North Yorkshire County Council meeting on active travel schemes told cyclists are 'putting themselves at risk due to traffic volume'

North Yorkshire County Council, which has faced criticism for focusing efforts to increase walking and cycling on some of its larger urban areas, has underlined its determination to introduce further initiatives.

An active travel scheme

Executive member for access Coun Don Mackenzie said numerous active travel schemes were needed in built-up areas across the county to make a significant impact on issues such as congestion.

Coun Mackenzie was speaking after the authority’s transport scrutiny committee heard a senior officer confirm despite the government committing £2bn to active travel schemes, further funding sources would be needed to make in-roads into hundreds of proposals put forward by the public, interest groups and county councillors last year.

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The council has faced criticism from opposition councillors after its Tory leadership agreed the second tranche of Active Travel Fund schemes would see the Harrogate area concentrated upon, with £500,000 of schemes there and just £250,000 elsewhere in the county.

The council’s bid for £1.5m from the government fund this year would also see the lion’s share of the funding focused on urban areas of the county.

It includes a scheme to improve a 3km stretch of canal towpath on North Yorkshire’s border with Bradford at Silsden and another to cut speeds and encourage active travel in the Clotherholme Road area of Ripon.

A council report on the latter proposal states: “This scheme would have benefits for a number of schools in the area and also provide access to the town centre from residential areas and any future developments in the area.”

Outside of Craven and Harrogate district the sole proposal is for a £50,000 feasibility study for a segregated footpth and cycleway between Helmsley and Kirkbymoorside.

Seamer and Derwent division councillor David Jeffels told the meeting while it was commendable that the council was pushing forward a few schemes, demand to enable active travel across the county for outstripped the available funding.

He said: “We are seeing a very big increase in the number of cyclists on the road and you can’t help but think they are probably putting themselves at risk due to the volume of traffic.”

Officers agreed the active schemes being launched across the county was a “tiny” proportion of what the public were wanting.

The meeting heard the council was examining how to increase funding for active travel from a number of sources, but was already working with developers to improve active travel routes on housing estates as well as to fund off-site infrastructure.

Coun Mackenzie said many of the 300 proposals put forward last year had initially been ruled out due to government criteria such as the speed they could be introduced, and others due to the large cost, but others would be considered as further funding became available.

However, when asked if rural areas could expect to see a share of the schemes. he added any project put forward by the council would need to be of benefit to a relatively high number of residents to represent good value for money and meet the government’s criteria, which include tackling areas with poor health outcomes.