RADICAL proposals to improve traffic flow in York include scrapping the Fishergate Gyratory, closing Micklegate Bar to outbound traffic, diverting cars away from Bishopthorpe Road - and giving a greater priority to pedestrians.

The proposals are being drawn up by retired university transport engineer Prof Tony May, who is a member of York Civic Trust's planning committee.

Some of his ideas have already been incorporated into traffic light improvements in York. And the city council has pledged that it will give others serious consideration.

Prof May should "look at everything... and come forward with options," said Ian Gillies, the city council's executive member for planning and transport. "Perhaps we won't agree with everything - but we should be open to all options."

Other proposals being developed by Prof May include adjusting traffic lights and junction layouts at Station Rise and Rougier Street/ Station Road to make it easier for visitors to walk into the city centre from the station; and making the Parliament Street/ Piccadilly junction more pedestrian friendly.

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Ultimately, Prof May plans to develop proposals for 15 junctions, mainly on the inner ring road. Here are some key ones...

Fishergate/ Tower Street

Scrap the Fishergate gyratory by making Fishergate between Blue Bridge and Paragon Street two-way, so traffic coming into York over Skeldergate Bridge can go straight down Fishergate without having to go round the gyratory. Allow traffic coming north up Fishergate to turn right into Piccadilly, without having to go round the 'loop' at the bottom of Tower Street. Add a new junction where cars come out of the St George's Field car park, to allow cars to turn right towards Fishergate; and a right turn from Tower Street onto Skeldergate Bridge.

York Press:

Aerial view of Cliford's Tower, Tower Street and the Fishergate gyratory

New pedestrian crossings, controlled by lights, at the St George's Field car park entrance and at the entrance of Piccadilly, to make it easier for pedestrians to cross the road. Fawcett Street to be one-way south-bound to Kent Street, but with the western side of the road reserved as a cycle lane.

The cumulative effect of all these proposals would be to greatly ease traffic flow by getting rid of two unnecessary loops, Prof May says. But pedestrian and cycle access would also be improved.

Bishopthorpe Road and Micklegate Bar

The aim of changes at the top of Bishopthorpe Road and at Micklegate Bar would be to encourage more outbound traffic to use Nunnery Lane to get to Blossom Street and Holgate Road, rather than diverting down Bishopthorpe Road and along Scarcroft Road, and also to reduce traffic on Micklegate itself.

There are something like 1,000 vehicles an hour passing down Bishopthorpe Road, Prof May says - and a good proportion wouldn't need to if more traffic could be persuaded to use Nunnery lane. Fewer cars and other vehicles would make the Bishopthorpe Road shops and cafés much more pleasant for people on foot.

His proposals would include redesigning the Nunnery Lane junction so it is obvious to traffic coming from Skeldergate Bridge that the inner ring road runs up Nunnery Lane.

This would not work, however, without making it easier for cars to get through the traffic lights at Blossom Street. The best way to achieve this would be to close Micklegate Bar to outbound traffic (apart from bicycles). Under this proposal, traffic coming out of York across Ouse Bridge would go along George Hudson Street and Rougier Street to Station Road. This would ease pressure at the busy Blossom Street lights, and allow them to be set so as to give more time to cars coming up Nunnery Lane to get out. It would also reduce traffic on Micklegate itself, as well as making the historic Bar more accessible. Outbound traffic has been banned from using Micklegate Bar while it has been undergoing restoration work, and Micklegate traders have already indicated they might like to see that ban become permanent.

A more radical alternative, Prof May says, would be to ban traffic both ways through the Bar. This proposal would effectively close Micklegate to most traffic - enabling traders to have more street cafés and events.

York Press:

Why not have a zebra crossing all the way across Bishopthorpe Road at the junction with Nunnery Lane?

Other suggestions for Bishopthorpe Road include a new pedestrian or zebra crossing at the top of the street near the Nunnery Lane junction, so pedestrians could easily cross onto the other side of Bishopthorpe Road there; and improvements to the traffic lights at the Scarcroft Road junction, so there was more time for pedestrians to cross when traffic from every direction was on red.

Station Rise

Ban traffic driving along Station Road past the station towards town from turning left into Station Rise. This would allow the traffic lights to be adjusted so pedestrians walking into the town from the station had much more time to cross Station Rise, reducing the time pedestrians had to wait there. The relatively small number of vehicles that wanted to turn left into Station Rise would have to turn left into Leeman Road a little later instead, or else do a quick loop through the tunnel under the city walls and back out so that they could go straight across to Station Rise.

Piccadilly/ Parliament Street

There is very little traffic using this junction (and many of the cars which do use it during the daytime shouldn't be there, Prof May points out), yet the signalling is so complicated and the number of railings so intrusive that between them they act as a barrier, deterring pedestrians who come down Parliament Street from continuing into Piccadilly.

York Press:

Not pedestrian-friendly: the Parliament Street/ Picadilly junction

Traffic signals should be adjusted so as to give half of all time to pedestrians, and to make clear that there are periods when all traffic is on red and pedestrians are able to cross more than one road at a time. Meanwhile, barriers should be removed and the whole junction raised on a ramp so that it feels like a pedestrian-priority area.


Motorists and cyclists are always ready to complain about the state of York's traffic-clogged streets. Pedestrians are less outspoken. But in many ways they're the poor neighbours when it comes to the way we allocate use of our roads.

Theoretically, York has a hierarchy of preferred road users - with pedestrians right at the top, and car users at the bottom.

That should mean that traffic lights and road crossings are set up so as to make it easy to walk around the city.

But there's a real mismatch between theory and reality, says Tony May, a retired professor of transport engineering who has 50 years of expertise in solving traffic problems.

Very often, the traffic lights at major junctions around York's inner ring road - at Rougier Street, say, or Blossom Street/ Nunnery Lane - are geared in favour of the car. The result? Pedestrians have to queue for the lights to change - then rush across the road before they change back again.

At complex junctions like that where Rougier Street meets Station Road, it can often take two or three changes of the lights to get across both Rougier Street and Station Road. Often, pedestrians get trapped on a traffic island half way across.

York Press:

Prof Tony May with the Station Rise crossing behind

The pedestrian crossing where Station Road crosses Station Rise is another good example.

At the moment, pedestrians walking along Station Road towards the city centre have to wait 40 seconds before they can cross. This is because cars turning left from Station Road into Station Rise are given the lion's share of the time - even though there are 10 times as many pedestrians using this crossing as there are cars turning into Station Rise.

It makes no sense, says Prof May - especially since this and the Rougier Street junction are the first things visitors walking into York from the station come across. "They're the first indication that people visiting York by train will have of York's attitude to pedestrians," he says. And it's not a good one...

There are many reasons why it makes sense to make York a better place to walk around. There's the well-rehearsed argument that the millions of visitors who come here each year want to enjoy the city on foot, for a start.

But it's not just about tourists. There is clear evidence that in urban areas where pedestrians are given greater priority, local people are happier - and businesses do better. "There's a much greater feeling of satisfaction, but also greater turnaround for businesses," says Prof May, who lives in York but was for many years director of the University of Leeds' Institute for Transport Studies and is now a member of the York Civic Trust planning committee.

Tweaking the way traffic lights operate at major junctions, especially on the inner ring road could go a long way to making things better for pedestrians and cyclists, Prof May believes - while also improving traffic flow.

His chance to help change things for the better came when, a couple of years ago, the city council was awarded government funding through the Traffic Systems Asset Renewals (TSAR) scheme for a £2.5 million rolling programme of traffic light upgrades across the city over six years.

Working with retired University of York traffic expert Prof Mike Smith and other members of the civic trust's planning committee, he has come up with a series of proposals for changing the way traffic flows.

York Press:

Micklegate Bar: close it permanently to outbound traffic?

These include closing Micklegate Bar permanently to outbound traffic (apart from bikes); encouraging more cars to use Nunnery Lane so as to reduce traffic in Bishopthorpe Road; and ending the Fishergate Gyratory by making Fishergate between Blue Bridge and Paragon Street two way.

Some of Prof May's proposals have already been incorporated into traffic light improvements made under the TSAR programme, says Tony Clarke, City of York Council's head of transport.

Others, such as the Micklegate Bar, Bishopthorpe Road and Fishergate proposals, will be considered in due course.

Ian Gillies, the city council's executive member for planning and transport, said the chance to take advantage of Prof May's expertise free of charge (Prof May is working pro bono) was too good to miss.

The council wasn't committing itself to adopting all the proposals, Cllr Gillies said. "But I'd say to Tony look at everything that you think is relevant and come forward with options. Perhaps we won't agree with everything - but we should be open to all options."

David Fraser, chief executive of the York Civic Trust, said he was delighted that a volunteer member of the Trust's planning committee was able to work with the council on improving traffic flow.

"Whenever we ask, transport and traffic always emerge as major concerns for the citizens of York," he said. "Our common objective is to make it easy for everybody to get around the city, starting with priority for pedestrians and cyclists but including car-drivers and all other road-users. These proposals will make a small but important difference at relatively low cost to the council tax payer."

The TSAR programme

Under the TSAR (Traffic Signal Asset Renewal) scheme funded with central government cash, the city council is carrying out a £2.5 million programme to refurbish more than 40 sets of traffic lights over six years.

In 2016/17 five pedestrian crossings (including on Hull Road, Nunnery Lane and Monkgate) were renewed, along with four junctions (including Micklegate/ Skeldergate and Micklegate/ George Hudson Street).

Improvements scheduled for 2017/18 include pedestrian crossings at Huntington Road, Coppergate and Clifton Green, as well as junctions at Rougier Street/ Tanner Row, Heworth Road/ Melrosegate and York Road/ Carr Lane.