Dear Reader: Why independent is best + alternative to a Harrogate bypass

Love our Indies - Paul Rawlinson, owner of  Baltzersens outside his independent cafe  in Harrogate.
Love our Indies - Paul Rawlinson, owner of Baltzersens outside his independent cafe in Harrogate.

A regular column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Readers may have noticed championing the cause of the independents has been a strong theme in this paper of late through our ‘Love Our Indies’ campaign.

As a fan of craft beer bars such as Major Tom’s in Harrogate and the Half Moon in Knaresborough it’s a cause I’m a passionate supporter of.

I may not be a bearded hipster, though I do now boast a beard, but I spend far more time – and money – in local independent cafes such as the Bean & Bud and Baltzersens in Harrogate or Oliver’s Pantry in Ripon than the national chains.

In my opinion, independents tend to be more original in their thinking, more true to themselves.

And the money they generate remains in local hands, rather than being syphoned off to goodness knows where.

Despite what nay sayers on Facebook occasionally say, there is no contradiction between this viewpoint and reporting on the arrival of outsiders like London’s famous celebrity haunt The Ivy or Gino D’Acampo My Restaurant, both of which are coming to Harrogate shortly.

In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if The Queen didn’t unveil plans for Buckingham Palace (North) here at some point.

It’s the duty of a local paper to report on everything that’s happening in the community in as fair a way as possible.

Ultimately why I choose to buy a coffee from one café and not another isn’t based on dogma or principle, anyway.

It’s usually for a far more straightforward reason. I like the taste.

The news travelled quickly the other week.

The traffic lights at the bottom of Parliament Street in Harrogate at the junction with Ripon Road and King’s Road were out. And, lo and behold, the traffic was flowing better than normal!

This sort of talk tends to pop up every year or so among drivers on our clogged-up roads.

I think I’ve even muttered something similar a few times in the past, myself

It’s easy to dismiss this chatter as our district’s own version of the big cat - an urban myth.

But traffic lights by nature are about the control of traffic and control is about preventing things happen rather than letting them go ahead.

Personally-speaking, I’m a big fan of the wild free-for-all that is the humble roundabout.

As a traffic feature it may be a bit scary for the nervous driver but I remember how bad the situation was at the Empress roundabout in Harrogate in the late 1980s when it wasn’t a roundabout at all but a set of traffic lights.

Since then, the authorities seem to have grown scared of embracing their inner roundabout, despite the clear benefits for traffic flow.

But what if they’re wrong? What if the answer to road congestion isn’t a big new bypass but a lot more roundabouts?