Whilst Whitby and District has hundreds of miles of some of the best walking in the country on its doorstep and has many active walking groups, it has very low utilisation of bicycles as a form of transport. Whilst its geography doesn’t help, that is not really the barrier preventing its uptake. The town is sorely lacking in safe cycling infrastructure, having a single (leisure) cycle track with poor access. This is not going to overcome the reticence of residents to make use of bikes as an alternative to the car. Children have bike training when at school but subsequently have nowhere safe to make use of it. Traffic congestion during peak periods is not going to improve any time soon without a shift in attitudes and in modes of transport. Moving to electric cars will not solve the problem, not being quite as green as purported (electric comes from somewhere and the UK does not have generating capacity for this, battery components come from somewhere, and so on), and still occupying the same space on the road, with private car ownership having been determined as unsustainable by the UK Government.
The York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership have stated that for the region to get to carbon negative, cycling will have to increase 900% and car usage decrease by 48% by 2030. We have to get an amount of the public to use active travel and public transport for local journeys, and only use the car for longer trips, and this will require significant investment in cycle infrastructure.
The UK Government Active Lives Survey 2019-2020 showed, of all of the borough councils within North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) area, Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) has the lowest proportion of adults cycling once per week.
|North Yorkshire Borough|
%age of adults cycling
It would be desirable to drill down to particular towns within the Scarborough borough to identify whether the problem is specific to certain towns. While there are no town-centric statistics in that survey, we can look at the amount of cycle infrastructure within the two largest towns in that borough.
|kms of cycle path||Scarborough||Whitby|
|Dedicated Cycle Path||0.0||0.0|
|On-Road Cycle Lane||7.4||0.0|
|Shared Path (CinderTrack)||3.4 (10)||2.5 (1)|
|Shared Path (Non-CinderTrack)||6.0||0.0|
These numbers above for Scarborough urban area were obtained from a FOI request of NYCC in March 2022, whilst the numbers for Whitby urban area we generated ourselves from knowledge of our town. The numbers in brackets for the CinderTrack are the number of safe-cycling access-points; namely that Whitby has just 1 in the urban area, and that being a steep ramp in a relatively inaccessible part of town! The Larpool Lane link to the CinderTrack in Whitby is not included here due to it being a dangerous road and not meeting the remit of “safe cycling”. Bear in mind also that the CinderTrack in Scarborough is now on to its second surface having had a surface for many years, whereas the Whitby end only recently finally gained a surface. It is clear that Whitby (urban area) has a far lower quantity (kms) of cycle path than Scarborough (urban area); it would be reasonable to conclude that the proportion of adults cycling at least once per week in Whitby is noticeably lower than in Scarborough, and that the cycling numbers for Whitby are amongst the lowest of any town in the new North Yorkshire Council (NYC) area. We also have to draw a distinction here between someone using a bike as a leisure activity (once a week, say), and using it as a form of transport; the figures suggest that very few, if any, are in the latter category.
In terms of walking, the numbers for Scarborough borough from the same survey are more respectable relative to other boroughs in the council area, though still leaving plenty of room for improvement. As said, the borough has some of the best walks around, so infrastructure is seemingly not the limiting factor, maybe the lack of prioritisation for pedestrians is a factor in that with a lack of road crossing infrastructure in particular.
|North Yorkshire Borough|
%age of adults walking
There are ample surveys that say that the public perception of roads is that they are simply too dangerous for cycling, see the Dept for Transport stats 2011-2020 showing 66% consider it too dangerous to cycle on roads, see also the recent IPSOS survey in the references showing that 71% support measures to make it easier to walk and cycle more (more people cycling means more people leaving the car at home, hence more space on the road for people using a car … everyone should be in favour if we lived in a logical world). There are significantly more vehicles on the road today (40+million) than in 1990 (23million) and in 1970 (13million), and those vehicles are generally larger and have faster acceleration, so consequently more dangerous for cyclists (and pedestrians). To address the perception of lack of safety on the roads, it is essential that quality safe-cycling facilities are provided, by way of cycle infrastructure to UK Gov LTN 1/20. With particular reference to the lack of cycling highlighted in Whitby, as shown from the FOI, there is little to no infrastructure currently available to overcome the lack of safety for cycling on roads. Consequently, cycle infrastructure should be provided in the Whitby urban area with some urgency, otherwise it will continue to impact on the figures for the Scarborough borough as well as the overall NYCC area, not to mention on the physical and mental well-being of local residents.
If we look at what cycle infrastructure is advised for the speed of a road (the figure below, directly from LTN 1/20), for an urban road at 30mph, we cannot simply place cyclists in with general traffic since, as mentioned earlier, the majority of people do not feel safe. Consequently, if we cannot provide cycle infrastructure, due to cost issues, or due to lack of road space, then we need to drop the speed limit to 20mph. This aligns with the 20sPlenty campaign for residential and central areas. This factor effectively guides our strategy. We should aim to have bicycle paths to connect between areas, and have 20mph within areas to provide a level of safety so that a modal shift in transport choice could take place. This strategy also provides the most cost effective way of reaching this point, since providing cycling segregation through residential areas (even if it was possible) would be significantly more expensive than imposing a simple 20mph limit.
All drivers of motor vehicles should be fully in favour of separate cycle infrastructure :-
- A person on a bicycle using a cycle lane means that bicycle is not in front of them on the road causing them to be delayed.
- A person opting to use a bicycle rather than a vehicle means one fewer vehicle in front of them on the road, and one less vehicle competing for a car parking space.
- It also means less pollution and less noise.
Where are the downsides?
Existing Cycle Infrastructure
The sole path in Whitby and District is the CinderTrack (shared path), with new surface in 2020 covering just over 3 miles stretching out to Stainsacre and Hawsker (omitting Broomfields Farm to Stainsacre, which is the original surface). The track then has a tolerable surface from Hawsker to Robin Hoods Bay, with badly deteriorated surface thereafter (there are often vehicles driving along the track on these sections and little effort by SBC to prevent access, with the subsequent deterioration in the surface quality a natural consequence). This track is a leisure route only currently and, of the cyclists, most seem to be visitors to the area. Little to no verge cutting is performed by SBC, particularly beyond Broomfield Farm area, meaning the track effectiveness is diminished. Use of the CinderTrack as a commuter route would involve providing much improved access in the urban area, and better maintenance, and even then would only benefit a small proportion of residents journeys. Access to the urban part of this track is via a steep ramp off Stakesby Vale (sole entry point for cyclists / disabled), as well as a series of steep steps on to the railway cutting for (very) able-bodied pedestrians. There is a road access off Larpool Lane, but this road is too narrow for 2 cars, and certainly not meeting any criteria of “safe cycling”; this entrance does have parking for maybe 5 or 6 cars. Considering the locations of residential areas in Whitby and the (aging) demographics of the population, we conclude that the current access excludes a large proportion of the Whitby population. The new surface has attracted higher visitor numbers (than the previous mud), but the track is nowhere near achieving its potential for residents, being primarily used by the able-bodied, and in particular dog walkers, with far fewer cyclists or disabled due to the single entry point.
Overall, whilst the SBC CinderTrack upgrades in 2020 provided an all-weather surface to the first 3 miles of this track, no efforts were made to fix the long standing access problems, rendering the improvements ineffective at making a step change in cycling in the Whitby area. Indeed, fixing the access problems for the CinderTrack would not be enough to create any “modal shift” to cycling as a form of transport simply because the route does not pass close to enough residential, work, leisure or retail; other routes are needed.
An essential part of being able to get out and about on your bike is being able to store it (safely) close to your destination, be it work, leisure, retail, or other. The map above shows all known locations of (public) bike parking in the Whitby and District area. These are primarily at edge of town retail locations. Notable absences with no parking are Whitby Abbey, Whitby Pavilion, and the Co-op (the only large supermarket with no cycle parking) as well as there being very little in town centre itself. Regarding being able to promote a “modal shift” in transport habits, supermarkets seem to be capable of catering for an amount of cycle customers (which could be expanded when the existing is fully utilised), but there is clearly inadequate cycle storage in the centre area.
Cycle Repair Stations
Regarding bicycle repair stations that are very useful to pump up tyres etc, the only ones in the Whitby and District area are Ruswarp (MiniMonsterz), Sandsend (Raithwaite), Robin Hoods Bay (Victoria Hotel) and Ravenscar (Raven Hall Hotel). All of these provided by “Yorkshire Coast BID” (a private organisation that SBC undemocratically entered into an agreement with, lumbering businesses with additional costs) in utterly peculiar locations, rather than putting them in easily accessible public locations alongside bike parking for example. Again, nothing at all in the Whitby area.
Looking at the commerce around some activity is very telling in terms of its utilisation, so we should look at the number of bike shops to see if it bears out our assumptions above about utilisation. Whitby has precisely 0 bike shops, Scarborough (21miles) has 3, Pickering (21miles) has 1, Guisborough (21miles) has 1, and Redcar (28miles) has 3. No infrastructure results in little cycling, little cycling results in little commerce around cycling. It also highlights that, for the minority who do cycle in Whitby, you will have to travel 20+ miles to get your bike services, or have to become proficient in the majority of maintenance tasks.
Cycle Infrastructure Plans
Local Cycling Walking Infrastructure Plan
A Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) provides a definition of required cycling and walking paths to meet the needs of the residents of an area, to get between residential, leisure, retail and work locations for example. This is seen as a pre-requisite by ActiveTravel England for obtaining any funding for cycling infrastructure schemes, providing a series of bid-ready proposals that can be submitted for funding. Whitby doesn’t have such a plan.
The following towns in North Yorkshire have LCWIPs (with the population in parentheses), all funded by NYCC (largest town in each of the 7 boroughs), with the exception of Ripon which was funded by S106 monies :- Harrogate (75k), Scarborough (52k), Selby (25k), Northallerton (18k), Ripon(16k), Catterick Garrison (15k), Knaresborough (15k), Skipton (14k), Malton (12k), Richmond (8k), Sherburn-in-Elmet (6k), Tadcaster (6k).
So we have Whitby (13k), and Thirsk (10k) that have been excluded from this process, whilst noticeably smaller places have been covered.
An LCWIP is claimed to require the order of £50-80k to develop (if one would cost that for a town the size of Harrogate, why would Whitby cost the same?), NYCC decided it is not feasible to develop one for towns like Whitby, and SBC haven’t seen sense to require development of the Broomfields estate (HA18) to provide sufficient S106 monies to provide one for Whitby. In practice this absence of an LCWIP means that no funding for Whitby cycling infrastructure schemes will be bid for by NYCC until such a document exists and they will instead concentrate on the areas they consider “more important”. So much for their 900% increase in cycling here then.
What would make sense would be to provide an LCWIP for all towns with a population of, say, 10000 or more, meaning only Whitby and Thirsk would need one developing, and then be in tune with Sustrans strategy of linking all populations of 10000 or more.
This story was picked up by the Whitby Gazette on 30/08/2022, and has had feedback from readers, including this reply from a local GP highlighting the health benefits to be had, the inadequacies that we have to face currently, and the need to provide infrastructure. Putting this in the context of the UK Government trialling active travel “by prescription” from GPs in certain areas, without cycle infrastructure such a scheme would be doomed to failure, and so of no value here currently.
In October 2022, NYCC submitted a bid to the Active Travel England “Capability and Ambition Fund” for funding to provide an LCWIP for Whitby. We doubt whether that would have happened without our campaigning, so we’ll take that as a win. Let’s now hope the application is successful.
SBC Active Travel Plans
SBC obtained funding for providing a surface to the Whitby end of the CinderTrack in 2019, and this project was completed in 2020. Since that there has been zero activity at the Whitby end in terms of development, instead concentrating on Scarborough.
SBC unveiled the Whitby Blueprint as supposedly a development plan for Whitby through to 2035. In terms of its origin, they claimed it was “widely consulted on” and “extensive consultation“, which is demonstrably false since it had a single public event at Whitby Coliseum if you were around on one particular day, or previously enter a comment on a government MyTown website (the input used for Town Deal, ok if you had internet or came across it, many people without internet or who use it minimally didn’t hear about that “consultation“). Maybe they mean it was “extensive” when compared to previous council efforts? (and their previous efforts have been pathetic or non-existent) but certainly not comparable to how business would consult with clients to ensure that clients were satisfied with what they were getting. Specifically to this concern, no consultation happened regarding cycle paths with residents at all, no proposal about different forms of transport with cycling being one to see what the public think of the idea (unlike in Scarborough, where Sustrans + SBC conducted precisely that type of consultation, presumably as part of the development of their LCWIP).
Regarding their “blueprint” document itself, it has all of 3 sentences that touch on cycling. With respect to the CinderTrack “Enhancements to the arrival on the track at Whitby will be promoted, with clearer and more inviting routes into the Town Centre. It is envisaged that through interventions along Southend Gardens and an improved crossing on Chubb Hill Road, a route though Pannett Park past the Gallery and Museum can be established” – so that is a road crossing into Pannett Park for visitors! And then the only other mention is a vague “enhancement of our walking and cycling network”. Well there is currently no “cycling network” so “enhancing” it is radical. The document is utterly lacking in any ambition, detail, or commitment for active travel, and the active travel aspect needs completely rewriting with a view to unlocking the benefits of cycling for Whitby residents, and to redress the years of underinvestment in Whitby. We can only assume that it was developed by people with no understanding of the town, or of the need for use of the bicycle as a form of transport to offload the use of the car.
In contrast the same organisation developed the Scarborough Blueprint 2021 which contains plans for 16km of quality cycle paths in addition to what is already present (16.8km), covering 4 corridors, following the existing Scarborough LCWIP. So that is an ambition to take Scarborough to 32.8km of cycle path. Great, so SBC are capable of showing ambition in active travel when they want to, just seemingly not in Whitby, but then that does not surprise us given the abominable state of maintenance of many aspects of this town.
In the response about Climate Change to the SBC Places and Futures Overview and Scrutiny Committee 15/06/2022 in section 4.10 “Encourage active and public transport to be the primary modes of movement in the Borough …” the reply contained “Through the Scarborough Towns Deal, the Council are progressing to deliver the Station Gateway, which together with the Cinder Track Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure project, will promote holistic sustainable travel in the Borough”. A strategy for Scarborough only, nothing for Whitby based on what is stated there. This only reiterates the SBC Climate Change Strategy document which, in reference to active travel encouragement, states “this will include working with NYCC to implement the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, aiming to deliver 16km of cycle and walkways in key areas in the Borough”. By “the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan”, they mean the LCWIP for Scarborough. So clearly Whitby is not a “key area” in the minds of SBC management.
NYCC Active Travel Plans
In 2020, NYCC applied for and received Active Travel Fund (Tranche 2) to provide walking and cycle infrastructure for the route of the Whitby Park and Ride bus. Upon planning, this scheme only amounted to the length of Guisborough Road, including a crossing to provide access to a car boot sale site. Many residents raised concerns about this not being of any benefit to residents (solely day visitors), and having been applied for without any form of approval by the populace. In 2022 the car boot location no longer exists, and the schema still has not been started. Whitby Town Deal were reported to being able to extend this proposed scheme down Mayfield Road with connection to CinderTrack and Caedmon College, but no public domain confirmation of this was available; this has subsequently not made it to the delivery phase of Whitby Town Deal. Update : apparently the money bid for will not be sufficient to complete this scheme so NYCC are awaiting a meeting with the DfT to discuss the way forward as to whether anything can be done. Whatever happens on this scheme in these discussions, unless it reaches beyond Guisborough Road it will provide ZERO benefit for residents of this town.
In 2021, NYCC submitted a seemingly unambitious bid for Active Travel Fund (Tranche 3) funding not including anything for Whitby, and failed to receive anything. The message from that round of funding seemingly being, be ambitious and follow UK Gov LTN 1/20 when designing schemes.
Note also that NYCC apparently do not currently store information about cycle paths in terms of mapping information, only just starting a process to map what exists; that does not put them in a good position to develop an active travel infrastructure network across the whole county, and so an amount of work needs doing before moving forward. In their 2016 Transport Plan document they state that “much of the 9000km of the road network in North Yorkshire is eminently suitable for cyclists”; this diverges from the public perception somewhat (70% consider roads too dangerous) and also from the UK Government LTN 1/20 document, and they don’t have a clear plan on how to encourage people to utilise bikes for not just leisure activities but also as a form of transport. This Transport Plan is urgently in need of update, with no mention of LCWIPs or LTN 1/20 (which was originated since its publish date), and we understand that an updated version should be available around April 2024.
Bearing in mind NYC have have stated ambitions to be the first “carbon-negative” council area by 2040/2050 (delete as appropriate), their current plans will need significant development over the coming year or so to back up the ambitious statement (and achieve anything like the 900% increase in cycling).
We emailed NYCC about the current situation and when Whitby will be considered for Active Travel infrastructure in September 2022 and received this reply.
Neither NYCC nor SBC have any (public-domain) plan for development of cycle infrastructure (or even an LCWIP) in Whitby. Their record on delivering cycle infrastructure plans to fruition is poor, and they are seemingly uninterested in helping the residents of this town take advantage of this form of transport, yet they are quick to preach to people that they should cycle more, let alone their public statements about climate change which would require major cycling investment to be realisable.
Our strategy is as follows
- For connecting areas of the town and district we require cycle infrastructure. We have developed our own cycle infrastructure network map proposal that could form the basis of any future LCWIP for Whitby, as well as the basis for funding applications. Our campaign to improve the cycle path network around Whitby and District has received support from the health and educational sectors.
- For within areas of the town (such as residential, or centre) we should have a 20mph speed limit to provide a level of safety. This provide the most cost effective way of allowing cycling within areas, since infrastructure (were it even possible) would be significantly more expensive than imposing a simple 20mph limit. We have joined the 20sPlenty campaign to further this aim.
We encourage North Yorkshire Council to implement this strategy; we are willing to work with any council in developing cycle infrastructure and 20mph zones here, offering our local knowledge for free. With Active Travel England now assessing councils for their ability to deliver on active travel schemes,and having powers over funding for much of the transport budget, we await changes to the current unsatisfactory arrangement.
Active Travel Funding
The above plan would be a great start point, but without funding it would sit on a shelf. It should be noted that in 2020 the UK Government committed £2bn for the subsequent 10 years for active travel development, including establishing Active Travel England. In order to achieve the UK Government targets of numbers of people cycling by 2030 it is estimated that Active Travel England will require between £9bn (if they concentrate on city areas only) and £18bn (if they spread the funding equitably across all parts of the country); this being revealed at a Transport Select Committee meeting in September 2022. We can but hope the UK Government chooses the latter strategy or Whitby will be stuck in the cycling dark ages for years to come, never mind NYCC’s strategy of becoming “carbon negative” being utterly unrealisable.
Active Travel and the Planning Process
The interface between the planning system and active travel infrastructure is currently inadequate. Referring to the 2007 SBC Transport Assessment document for new developments, any planning application has to answer “What measures can be undertaken to encourage (iv) travel by walking, cycling and public transport“. New developments are given approval with little concrete plan for active travel infrastructure, and where there is an apparent condition of approval on some infrastructure being “proposed” it almost never materialises, as a result that question in the transport assessment is not being answered to any measureable degree. The fact that the town has never had anything worthy of calling a “cycle network” previously may well have been a significant factor in this, since having a network in place would have allowed planners to insist on the construction of path(s) to new developments as part of the planning approval, rather than just S106 monies that council then squander on something unrelated. The SBC Local Plan states that “proposed housing allocations within reasonable distance to the Cinder Track in Whitby will be expected to make a contribution to the Cinder Track development”, like happened on the Barratts “Prospect Rise” development; that development < 50m from the track yet still has no connection to the track 2 years after development completion, highlighting the flaws in the current system (the S106 monies apparently spent on the actual track rather than any connection to it). The fact that Active Travel England will become a mandatory consultee on planning applications from April 2023 offers some hope that things may improve for new build estates.
Often in the selling of new homes, housing developers make claims about the proximity of many kilometres of cycle and walking path. Whilst this is likely beyond the reach of the planning process, it is often a source of dishonesty. Development after development claim access to Whitby town centre with the CinderTrack, which is utter rubbish, covering over the fact that there is no “network” currently. What can be done is for the local authority to provide a (up-to-date) website of cycle and walking infrastructure for the local area. This would provide a way of promoting active travel to the resident, but also to the visitor. NYCC do have an online map of their own paths and bridleways, but it does not show (all) cycle infrastructure, and it does not use the clearest user interface for displaying that information.
Cycling for Kids
Exercise is a great start to the day, be it walking, cycling or scooting. Arriving at school having burnt calories means kids are more alert and attentive at school as well as more likely to sleep better due to getting more exercise. The majority of schools have an amount of vehicles dropping kids off currently and its an easy routine to get into, but we should be working against it, for the well-being of kids, as well as to reduce pollution and amount of vehicles on the road, … and it will save parents money! We have explained above the current lack of cycling infrastructure, hence why developing a cycle path network has to be a priority.
Encouragement for kids to be active in getting to school is provided by schools participating in schemes such as Sustrans Big Walk and Wheel, which encourages kids to be active in getting to school for 2 weeks of the year in the hope that it creates a habit to avoid getting a ride in a metal box to school. Not one Whitby school participated in this event in 2022! The utter lack of cycle infrastructure available is clearly going to be a significant factor, but we need to make steps towards this ultimate goal.
Bikeability training is currently being offered to all year 5 and 6 children via primary schools (level 1 and 2 accreditation respectively). This is currently subsidised, but not totally free. Training of this nature provides a level of confidence in riding a bike at an early age and is essential for all children, and really it should be free to encourage uptake of cycling. However the utter lack of cycle infrastructure close to the residential areas where these children live, as well as the lack of a default 20mph speed limit on roads, typically means that they have little opportunity to build their confidence further by using what they have learned, which reduces the value of the training. Whilst Bikeability training is available for adults to encourage them to take up cycling, the confidence curve described above for children will also apply to non-cycling adults without safe cycling facilities within reach.
Whitby Pump Track
It was proposed back in the 1980s to build a “pump track” in Whitby. A pump track is a series of rollers, banked turns etc that provide a way for riders to use their bikes to gain momentum. Such a facility would provide (particularly young) cyclists the opportunity to gain confidence on a bike, use up excess energy, and enjoy themselves. It is hoped that a recent proposal to build such a facility in the town will finally be given the go ahead.
Whitby Community Network welcomes such an initiative. While not strictly “active travel”, it builds on use of bikes as a form of transport and provides kids the chance to use bike skills developed in Bikeability at primary school and to gain further experience of controlling a bike. We would, however, express to NYCC/SBC/WTC that it would be necessary for them to facilitate (safe) travel to such a facility, and the fact that not one of these councils has (thus far) got behind active travel in this town, we urge all potential users of this facility to get behind our proposals above to provide exactly this. We also urge NYCC/SBC/WTC to provide adequate bike parking/storage on West Cliff so that people can lock up their bikes before/after using this facility – providing a bike facility is about more than just allocating some space and it magically happening.
We would also point out that a better location for such a facility would be around the Larpool Viaduct area. This is because the land areas around there would permit a much more substantial facility, catering for many more users of the facility, as well as being more readily accessible for all Whitby residents, as well as being just off the CinderTrack. That said, a facility on West Cliff as a forerunner to demonstrate the need (or otherwise) can be a very useful stepping stone.
(E-)Bike Rental Schemes
Many cities have provided bike rental schemes, along the lines of the London “Boris Bikes”, where people can hire a bike from a docking station for a period of time and return it to (another) docking station. Almost all of these have had an amount of cycle infrastructure before deploying, and they typically are in places that need a form of transport to travel between places. This then means that people feel safe by using the hire bike in the bike lane or park, and they can get around without using a car. It potentially offloads a significant number of journeys for those who don’t have a bike available to them, or just need one occasionally. Something of this nature could be very useful in Whitby when we have some infrastructure to help people get confidence to start using a bike. At that point we would also point out that having an e-cargo bike available from residential areas as a community resource would be beneficial in allowing the weekly supermarket trip being done without a car.
In October 2022, SBC along with the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership announced a proposed scheme to deploy 19 e-bikes to Whitby, primarily for east-side communities, with 4 stations in residential areas, and 4 in the town centre. This is with no cycle infrastructure in town. They quote a range of benefits, the majority of which will not be realised. You can read our response here. Having a priority list for active travel improvements means that councils should not be going off and randomly picking things and still claiming the benefits that would apply if the priority list of items was implemented in the correct order.
We await cycle infrastructure before we consider such a schema a good idea.