Cinder Track : Email to NYC / Sustrans

Whitby : Cycling

The recent heavy rain, followed by a trip along the Cinder Track by bike, resulted in us sending the following email on 8th Aug 2023 asking NYC to divulge their maintenance plan for this track.

To: Cllr Keane Duncan (NYC Exec Cllr for Transportation and Highways),
Cinder Track Officer (NYC),
Sustrans Network Development Manager (Yorkshire)
As you all are aware, the Cinder Track is the only cycle infrastructure in the Whitby area, with the order of £300k spent on the surface in 2020 for the Whitby to Hawsker section, though it remains solely a leisure route due to lack of access points. The surface onwards from Hawsker to Robin Hoods Bay had some pot holes, but was easily navigable, but then from Robin Hoods Bay to Ravenscar the surface deteriorated significantly, with huge potholes, and significant areas effectively no better than a quarry. Reminder, that this is designated NCN1, a national route!
The recent heavy rainfall has highlighted how poorly prepared the existing surface is for any inclement weather. Summary of findings from a ride Whitby – Ravenscar on 8th Aug 2023.
  1. Complete lack of vegetation management between Larpool and Hawsker, resulting in the usable track being just a bike width, which negates the £300k spent on the surface. This happens every year.
  2. South side of A171 at Hawsker going up the hill towards Bottoms Lane the surface has been completely washed out, now with gouges, exposed rocks and ruts to a depth of a foot in places. The section is narrow as it is but when there is little usable surface it is simply dangerous.
  3. Where the track starts to descend in to Robin Hoods Bay, the surface has also been badly washed out in many places, very hard to navigate the track now, badly rutted over a long distance.
  4. The section at Brow Side (RHBay to Ravenscar) is an utter quarry, with significant amounts of gravel having been washed out of the surface.
  5. On the final ascent to Ravenscar, there is tape across the track where the steep bank kicks up and a large area of track has collapsed with electrical cabling revealed. No signage has been provided on the track before / after this, so what people are expected to do here is unknown.
Apologies, no photos, too busy trying to stay upright on the track!
Can North Yorkshire Council please define what is their maintenance plan for the track between Hawsker and Ravenscar, in terms of short term (to address these recent wash outs) and longer term (to address the inherent failings of the lack of an adequate surface)? The current areas that are unsafe need signage informing the public of this; it is utterly unacceptable to just leave it as is.
Should there be no remedy to the short term problems then Sustrans really should seriously consider declassifying significant sections of this track, both for public safety, but also because it simply does not meet any standard that we should aspire to.
As the area partner for Cycling UK in the Cycling Advocacy Network, we can only say that this track is doing very little to encourage cycling in this area, and no matter how much we would like to recommend it, both to locals and visitors, there are significant failings holding it back.
Whitby Community Network

We have had a reply from NYC stating “the Countryside Access Service department looks after public rights of way, yet the CinderTrack is not a public right of way […] and transitional arrangements resulting from the Local Government reorganisation have yet to determine which team will look after the route in the long term“.

So we await the return from holiday of the Assistant Director of “Integrated Passenger Transport, Fleet, Licensing, Harbours and Countryside Access” to hopefully shed some light on the situation.

We followed up our original email, with this email on 29th Aug 2023

Good morning,
we are now 3 weeks on from the report of serious problems on the Cinder Track between Hawsker and Ravenscar.
Some points that need making
  1. Thanks to NYC Parks department for finally cutting vegetation between Larpool and Hawsker; track width is better now, not that some of the “new” surface doesn’t have vegetation growing through it after just 2 yrs from laying. We do hope that this will be part of regular maintenance because it had been overgrown since June, and to achieve NYC stated carbon targets with modal shift and 900% increase in cycling such encroachment into the path will only deter cycling uptake not increase it.
  2. We have had multiple reports of people falling off their bikes on the sections reported, as well as reports of people turning back due to the standard of the surface in places, particularly around Hawsker (a photo is attached of one part of washed out surface). There is one sign at the main road at Hawsker (attached photo), but it had fallen off and also simply says go slow, when in reality going slow on a bike through deep gravel will not alleviate the danger (going slow over the subsequent ruts would make sense). No idea if there are equivalent signs at the other areas with washed out surface, since we don’t consider it rideable to go and check.
  3. Regarding the problem at Stoupe Brow, it was barriered off with online diversion info provided within a couple of hours of my original email. Since then we understand that Northern Powergrid have given a safety go-ahead for works to be performed, but that nothing has actually happened to fix the collapse, and there are worrying reports of some people ignoring the barriers.
  4. We find it concerning that 5 months on from becoming a unitary authority, NYC still have not decided which department will preside over this facility long term.
We look forward to the maintenance/development plan (short term, and long term) for the Whitby-Ravenscar section of this path to see whether NYC will be intent on providing something that truly benefits the public and is indeed worthy of promoting cycling. We just hope it doesn’t follow the pattern for much infrastructure in the Whitby area during the last several decades, left to decay, whilst continuing to blindly promote the area to tourists.
Whitby Community Network

On 1st September 2023 we had a reply from NYC Assistant Director for Countryside Access, as follows

Thank you for your email regarding the Cinder Track and the specific issues you raise with regards to the track surface between Hawsker and Ravenscar.

Firstly, with regards to the poor surface, this is an issue on a number of rural sections of the track.  As you’ll be aware, we have been very successful in securing external funding for track improvements over recent years, including improvements to the Whitby – Hawsker and Scarborough – Scalby sections, and we will continue to seek additional funds wherever possible to deliver improvements.  Along these lines, you may also be aware that we are currently developing plans for the next phase of track restoration between Burniston and Cloughton which will see a new track surface and increased track width together with improved access points.

With specific reference to the sections of the track mentioned in your email I am pleased to report that our contractors have just completed the emergency repair works to the Stoupe Brow section of track and this will be re-opened in the next few days.  In addition, we will be undertaking further improvement works to the track surface between Ravenscar and Robin Hoods Bay over the coming weeks.

Finally, in response to your concern regarding the future responsibility for the track, I am sure that you will appreciate that the work associated with developing new service structures for the Council will take some time and is a complex process.  That said, I can assure you that North Yorkshire Council recognises the importance of the Cinder Track and will continue to seek opportunities to deliver improvements wherever possible.

Kind regards

NYC Assistant Director for Integrated Passenger Transport, Licensing, Fleet, Harbours and Countryside Access

This reply seemingly omitted to mention any work to fix the problems between Hawsker and Robin Hoods Bay. So we pursued it with the following email

Thanks for your time and your reply, much appreciated.
We welcome the works at Stoupe Brow (and from the photo of that section it looks much better), and similarly the planned work between Robin Hoods Bay and Ravenscar.
Unfortunately you have omitted to mention the problems most local to us, between Hawsker and Robin Hoods Bay, where the surface is completely washed out and frankly dangerous. As said, we have several reports of people, particularly children, falling off bikes on these sections. Further to that we have reports from a holiday business that specifically caters for less able-bodied people near Hawsker, and their clients have not been able to use the track heading south (in the direction of Robin Hoods Bay) since it is now totally unsuitable for wheelchairs and other mobility devices; we will be visiting this business during the coming week, to see first hand how it affects them (since we are motivated to promote cycling here, and currently don’t have the infrastructure to perform that task). We are now four weeks on from the deterioration of the surface, can you please tell us when the Hawsker to Robin Hoods Bay section will be made safe to ride for everybody, including children and less able-bodied people?
Side note : Whilst I’m sure residents around the Scarborough area are delighted with the £700k that Sustrans are putting in for the much needed improvements Cloughton to Burniston, and we really do welcome any investment, that section has no bearing whatsoever on being able to promote cycling in the Whitby area which was the focus of our email. Given that cycle investment in North Yorks (and Whitby in particular) is very low, I can understand your desire to “enhance the positive” but remaining on the issue at hand would be more appreciated in our area; I had to make a similar point to Sustrans a couple of years ago when I was volunteering for them and asked about their plans for providing anything local to Whitby to help promote cycling here, and they replied that they were working on the Scarborough LCWIP!!!
Whitby Community Network
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