Friday, 15 March 2019

Back on Track

It's been a while, but the draft Action Plan for the Cinder Track has now been adopted by the Borough Council. You'll see from the time line near the start of the plan that it's taken nearly 4 years to get this far, with a big pause largely caused by objections to what some saw as the potential urbanisation of the route in some of the rural areas, and during this time the Friends of the Old Railway (formed near the end of 2004) have effectively been in hibernation. Now that there are agreed plans to get our teeth into it's time to re-activate the Friends and see what we can do to turn the plans into reality.

We believe that the priority should be to improve the urban section in Scarborough. In the rural areas most of the use comes from dog walkers and tourists but in town it's also children going to school and older people using it for their everyday journeys. Currently, much of it is too narrow and too bumpy. Because it's too narrow, there isn't room for two people to walk companionably side by side and still leave room for someone else to go past. Because it's too bumpy, it's very uncomfortable for most people on bikes, in wheelchairs or in buggies and many are put off from using it at all.

Over the years I can't help noticing that it's often much easier to raise a storm of protest against something than it is to get people involved in a positive campaign to make good things happen. Now's the chance to restore the balance and build a positive campaign to make the Track a public asset we can all be proud of, so forgive me for putting forward a few well rehearsed reasons why improving this section should be a priority.

Improving public health. It's long been known that physical inactivity is a major cause of ill health and that encouraging people to become more active can bring enormous benefits. We also know that the best way to get people to become more active isn't to send them to the gym but to incorporate regular physical activity into their everyday lives. In short, the trick is to get people walking or cycling for short journeys that they might otherwise take by car, and the best way to do this is to raise the quality of public space so that walking and cycling are much more attractive. 

Reducing congestion and pollution. If more people walked or cycled for short journeys, rather than drive, there's be less pollution and less congestion. The Track runs well away from most major roads and so pollution and noise levels are much lower than in many other parts of the town.

Mitigating Climate Change. This may have been taking its time to rise up the political agenda but no one can now doubt that its a really serious issue. As well as insulating our homes and switching to renewable sources of energy we can all reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by driving less. The Track offers a great alternative way to make short journeys.

Free range children. We know that children's lives are often much more restricted than they used to be and that the biggest single threat that they face is from traffic. There are 3 well established play spaces along this section of the Track as well as 3 primary schools on the Track and major secondary schools nearby. Improving the Track will make parents even more confident that their children can play out on their own while knowing that they're safe from traffic and in spaces where there is plenty of casual adult supervision.

 A place where people can meet and families can talk. If you go along the Track you'll notice that if people meet someone they know they're inclined to stop and talk and that  family groups chat as they make their way along. One of the the things the Friends have done in the past was to put in benches near access points so that these conversations can continue before people go their separate ways. 

Access to nature and the countryside. In town the Track is effectively a linear park with wildlife habitats along almost its entire length. In the past we've planted quite a few fruit trees and in recent autumns there's been a prodigious crop of blackberries. From Scalby, in the north, it's easy to get into the North York Moors National Park and improving the urban section of the Track will only encourage people to make it even further.

A better welcome to the town. Sustainable tourism is on the rise and more people are exploring the country under their own steam. Improving this section of the Track will give visitors a far better impression of the town and help promote sustainable tourism in the entire Borough.

To get things moving again, we're holding our first public meeting for some time at The Gallows Close Community Centre (which lies next to the Track at Endcliff Crescent) on Tuesday the 2nd of April 2019 at 6.30 pm. representatives from the Borough Council will be there to present the Plan and refreshments will be available. 

The information panel we installed at Safe Ways Park (Sainsbury's) during our hibernation

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