A damning new survey of the effect of traffic congestion in Harrogate on drivers reveals the alarming scale of the problem and the weakness of the town's current 'green' alternatives to cars.
New research from North Yorkshire County Council’s Open Harrogate initiative has found more than half (58%) of the town’s commuters consider time as the main motivator when choosing how they get to work.
Despite this, and the fact that the average peak-time commute in Harrogate is just 2.6km, recent research by Inrix found residents and commuters spend an average of two days a year stuck in their cars.
The research found only one in ten used environmentally friendly methods such as cycling, walking or public transport to get to work (9%).
This is in spite of the wider health, time, environmental and cost benefits associated with cycling and walking.
Although some respondents travel in from far afield, more than half of Harrogate’s commuters live within five miles of their workplace (52%), which could take just half an hour to cycle, even at a light pace.
Just two per cent said they cycle to work and back, with the main reason for not doing so being concerns surrounding confidence and safety (77%).
The survey of residents and commuters was carried out as part of the Open Harrogate initiative, which encourages residents to opt for more sustainable transport to get to work, such as walking, cycling and car-sharing.
The County Council is encouraging residents to ditch their cars at least once a week and get walking, cycling and travelling by public transport.
County Coun Don Mackenzie, executive member for Highways and the County Council’s Cycling and Walking Champion, said: “People will be surprised at just how much time is wasted sitting in traffic queues. Aside from the obvious effects this will have on the environment, it can also impact hugely on commuters’ health and their pockets.
“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.
"This is why we launched the Open Harrogate initiative, to provide a mixture of cycle safety and training programmes, whilst promoting cycling opportunities in the region. By pulling together and making a small change, we are confident we can have a real impact on making Harrogate an even better place to live.”
Separately, work on the Harrogate congestion study is continuing, with further analysis of the effectiveness of various measures being undertaken in order to understand in greater detail their ability to reduce congestion in Harrogate and Knaresborough.
While there is an overlap between Open Harrogate and the Harrogate congestion study, these are separate projects funded from different sources and working to different timescales.
However, project officers from both Open Harrogate and the congestion study continue to work together to ensure a joined-up approach.
For details on the Open Harrogate initiative, visit www.roadwise.co.uk/accessfund/ and for more information on sustainable travel and local cycle routes, visit www.openharrogate.co.uk/.