Donna Hodgson who is the "Woman From the Council" got in touch after a deal of prompting from myself and others local cycling advocates on Friday. She wrote a long email justifying her decision to basically do very little in the way of cycleway provision on Knaresborough Rd. After I had calmed down I tried to work out why I had thought we were justified to expect rather more. The last time I was in touch with Donna prior to Friday was an email on the 2nd of July in which she said the following:
...the outcome of this discussion was that we would undertake further detailed design to try to accommodate cycle lanes in both directions on the sections of the A59 where the remedial works are due to be undertaken in the next few months. The costs of these works can therefore be accommodated to a greater extent within the remedial works costs.
I did explain to the Group that we were not able to remove or alter the existing pedestrian refuges for road safety reasons but the Group felt that even short sections of advisory cycle lane between the refuges / right turn lanes would be a significant improvement on the current position.
I will be meeting with the design engineer in the next few days and I hope to get a detailed drawing of the cycle lanes in the next few weeks. I would be happy to send you and the Cycle Group a copy of the drawings once completed so that you can see the extent of what we can deliver.
From this I assumed we were going to get some cycle lanes on Knaresborough Road which would stop and start again at the pedestrian crossings and would run the length of the road from the railway crossing to the hospital this is what we asked for originally and what our petition was about. Donna alas never did get back with those design drawings despite us chasing her on a few occasions. In fact when she did get back to us work had already started and is still underway on Knaresborough Road. So what do we get? We get some cycle lane less than 100m long on the downhill side as it runs down to the railway crossing. Perhaps the most useless section and hardly worth having at all. The sort of shabby provision that makes those "look at this useless cycle lane" photos on the web.
Do I feel Donna and North Yorkshire County Council have acted in bad faith over this? Well yes I do. I suppose her decision if she had communicated it a few weeks ago, whilst we would have disagreed with it would have been presented fairly and she would have done what she had said she would do. We would have opportunity to discuss and perhaps amend some of the details. Donna's decision to withhold details of what would happen until after work has started seems hard to view as anything other than a cynical ploy to do the absolute minimum and fail to negotiate with both us and the Harrogate Cycle Group, something she had already said she would do.
Some I'm sure will say that we should be happy that we got anything done at all. But I for one won't celebrate piecemeal provision which seems to be thrown like scraps to a dog, begrudgingly and with much tutting at our impudence for daring to ask. I think Harrogate's cyclists deserve better. I want my kids to cycle up that road and at the moment it would be tantamount to letting them play unsupervised with my circular saw.
Based on this outcome I think Cycle Harrogate looks set to have more effect on cycle provision if we adopt an adversarial approach rather than one of partnership toward NYCC. I think that is where we go next. It looks like the County Council can't help but favour car traffic even when money isn't the issue as was the case here (they were going to do some work anyway).
We need to try and win the battle for hearts and minds amongst the public in general and specifically amongst those who we ask to govern for us. At the moment asking nicely and going on a bit just aren't working as effectively as we want. If we are going to put effort into lobbying we might as well expose the way local government operates and hold them to account for the way they spend our tax rather than try and change their minds something we have so far failed to do.
Expect more from us soon about how you could help us get this message across in a law abiding but no longer polite and patient way.