it to watch the world go by or to eat lunch. Please don’t sacrifice that to create the unnecessary event space.

  6. Hi. I fully support the proposals to reduce traffic flow around Exhibition Square but not the plan to remove the fountain, I love the fountain and the recent addition of public seating should be a permanent fixture.

  7. While I applaud the general ambition and some of the specific proposals I don’t feel that restricting general traffic from a key part of the inner ring road (Gillygate) is appropriate so close to the hospital, and certainly not before the upgrade to the outer ring road has been completed.

    I am in favour of:
    * Improvements to Abbey Precinct Wall garden (always thought there should be more benches there!)
    * Replacement of fountain in Exhibition Square with ground-level option that can be switched off and used as an event space (square has been much more interesting/lively this last year with the extra benches etc)
    * Improved setting Art Gallery and Bootham Bar etc via revamped paving, removal of street furniture/clutter, and localised widening of pavement (i.e. removal of taxi rank)
    * General closure of High Petergate to vehicles (I’ve never understood why the right-turn from St Leonards is a permitted move with dedicated traffic light arrow given the existing daytime footstreet restrictions)

    I am not in favour of:
    * Such a broad extend of raised road surface – given the junction would still be heavily used under the proposals, between St Leonards and Bootham and buses from Gillygate, the removal of the clear kerb line would make the junction feel unsafe as a pedestrian (even at slower speeds)
    * Bus gate and single-lane operation on Gillygate – as above this is a key part of the inner ring road close to the hospital and should not be restricted without other mitigations or complementary measures being implemented elsewhere. If the road WERE restricted in that way I would be concerned that the long single-lane section will require quite lengthy traffic light phasing in both directions to allow buses to get through without conflict, generating new delay and congestion through the reduced junction (and undermining the changes)
    * Cycle track bypass behind bus stops at Exhibition Square – creates additional conflict between pedestrians and cyclists when there is plenty of room for a cycle lane on the road!

    Alternative suggestions:
    * Retain the two lanes on St Leonards Place but convert one of them to a dedicated bus lane, with priority phase over general traffic onto both Bootham and Gillygate – public transport benefit with limited overall impact on traffic flows/capacity
    * Remove the filter phase from Bootham into St Leonards – from observation this appears to be a significant contributor to delays and congestion at this junction for little benefit
    * Narrow the road through the junction and improve pavements/crossings following removal of the bi-directional flow between St Leonards and Bootham (above two points) – the road is barely wide enough for the existing flow (have you ever watched the bendy bus inch around the corner?) but plenty wide for single-direction
    * That little inset by the Theatre Royal wall/Red House (5.3 on your map) seems like an idea place for street furniture – or a planter! There’d be even more room if TR could be persuaded to remove that wall/weird little outdoor pocket as well..

  8. Please keep the existing fountain. It was thought a good site in1971 and still is. Children love the fountain and its 28 jets catching the sun. It is a pleasant family space, we do not need more events in this square.

  9. No Doubt an unpopular view, but I would consider closure of Bootham Row Car Park and utilising the land as a ‘Delivery Hub’ for Gillygate and High Petergate with a 7.5T weight limit for trucks to transfer goods to EV’s, cargo bikes etc or just an old-fashioned sack barrow. Probably the only way to stop illegal pavement parking that happens every day on Gillygate and keep businesses viable.

  10. The plan is bold and much needed to address climate change as well as address a chaotic junction. We all are going have to adapt to other ways of getting to and from work leisure. There needs to be more frequent electric buses, cycle lanes, different mobility options and access for disabled people all need to be included in any design of roads. However we need to recognise overall we must have less cars on road to have any impact on environment. With less cars on roads walking, mobility scooters and cycling will become easier and more pleasant experience for all. In addition, buses need to be cheaper, frequent and accessible for all to use. Electric bikes are also are part of the solution making journeys under five miles accessible to many more people with varying fitness levels. York is flat which makes cycling ideal for everyone. There are many more bikes available to meet different needs.

  11. Sounds like an excellent proposal. At the moment it’s a bit of a mess with Gillygate being rather unpleasant. I support this proposal.

  12. All this extra money wasted when there is an easier solution,open up lowther street and open up fountain street and stop been idiots

  13. Hello
    Why is it when a body states that this or that change will benefit York residents, is it actually a benefit to the body that suggests it ? Perhaps you ought to ask York residents first before taking an opinion that you allready know what they want ?
    Where do you propose the traffic that currently uses Gillygate will go ? I’m guessing that doesn’t interest you as it wouldn’t effect you. As for spaces for markets and events, York has lots of them allready. If it is larger visitor numbers to the Art gallery that you want, then perhaps returning to free admission would help

  14. Hi,

    Please don’t get rid of the fountain in front of the art gallery! I love that fountain, and I love to sit by it and eat my ice cream. It’s so tranquil.

    Also, I am weary about the traffic plans to restrict cars. Granted I wish more people would use public transport, but some people do genuinely need to use their cars so end up punishing those people too. Maybe if First York didn’t repaint their buses every 5 minutes they could make the tickets a little cheaper which would encourage more bus usage?

    I live on Water Lane, I don’t own a car but I hire one a few times a year for when I can’t use public transport (for example, going on a camping holiday.) And getting to the car hire store on Foss Islands Road is a nightmare. I can either queue down Haxby Road or queue down Bootham. If you close this junction off to traffic, it’s just going to make the queues down Haxby road longer and cause more pollution near the hospital.

    I always cycle into town when I can as due to traffic in York it’s quicker. Please don’t make it worse. When I have to use a car it’s already a headache. Don’t make it a nightmare.

  15. Dear York Civic Trust

    Imaginative, brilliant and game-changing.

    From a York resident, city centre worker, car driver, motorcycle rider, cyclist, public transport user and pedestrian – ie in no particular ‘camp’.

    Essential vehicles must continue to be able to drive around our cramped Medieval city – the disabled, buses, emergency vehicles, essential utilities, commercial deliveries etc. The rest of us need to accept we simply must change for the sake of our city and the wider environment.

  16. This is another scheme by you the council that discriminates against disabled car users. The current scheme also comes under disability discrimination. On the whole it is blatantly clear that you do not care about the disabled residents of York but place a higher priority on tourism.

  17. I am writing in response to your proposal to close Gillygate to 90% of traffic.

    While I can see the benefits to residents and tourists alike, and the idea of Exhibition Square as a “destination” that is safe and pleasant to be around is greatly appealing, I absolutely do not support this.

    At peak traffic times, congestion already reaches from Bootham Bar to Burton Stone Lane. And as a resident of BSL, I know that traffic will worsen all around my area (something that you also pointed out).

    There is no easy fix to Yorks traffic issues. That is part and parcel of life in a small, historic city. But shifting the traffic from Gillygate to Clifton is not in the benefit for York residents at all.

  18. I am shocked by your proposals. Has any consideration been made to how get to the hospital by car for hospital staff. We can’t get buses as they don’t fit with shifts, and when you’ve been on your feet all day, a long 4 mile cycle back to the west of York where it live, isn’t an option. And bikes and snow really don’t mix in winter.

    Cutting off Gillygate blocks the inner ring road just like the failed lendal bridge fiasco. Cutting through Clifton or Burton Stone lane is the only option and that’s an awful drive with parked cars.

    The temporary blocking of Gillygate for emergency repairs is going to be very difficult to manage, but at least it is temporary. Early shifts will be ok as there are spaces in Bootham Row, but on a 12pm start, no chance. Marygate is quite a walk away from the hospital after a shift in the dark, it’s just not safe.

    I appreciate it will improve the area for the residents but when you reduce car capacity in one area it just blocks up another. We simply don’t have good enough frequent public transport early morning or evening to swap to.

  19. This junction is on an important route to the hospital for those of us living on the south side of the city. My main reason for ever being on this road is to take friends with mobility problems to attend clinics at the hospital. Public transport is not an option for them, and taxi fares are prohibitive, especially when journeys need to be made on a regular basis. Going round the inner ring road the other way is further and will inevitably take that much longer if the junction is closed. It can already take an hour in the late afternoon.
    I’m sure the appearance of the place would improve a lot if these proposals are carried out, but it will be frustrating for those of us voluntarily trying to help friends keep appointments and get home afterwards.

  20. I think this is an excellent idea, for an area in great need of improvement. I use it as a cyclist and a pedestrian and it’s pretty horrible for both at present. When driving, I avoid it altogether!

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