In December 2021 we submitted a report to the Councillors in Fishergate, Micklegate and Fulford wards about the current situation for users on this route with particular focus on inconsistency and signage. This is a summary of that report.
The riverside route from Skeldergate Bridge via New Walk to Millennium Bridge and Love Lane is widely loved and enjoyed by residents and visitors alike, but the peace of a stroll and the safety of a commute away from cars on main roads are threatened by the mess that is the inconsistency of the shared and segregated space regimes, and the signage that creates confusion even for regular users.
Over short distances the regime changes from expecting cyclists to be segregated from other users to everyone sharing the same space. There are also white cycle and pedestrian signs on the ground indicating segregation in stretches that are designated to be shared, as indicated by blue and white signs on poles. On some stretches the raised white ‘tap’ line presents a hazard to cyclists.
People join the route at nearly 20 different access points and it is inevitable that they will make assumptions about the whole of their route based on the regime at entry, which means that people joining at different points will have different assumptions regarding the same part of the route. For example, people joining New Walk from Holly Terrace, Alma Terrace and Hartoft Street see white painted pedestrian and cyclist symbols on the ground and may assume this indicates segregation, which is not the regime intended.
The paths at the eastern end of Millennium Bridge are particularly confusing as there are white segregating lines on the ground in shared spaces and also a short, segregated space approaching Hospital Fields Road and the start of New Walk proper.
Expecting users to change their behaviour so frequently over such short distances is ludicrous. More significantly for cyclists, pedestrians, wheelchair users, people with impaired hearing, frail elderly people, toddlers, babies in buggies, runners, dog walkers, and e-scooter users, it is dangerous and creates unnecessary risks for all, as well as for the Council, and there should be a consistent regime without frequent changes over short distances.
The situation has been exacerbated by the introduction of e-scooters. Many riders of e-scooters travel at high speeds and are reluctant to slow down. This may be because they are not very skilled or experienced, or simply because they enjoy the thrill of weaving in and out of pedestrians. Moreover, the signage does not address e-scooters and it is possible that riders do not know which rules apply to them.
When the segregation was removed from New Walk it was intended to address excessive speeds by cyclists and to make pedestrians and other users more aware of cyclists. The failure to have a consistent regime, along with inadequate and confused signage, means these aims have not been achieved. With the health benefits of walking, running and cycling widely recognised, particularly in reducing stress and maintaining mental health, Skeldergate Bridge to Love Lane and over Millennium Bridge to Butcher Terrace should be an important amenity for these purposes.
During the Covid restrictions, Millennium Bridge had temporary ‘Keep Left’ signs, which were also used in other parts of the city. This worked well and we suggest ‘Keep Left’ signs should be re-introduced at least for Millennium Bridge. The blue/white signage is too small, and mostly too high so not in the line of sight of users. Furthermore, most people will not notice the difference between a sign indicating shared space and one indicating segregation; these signs alone are not sufficient as a means of informing people how to use the path.
Government guidance on shared spaces for cyclists and pedestrians is clear: “In urban areas, the conversion of a footway to shared use should be regarded as a last resort. Shared use facilities are generally not favoured by either pedestrians or cyclists, particularly when flows are high. It can create particular difficulties for visually impaired people. Actual conflict may be rare, but the interactions between people moving at different speeds can be perceived to be unsafe and inaccessible, particularly by vulnerable pedestrians. This adversely affects the comfort of both types of user, as well as directness for the cyclist.”
We are asking that:
- there is a consistent regime for all of the route;
- the signage and paintwork on the ground is altered to ensure consistency and follows best practice and government guidance;
- user counts are carried out at various locations along the route on busy days, in order to understand how many people are using it and how best to interpret the government guidance;
- ‘Keep Left’ signs should be re-introduced at least for Millennium Bridge.
This all needs to be sorted out comprehensively, consistently and quickly to keep users safe and secure, and to provide space that contributes to the health of York citizens and visitors rather than detracting from it.