This is a time of unprecedented opportunity for us to decide the transport future of our district and for our local voices to be heard. North Yorkshire County Council is asking the public to give their views on traffic congestion and potential solutions by responding to their congestion engagement survey by 8th July.
The process to get to this point has taken well over two years and Zero Carbon Harrogate has contributed constructive suggestions for positive changes throughout and argued persuasively against two potential new roads.
The good news is that Councillor Don Mackenzie, the NYCC Executive member for highways, has stated that if there are more than 10,000 responses to the survey and more than half of these oppose new roads, then the roads will not be pursued. It is therefore really important that as many people as possible respond. Ask your friends, neighbours and relatives to respond, including all members of the family, including children (the survey asks for your age and includes under 16 as an option) – it’s their future.
With councils and governments locally and around the world finally waking up and recognising our climate emergency, it is important that our views reinforce this message and give politicians the confidence to take bold action. We must offer our wholehearted support to the many sustainable measures on offer.
Currently, when considering a journey, the financial decision at point of use is skewed towards the car, largely due to the high fixed costs of owning a car. If we can create an environment where households feel confident with fewer cars, or even no car, many people will be better off and that money will remain in our local economy. New ways of travel, such as car clubs and ride-hailing apps, will contribute to this change. For example the American ride-hailing company, Lyft, estimate that 300,000 of its users have already given up their personal vehicles.
Other ways to balance journey choices involve a combination of carrot and stick. For example, congestion charging would reduce traffic at peak times and could help fund improved and cheaper public transport and safer walking and cycling routes, especially to schools and workplaces. It would give us an improved town centre experience in Harrogate and Knaresborough, emphasising the needs of people rather than cars. Postcode exemptions could allow it to be employed tactically on rat-runs without penalising local residents.
When the cheapest and most convenient option for residents and visitors alike is public transport, park and ride, walking or cycling then our town becomes a more pleasant and healthier place to live, work and shop.