Andy D’Agorne (Councillor, Fishergate Ward)
York Press arrives through the letter box about 7.30am, just in time for me to glance through the stories about pollution in York, concerns about how many houses might be built under the latest version of the Local Plan and the usual letter debate between ‘cyclists’ and ‘motorists’ about road tax, parking and council priorities. I finish off a letter I’ve been drafting and email it in before getting on my bike to cycle across the Millennium Bridge to work at York College. On the way I’ll maybe stop to phone in a report of graffiti or verges that need cutting. My work will include responding to students and parents concerns about their course choices but also any complaints that have come in about college buses being late. It might also involve talking to the bus operator about the timings and pick up points on one of the 14 routes from across the region, checking on ‘google street view’ to establish a safe location. for students to wait. Because the college tries to encourage walking cycling and use of public transport, we have transport details for students when they enroll and I am responsible for overseeing the staff car share scheme and the cycle to work challenge – last year we managed to get a higher proportion of staff taking part than York St John or the University of York! Staff will also ring me to ask about the cycle-to-work scheme if they want to buy a new bike and to ask where they can get cycle and bus maps for their new students. Later in the morning I am talking to a classroom of Norwegian students giving them some tips on staying safe on a bike in York. where to buy lights and locks and how to get cheaper bus travel. At lunchtime I make a call to the Press journalist to discuss a local story and read some of my planning committee papers in advance of next weeks meeting. In the afternoon I have a meeting at West Offices with a council officer to discuss our ward budget plans before cycling back to college in time to oversee the departure of the college buses, making sure that they are all displaying the route number and leave at the right time. If I’m lucky there won’t be anyone left after they have all left, if not there maybe someone who has been left behind who needs some advice on getting home by ringing Mum or borrowing some money to catch a service bus or train. Once that is over I have a meal at college because there’s an open evening- more advice on careers and transport! At 8pm I am most likely then to be cycling into town for a Green Party meeting or back home to deal council emails and preparing for the next council meeting.
So now I’ve retired from college, but I’m still a Green Party councillor, with more time to devote to local and national campaigns. Now that we are the main opposition on the council after a period of being in a ‘rainbow coalition’ its nice not to be responsible for council budgets. Since its a nice day I go out for my morning bike ride along the dedicated cycle track linking Germany Beck to Heslington East, coming back crossing the tram route that now links the university to the city centre and Monks Cross stadium. I call in for my morning coffee at the Cycle Heaven internet cafe on Hospital Fields before heading on for a meeting with the Chief Executive to talk about the new sustainability challenge fund bid which could see all our pre-2016 housing brought up to zero carbon standards. This is something that our Green MP’s got through Parliament in the hung Parliament of 2019-24. At lunchtime I meet up with some other people planning York’s Car-free Sundays. These started as a trial in September 2018 but have now proved so popular that they take place on the first Sunday of each month from April to October, funded by a levy on the parking spaces at the few remaining out of town supermarkets. Many of these have closed in recent years with the rise of internet shopping and home delivery. As its turned wet I decide to leave my bike at the secure park and use one of the electric ‘tuk tuk’ buggies that you can borrow from the city centre. If it was a nice day I would more likely use the electric water taxis from North St landing to the Millennium Bridge. These run every 10 minutes in the summer months and provide a really popular alternative to the bus services along Fulford Rd which gets snarled up with all the traffic from Germany Beck. This our one big headache as a city because plans were approved before the Local Plan specified that new housing had to be designed around walking cycling and public transport rather than private car ownership. The afternoon will probably be spent with a visit to the Foss Barrier marina park where I am meeting a flood engineer to find out more about our local flood resilience plans. After the floods of 2015 an interpretation centre was created to help visitors and residents understand the impact of climate change and higher rainfall with interactive simulations demonstrating the importance of slowing upland flow. Many of our visitors go away understanding what they can do in their everyday lives to manage rainwater runoff and protect their families from the risks of flooding. Since 2016 all the city’s drains have been checked and cleared and all new developments have 30% more capacity to reduce the risk of surface water floods.