The second phase of Harrogate’s Otley Road cycleway looks set to be scrapped in the face of continued hostility towards the scheme.
The results of a consultation on options for phase two of the project are due to be released within days.
But Cllr Keane Duncan, executive member for highways and transportation at North Yorkshire County Council, said none of the three options put forward had been well received and he was asking “serious questions” about whether to proceed. He said:
“None of the options have found significant favour with members of the public, including pedestrians and cyclists – the exact people this infrastructure is supposed to benefit. That for me is quite striking.
“If we’ve got pedestrians and cyclists, who are supposed to be the intended users of this infrastructure, saying to us ‘please think again’ that does not fill me with reassurance that we are looking at this in the right way so I’m very reluctant for us to repeat some of the issues that have arisen in phase one again with phase two.”
Phase one of the scheme, between Harlow Moor Road and Cold Bath Road, finished a year ago. The value of the contract was £827,000.
It was widely criticised for the way the cycle path zigzags between the highway and shared paths with pedestrians. Rene Dziabas, chairman of Harlow and Pannal Ash Residents’ Association, described it as like “crazy golf construction”.
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Cllr Duncan said phase two would face the same challenges: the road’s narrow width, protected trees and Stray land and therefore would not be fully segregated or compliant with current government recommendations for cycle infrastructure design.
However, there is still a chance the third phase, leading up to Cardale Park, could proceed.
“We get hit over the head all the time for schemes that are not compliant. This isn’t. So I want to look seriously at ‘have we looked at this in the round and is there any alternative option that we might need to look at?’. Is this going to achieve the benefits for active travel which it is intended to?
“I am more than prepared for us to deliver active travel schemes in the face of opposition. They are never going to be universally popular.
“But what I’m not prepared to do is to deliver an active travel scheme for the sake of delivering an active travel scheme, that the intended beneficiaries — walkers and cyclists — are saying to me, ‘please think again, this doesn’t make sense and we are not going to use it’.”
Was it a mistake to start?
Asked whether the scheme, which dates back well before Cllr Duncan took up his post last year, was a mistake, he replied:
“I don’t know all the various considerations that went into the proposals. Where things maybe went wrong is that we tried to get the mixture of segregated where we could and shared use where that wasn’t possible. That has led to quite a disjointed cycle route.
“I’m reflecting on that feedback and certainly where there have been problems – and it’s fair to say problems have been created with phase one – I would not want on my watch to repeat those same mistakes.”
Cllr Duncan said funding for the scheme was secured from the government’s National Productivity Investment Fund, which has to be spent on easing congestion in western Harrogate rather than specifically on cycle schemes and if the Otley Road project does not go ahead it would continue to be used for this purpose.
Tomorrow Keane Duncan gives an update on the Harrogate Station Gateway and on Saturday we will publish a full interview in which he talks about Harrogate district transport schemes.