A crusade has been launched to liberate one of York’s historic streets from the car.
The Free Fossgate campaign is urging the council to fully pedestrianise the road. Supporters say this will improve access, ensure cleaner air and boost the café culture.
People have been talking about banishing the car from Fossgate for nearly 40 years – and it’s an idea whose time has come, says John Pybus, landlord of the Blue Bell pub on the street.
He has launched this petition calling on the council to pedestrianise Fossgate – which has already garnered more than 600 signatures.
The pavement cafés and al fresco food and drink areas that have sprung up since the pandemic meant “Fossgate was transformed into a beautiful street with continental-style outdoor seating,” John said.
But that could all go when the Covid pavement seating regulations come to an end in September.
“The pedestrianisation of Fossgate is a saga that has been going on since 1985,” he told YorkMix.
“And today, business owners of Fossgate are calling on York council to do what is right and to do what everybody wants – which is to pedestrianised the street.
“There’s no reason not to in terms of access around the city. Piccadilly runs parallel to Fossgate.
“Residents should be able to have a turning circle on the street so they can access their properties.
“We can have disabled access onto the street if it is pedestrianised, we can have much more foot-flow through the city if it is pedestrianised, and we can enjoy café culture if it is pedestrianised.”
Where community happens
Many traders are backing the campaign, and have Free Fossgate posters in their windows.
Sarah Lakin has run the Fossgate Social bar and coffee shop on the street for nearly ten years.
She said: “I’m backing this campaign because it seems so obvious to me that this is where community happens – when you get rid of the car, and you’re allowed to spill out onto the pavements. That’s number one.
“Number two is it’s such a narrow little street to have lorries and cars and taxis bombing up and down. It just doesn’t seem very sensible, with the pollution levels and the danger.”
Sarah is hopeful the wider city will back the campaign.
“I think the anti-pedestrianisation movement are very wedded to their cars. But I think life is changing now with the climate emergency, the worries about pollution in city centres.
“I’m hoping that this tiny bit of pedestrianisation will be something that we can get people to support.”
Tony and Diana Brennan have run Diana’s Nitrogen Ice Cream Café on Fossgate since the spring.
They are fully behind pedestrianisation.
“It will make this street much more vibrant,” Diana said. “It will be attractive, it will be busy, tourists will want to come down here.”
“It’ll also be good for local residents as well,” Tony said. “It’s a very popular street, lots of restaurants, lots of cafés. We need we need the space to do outside seating.”
Does he think they can succeed and Free Fossgate? “We have to appeal to the council, and the council has to be forward looking.
“There’s more and more people coming to York, we’ve got to establish places where they can come and chill out during the daytime and have a nice evening meal and or a drink in a traffic-free environment.
“It’s going to be good for everybody, locals and tourists alike.”
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