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Views on Lendal Bridge closure trial
A month after the start of a traffic trial which has seen Lendal Bridge closed to cars for much of the day, political reporter Mark Stead asked key figures how they believe the controversial scheme has worked so far.
“While the trial is still in its early stages, initial signs are positive. We appreciate such a major decision is never going to be universally popular, but traffic flows around the city show the forecasts of gridlock were unfounded. We have adjusted traffic signals to ensure traffic is able to flow better where there was evidence of longer queuing times.
“While there were some initial negative remarks, anecdotal evidence from members of the public, bus companies and some taxi drivers has, on the whole, been positive. One message we are hearing is how much quieter and more pleasant the environment is around the bridge and in Museum Street.
“We will assess the full impact of the trial over the six months to see if it is something we want to consider making permanent. Obviously that will depend on the success or otherwise of the trial, but so far, so good.”
Coun Merrett said councillors from other parties had given their support for the trial, saying this was “reassuring” and recognised “the benefits to the city”.
Gillian Cruddas, Visit York chief executive:
“We are pleased improvements to the city centre are being considered, and this trial is about creating a better environment for all. Getting into and moving people around a heritage city like York will always be challenging and we need to achieve the right balance between having a pleasant city-centre for pedestrians and not creating barriers to access.
“Further work may need to be done to improve signage and we hope it can be made clearer what the alternative routes are. We have had some comments from visitors who found it more difficult to travel to their accommodation on a longer route. We’ve had a mixed response from York businesses, some saying they welcome the changes and others saying their business has been affected.
“We are concerned about visitors arriving home from an enjoyable stay in York to find they have been fined. If there is the option to give a friendly warning rather than a fine, first time, that would be welcomed. We hope some of the current issues can be resolved and look forward to hearing the results of the trial in full.”
Susie Cawood, head of York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce:
“Unfortunately, the temporary closure is still a big talking-point amongst the business community for all the wrong reasons. We are hearing it is putting unnecessary pressure on businesses at a time when the council should be supporting them.
“We live and work in an historic city with an already challenging transport infrastructure. and often businesses have no choice but to use motor vehicles. The ring road is not fit for purpose and the public transport system is not currently a viable alternative.
“We continue to be told this closure is causing extra congestion elsewhere in the city, which can only be compounded as traffic increases once the weather deteriorates. The reasons for implementing this closure - more attractive public transport and a pedestrian-friendly city centre - do not seem to be succeeding as too many vehicles appear exempt. The other main complaint is that signage remains unclear, particularly for people not local to York who are unaware of it.
“York is not a cellophane-wrapped chocolate-box city, it is a beautiful and vibrant European city with an increasingly thriving economy, but it is imperative it is allowed to prosper and grow and its economic development is not hindered by unrealistic restrictions driven by political motive.”
Coun Andy D’Agorne, leader of City of York Council’s Green group:
“The combination of Lendal Bridge changes and Coppergate camera enforcement has certainly seen a reduction in overall daytime traffic levels and improved the general attractiveness of our city centre for visitors, residents and businesses.
“Businesses in the area have had to advise their customers and suppliers on alternative routes or times, but have seen a dramatic improvement in background noise and pollution around their premises. Crossing the road to see the view or reach businesses is no longer the barrier it used to be, no doubt benefiting cafés in the area.
“I will be interested to see air pollution data for Bootham, Gillygate and beyond. If this is materially different, it will be a key factor to consider in judging the trial. Inevitably, some unfortunate drivers will fail to read the signs or choose to ignore them, but overall it appears to be a success – it is certainly a dream to cycle over compared to how it used to be, without the stationary queues and with plenty of space to dodge any pedestrians stepping out into the road without looking.”
Philip Thake, York Conservation Trust chief executive:
“By looking at traffic on Lendal Bridge and St Leonard’s Place, it would be easy to say this scheme has been a success. What some do not see are some of the traffic jams in other parts of the city.
“Many of our tenants have complained to me due to the disruption to their businesses, not only the increased mileage for deliveries, but the extra time, labour cost and petrol consumption due to the endless queues encountered in going from one side of the city to the other. In a newly-built city, there would be no debate, but York is unique and has, naturally, a very poor road system which has evolved over centuries.
“Will all those visitors caught on camera because they are lost or simply following their sat navs ever return to York? I think not. Does that mean they will endeavour to deter their family and friends from visiting our city?
“I am interested to know how success is to be measured. Will it simply be the improvement in air quality in Museum Street and St. Leonard’s Place without consideration of the effect on other areas, or will the views of businesses and residents be taken into account?
"The citizens of York should be told exactly how and at what costs the success or not of this closure is to be gauged and calculated, otherwise they may feel the decision has already been taken without full consultation. If it is to be made permanent, the decision should not be taken lightly, because there will probably be no going back once it has been made.”
Shaun Collinge, landlord at The Maltings pub next to Lendal Bridge:
“The trial hasn’t meant any significant difference to our trade, so we haven’t been affected from a business point of view.
“From a personal point of view, I’m flabbergasted by it and wonder why it has really been done. If somebody had told me there were structural problems with the bridge, for example, I would have fully understood it, but nobody has ever told me what the reasons really are. People talk about improving air quality, but if that’s the case, why send more traffic into the Leeman Road area which is already heavily polluted?
"People still drive over the bridge during the closure times, and one thing I’ve noticed occasionally is when drivers are at the traffic lights and looking to turn left onto the bridge, other drivers have been gesturing at them not to do it. I wonder whether that means the signs for the closure are adequate.”
Ben Gilligan, managing director for bus operator First in York:
“We are happy to continue to support City of York Council on the Lendal Bridge trial closure.
“In the first month, we have seen a positive impact in terms of punctuality and reliability for our buses, and we are looking to improve this further in the coming months.”
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