Harrogate traffic vow - 'no congestion levies' on drivers

Getting the message across - Coun Don Mackenzie in Harrogate town centre with billboards emphasising the benefits of ditching the car when driving to work. (Picture by Andrew McCaren)
Getting the message across - Coun Don Mackenzie in Harrogate town centre with billboards emphasising the benefits of ditching the car when driving to work. (Picture by Andrew McCaren)

One of the main driving forces behind a new campaign to tackle Harrogate's traffic congestion said he was reluctant to force Harrogate commuters out of their cars with punitive measures

New research conducted by data company Inrix on behalf of North Yorkshire County Council as part of its newly-launched Open Harrogate campaign to encourage people to consider sustainable transport methods over driving into town, shows commuters spend an average of two days a year stuck in their cars in Harrogate.

The survey also found less than one in ten used environmentally friendly methods such as cycling, walking or public transport to get to work - 9%.

But County Coun Don Mackenzie, executive member for Highways and the county council’s cycling and walking champion said he favoured persuading the public to give up their cars to work by highlighting the merits of 'green' alternatives.

Coun Mackenzie said: “Changing people’s travel behaviour is key to solving the congestion problem.

“The figure of only 9% of residents choosing sustainable means of transport to get to work is surprisingly low.

"Measures can be taken to bring about behaviour change by forcing people out of their cars by raising parking charges, introducing congestion levies, limiting parking spaces and other measures.

“I am personally not keen to give the impression that we are hostile to visitors who wish to visit Harrogate or Knaresborough or Ripon and spend money in our shops, restaurants and other town centre businesses.”

The report shows that the average peak-time commute in Harrogate is a distance of just 2.6km.

Some respondents do travel in to Harrogate from further afield, but more than half of Harrogate’s commuters live within five miles of their workplace - 52 per cent.

But just two per cent said they cycle to work and back, with the main reason for not doing so given by 77 per cent of respondents being concerns surrounding confidence and safety.

North Yorkshire County Council is hoping Open Harrogate will encourage residents to ditch their cars at least once a week and get walking, cycling and travelling by public transport.

One figure has given the survey’s backers hope public attitudes can be changed

More than half - 58 per cent - of the town’s commuters said they considered time as the main motivator when choosing how they get to work.

Coun Mackenzie: “We will show commuters that environmentally travel methods can be quicker than using cars,

“As the weather is getting better, we’re calling on our residents to do their bit and to make a change for the better, opting for sustainable transport methods rather than the old routine of travelling by car.

“To achieve these benefits, we need commuters to think again about how they travel to work.

“It’s easy to get into the routine of dropping the kids off in the car before driving to work, but small behavioural changes could have a real impact on the environment, commuters’ health, pockets and time.”

Coun MacKenzie said Open Harrogate had funding to encourage cycling, walking and using public transport.

It is currently working at providing more off-road cycle paths and making roads safer for cyclists.

It is also considering whether public transport options can be improved by providing more bus services, trains and rail stops.

He said: "Providing more off-road cycle paths will make a big difference by addressing reluctant cyclists’ lack of confidence in sharing space with traffic.

"Making roads safer for cyclists is also possible. My view is that In many areas the services provided by bus operators are already excellent. Rail services are soon to be greatly improved both in the quality of rolling stock and frequency of journeys."

Jemima Parker, chair of Zero Carbon Harrogate, said: “We all know that car journeys are more polluting than sustainable travel; with an average large car emitting 220g carbon dioxide per person per km traveled (120 gC02/person/km for a small car) while for example a pedestrian or cyclist only produces 0-2gC02/person/km, trains at 40 and buses at 76 gC02/person/km.

“Establishing safe cycling and pleasant waking routes, particularly around schools and centres of employment, as in cities like York or Cambridge, would be a great step for Harrogate.”

Coun Mackenzie also said there was an overlap between Open Harrogate and the ongoing Harrogate congestion study, which includes controversial relief road options.

Although these are separate projects funded from different sources, he said project officers from both Open Harrogate and the congestion study would continue to work together to ensure a joined-up approach.

Would you consider alternative ways of getting to work each day? Post your thoughts on the Harrogate Advertiser Facebook page or email news@harrogateadvertiser.co.uk