In early May the government set local authorities a challenge: to respond to “a once in a generation opportunity to deliver a lasting transformative change in how we make short journeys in our towns and cities.” It is making £250m available to councils, who need to act “as swiftly as possible, and in any event within weeks, given the urgent need to change travel habits before the restart takes full effect.”

York Civic Trust and York Cycle Campaign have teamed to develop a response to this challenge. In a report published today and presented to York City Council, they explain the short-term need:

The effects of the lockdown impose serious threats to York’s tourism, retail and leisure industry. We will need to return to fuller employment, education, shopping, leisure and tourism if the city is to remain vibrant. Yet we know that social distancing will need to remain in place for some time to come, reducing the capacity of pavements, cycle lanes and bus services alike. With the government still discouraging people from using public transport, there is a real danger that car use will rise to levels above those before the lockdown, and result in even worse levels of congestion and pollution.

But the potential for transformative change is also key. Just before the lockdown started, York’s ground-breaking Citizens’ Transport Forum concluded that the Council “needs to produce a holistic, bold and visionary transport plan which achieves significant changes in travel behaviour in the near future.” Our response to coming out of lockdown offers an unanticipated opportunity to commence this process.

The policy document focuses on enabling and encouraging:

· residents who are able to do so to access the city centre, local centres, colleges and workplaces on foot and by bike;

· primary and secondary school children to access their schools on foot and by bike as an alternative to using school buses or the car;

· commuters from outside York to switch to park and cycle;

· tourists and day visitors to walk and cycle from their arrival point in York and throughout their stay.

It offers a series of improvements which can be made throughout York to help walkers and cyclists, and suggests using much of the funding available from government to implement these. But it also accepts that further action will be needed where the transport network is most constrained. The attached map illustrates the key proposals, which include:

· widening pavements at many locations in the city centre and on the approaches;

· park and cycle facilities at all six park and ride sites, with high quality cycle routes to the city centre;

· improvements to the orbital cycle route and new links from the villages;

· improvements to the cycle route from Micklegate Bar to Stonebow, including a bus-only section across Ouse Bridge;

· innovative schemes to give cyclists priority at Lendal and Skeldergate Bridges;

· improved crossing facilities on the Inner Ring Road to avoid pedestrians having to cluster at traffic lights;

· a bus-only section on Gillygate, where social distancing is particularly difficult.

Professor Tony May, chair of York Civic Trust’s Transport Advisory Group, said:

“If we can reallocate road space to allow as many people as possible to access York safely, this in turn will support the recovery of business and tourism. We have called upon the voluntary contributions of many experts to help develop this programme. We fully appreciate that the programme which we outline above is substantial, will require significant initial investment and continued resources for maintenance and enforcement, and will in parts be controversial. But it is essential that York adopts a visionary programme of this kind if it is to be successful in responding to the government’s challenge.”

Kate Ravilious, of York Cycle Campaign, said: “We’d like everyone to be involved and next week we’ll be launching a Commonplace interactive map for residents to suggest where space for walking and cycling is needed. Meanwhile, we’d like to see the Council keep people safe and address priority locations immediately. Our petition, which asks the council to make space for walking and cycling during the Covid crisis, now has over 1500 signatures, demonstrating that residents want to see this change,”

“We would like to see the Council start consulting immediately on the longer term proposals in our list, set targets for achievement. monitor the impacts of implemented schemes and publicise and promote the results,” adds Professor May

We look forward to working with the Council and other stakeholders on this programme, in order to achieve the transformational change which the government, our Citizens’ Transport Forum and, we are sure, our Council seek.”

For more information, please contact Ben Pilgrim on 0778 995 1781. To download the report please click on the link below

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