COUNCIL officers warned that a new cycle lane in York might cause congestion for motorists – but claimed the benefits to cyclists meant it was worth it.

Drivers have blasted City of York Council over its decision to remove a filter lane near the Clifton Green traffic lights to create a cycle lane, which some claim is adding up to 30 minutes on a journey.

But The Press can reveal councillors were warned last October of the potential damage to the authority’s image and reputation because of the traffic congestion it might cause.

Senior engineer Jon Pickles said in a report to a city strategy meeting that the proposals might be unpopular with many people, particularly motorists.

“In becoming a Cycling City, the council has committed to promoting cycling that will in some instances need to take priority over motor traffic,” he said. “Cyclists are higher up the user hierarchy than motorists.

“This is not to say that the needs of motorists should be ignored over cyclists’ needs,” he said. “However, after analysing the situation at the Clifton Green signals, officers consider that the benefits this part of the route will provide for cyclists is worthy of the disadvantages that motorists may face from increased congestion.”

He also warned there was also a risk of incurring higher than expected construction costs. The Press reported last month how the costs had risen by almost 70 per cent to more than £500,000.

Coun Steve Galloway, executive member for city strategy, said today it was correct that officers warned – when recommending that the project should be implemented – that it could mean additional congestion if drivers did not adapt to the new priority system for cyclists.

“All highway improvements are reviewed for effectiveness after they have had a period of time to settle down,” he said.

He said that at peak times, the junction was “over capacity”.

“When considering the project in the autumn, we still had hopes of gaining financial approval for our Access York Phase 2 proposals, which would have seen £42 million invested in reducing congestion on the northern bypass.

“This would have made the Clifton Moor alternative a more attractive route for some drivers who may be currently using the Clifton Green area as a short-cut. The Access 2 bid was not approved by the Regional Transport Board although it is on a reserve list of schemes.”

He defended the higher than expected costs of the scheme, saying “knowing decisions” had been taken to do additional work, such as replacing street lights, while contractors were in the area and roads closed, and this had saved money in the long run.

Ex-cycling champion blasted

GREEN Party leader Andy D’Agorne today accused York’s former Cycling Champion Joe Watt of undermining cyclists’ position.

We revealed yesterday how Coun Joe Watt had quit the post, which he took up last May. He said he resigned because he had only ever intended to do the job for one year.

Coun D’Agorne, leader of the Green group on City of York Council, said: “Coun Watt started off by calling for police action against the naked bike ride.

“He moved on to calling for police action against cyclists riding on pavements and without lights.”

Coun D’Agorne said that, while he did not condone such actions by cyclists, Coun Watt’s calls had not been about trying to provide better facilities for them.

“It’s more of a public relations role and, sadly, Joe Watt has completely undermined that by most of his public statements being something that a lot of cyclists wouldn’t see as a top priority.”

But Coun Watt said: “What I believed in firmly during my time in office was encouraging responsible cycling, and I feel that if we want to promote the cause of cycling in York then the cycling body has got to be seen as a responsible body.

“So that is why I pursued things like cyclists having lights and not cycling on the pavements.”

On the naked cycle ride, he said: “I feel those who participated in it had little to do with promoting safe cycling on two counts. What struck me was half of them seemed to be naturists who were taking the opportunity to cycle naked through York and the other half were just anti-car.”