‘Close York to cars’ say urban planners

YORK will have to consider closing cross-city traffic routes to everyone except cycles and buses if its wants to reduce congestion, according to influential urban planners.

Vehicles continued to cross Lendal Bridge when it was closed to traffic earlier this year

Transport experts in Danish capital Copenhagen say only radical solutions will solve the Yorkshire city’s traffic problems and that routes such as Lendal Bridge will have to be closed to cars.

Mikael Colville-Andersen, chief executive of Copenhagenize, an urban design company in Denmark says closing routes such as Lendal Bridge is the best solution to York’s congestion problems.

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He told BBC Radio York the ideal way to solve York’s congestion is to close the bridge, and other internal routes, to all traffic except bikes and buses, forcing people to travel around the outside of the city.

He has suggested dividing York into four “pieces of cake” – something that has happened in the Dutch city of Groningen - with vehicle movements between the segments restricted.

He said: “If you’re in a car, you have to go out to the edge of the cake, and go around the ring road to get into the next piece of the cake. That’s what they did, and they did it overnight, and it transformed that city.”

A controversial closure of Lendal Bridge has already been trialled but was dropped and fines are now being repaid.

Urban planners in Denmark are also suggesting that “intelligent” traffic lights may also help York. This system involves placing sensors on hundreds of cars, buses and cycles to allow traffic flows to be monitored. Traffic lights can be changed to improve the flow.

Niels Torslov, who is in charge of planning traffic in Copenhagen, said it was possible to reduce travel times for all vehicles using such a system.

“We are convinced we can reduce travel times significantly for buses, bikes and cars,” he says.

“And we can also reduce the number of stops there are for cars, which means we can reduce the air pollution...It is like running a schedule on the trains or the buses or on flights. We are doing the same thing now on the roads.”

The experience of European planners will help inform the debate about York’s future, according to councillors in York.

Councillor David Levene, cabinet member for transport, said European examples and “bold ideas” would be discussed when the city’s ‘congestion commission’ meets.

“Examples from Copenhagen, Groningen and elsewhere in Europe are really interesting and will help to inform the debate of the Congestion Commission when it gets underway.

“We will not pre-empt the recommendations the Commission will come up with, but we welcome the debate as we recognise that effectively tackling congestion here in York will require bold ideas and winning the hearts and minds of residents if they are to succeed.”

* BBC Radio York has a series of reports on York traffic congestion, starting this morning, and running all week until Friday.