Proposals to ban private cars from York city centre within three years by making public transport options so reliable that residents and visitors embrace them as a superior alternative sound laudable in principle but there are undoubted questions as to whether such a change can be delivered in practice.
Councillors have set out what they describe as an “unashamedly ambitious” goal to end all non-essential private car journeys within the city walls by 2023 as part of efforts to cut York’s illegally-high levels of air pollution and help meet the target of making the city carbon neutral by 2030.
It would also have the advantage of making the beautiful medieval city even more attractive to the millions of tourists it welcomes each year.
But a note of caution will be urged by those who remember the polarising impact of a six-month trial closure to traffic of York’s Lendal Bridge and Coppergate in late 2013 and 2014.
The council issued £1.3m in fines during that period but a traffic adjudicator ruled the roads did not qualify because bus lanes and signage were inadequate, while there were claims at the time that the closures had actually made congestion worse and damaged local businesses.
While the debate around climate change has moved on greatly in the years since then and there is widespread acceptance of the need for urgent action to tackle air pollution issues in cities such as York - with places like Leeds, Sheffield and Doncaster also badly affected by the problem - the lessons from that experience must be learnt. The path to providing York with a carbon neutral future will not be a simple one.