If you’ve travelled around York in recent days, you may have noticed some changes on key routes.
Traffic light timings have been altered on the junctions with Gillygate – and the idea is to see if this will reduce air pollution on the street.
It is a trial being run by City of York Council after talking with local residents and businesses.
The council says air quality on Gillygate is the worst in the city. High levels of nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants “pose health risks to those spending significant time there, including its residents”.
Part of the reason is thought to be the ‘canyoning effect’ of the street, with high sided buildings bordering a relatively narrow road which is less subject to the prevailing winds.
Last week the council began testing signal-phasing strategies on Gillygate to try to understand what will work to minimise stationary traffic – and therefore improve air quality in the street.
Current signal timings are selected to
- minimise safety risks and pedestrian delays
- make sure buses run on time
- keep traffic congestion and delays as low as possible for all road users
- and minimise poisonous emissions.
“This testing is about improving what is already in place,” the council says.
The current trial will run until Thursday 26 October, with different signal-phasing strategies implemented on 24 October, 25 October and 26 October.
No standard answer
Kate Ravilious, executive member for environment and climate emergency, said: “There is no standard answer as to how signal timings achieve our goals to reduce traffic congestion and delays and minimise air pollution, because it depends entirely on context – the street, the traffic, the place and time.
“In narrow and canyon-like Gillygate, which is already the worst road for air quality in the city, we take a lot of information into account to try to get it right, even when goals might contradict each other.”
When YorkMix photographed Gillygate at 8.32am on Wednesday (18 October) Gillygate was noticeably freer of queueing traffic.
But obviously holding cars on other roads does have a knock on effect. Some observers have seen traffic queues building up on Lord Mayor’s Walk and having a knock-on effect on Monkgate.
Cllr Ravilious said: “There may be some disruption and we apologise for that; it’s a difficult and complex balance.
“These tests will give us the evidence base to implement measures that reduce air pollution, whilst also keeping the city moving.”
Brendan Hopkins, member of the Gillygate Area Air Quality Action Group, said: “The residents and traders of Gillygate welcome the new council’s air quality improvement initiatives in the Gillygate area.
“At long last we can see action being taken to address the unacceptably high pollution levels that we have been forced to endure over the past years.
“Pollution levels caused principally by Gillygate continuing to be labelled part of an antiquated road system titled ‘the inner ring road’ despite there being over 500 residents and traders living their daily lives in an area dominated by excess traffic levels polluting the local population on a daily basis.
“Indeed, levels of the most dangerous pollutants increased by 6% in 2022, well over nationally acceptable levels and five times World Health Organisation standards.
“Let’s hope the new council’s initiatives are the first important steps in solving our air pollution issue and restoring our area back to where it belongs as one of York’s best residential and commercial places to live and do business.”