York in 2026: 10 ideas for the city’s future

Trees in York Central and new woods on the outskirts. Ten ways York might be different in 2026 - as contributed through the My Future York Day in My Life stories.
Trees in York Central and new woods on the outskirts. Ten ways York might be different in 2026 – as contributed through the My Future York Day in My Life stories.

All week we’ve been pulling out the key ideas from the My Future York Day in My Life stories submitted so far. The job of final blog of this week is to draw out 10 key design ideas that might be in York’s 2026 future. These are just the ideas from the first batch, we will be adding and adapting the list as more stories are submitted.

Add your visionary ideas, though writing your Day in My Life 2016 + 2026.

1. Homes to live in
2026: Affordable housing is enabled by new types of financing from self-build to co-operative house. All underpinned by legislative change to regulate buy-for-investment.
2. Trams
2026: Air pollution and congestion has been reduced through cheap, regular and reliable public transport enabling people to leave their cars at home and live further outside the city.
3. A pedestrian-priority Bishopthorpe Road
2026: Bumping into people you know and enjoying the trees and flowers is part of everyday life on Bishopthorpe Road.
4. York Central – beautiful footpaths and bike bridges
2026: Fly through the air over beautiful trees as you cycle from Acomb into town via York Central’s network of beautifully designed foot and bike bridges.
5. York Central – designed by a local collective
2026: York Central is developed through the talents and enthusiasms of a local team of architects and planners with lots of community discussion and involvement.
6. Local Food Assembly
2026: Locally grown food for everyone through a scheme which connects growers of all sizes (including allotment holders with a surplus) with local shops and restaurants. Optional 10% paid on top of the food bill to support a communal pot that reduces food costs for others. Local food deliveries enabled by bike couriers paid York’s living wage.
7. Welcoming (and taxing…) Visitors
2026: New models of tourism based on deep engagement with local histories and cultures, reciprocal cultural exchange and a 10% per night Visitor Contribution (sometimes known as a Tourist Tax). Taken together they are used to underpinning a free and life long learning ethos in the city.
8. Gender neutrality
2026: All toilets are gender neutral and no assumptions are made about anyone’s gender in York’s cafes and restaurants. York is well-served for self-organized queer and LGBTQ spaces. Local pubs are welcoming to all.
9. Networks of indoor public spaces
2026: York library network expands to create volunteer-led indoor public spaces around the city. Here you can meet up, work, collaborative, use the wifi, eat lunch, get a cheap cup of tea/coffee and debate the issues of the day (as well as keep out of the rain).
10. Trees
2026: The city is green. With beautiful planting in York Central and new woods on York’s outskirts for ecological diversity and leisure.

And one final one, which raises a crucial question – how might all these ideas be delivered? A reading of the stories submitted so far might suggest the need to combine the public sector, entrepreneurship and community and volunteer approaches.

11. A mixture of local authority led and community and volunteer-led services and spaces

2026: The ideas above are enabled through a mixture of national legislative change (to change the housing economy in York) and the local authority using its ability to draw on resources through tax and public investment combined with the energy of enterprising individuals and well-supported and nourished community-led initiatives.

My Future York plans to organize public events around these design ideas over the coming months. How have other cities managed to innovate and create livable cities? How might we ensure that the ideas generated locally get put into practice?

In the meantime we’d love to hear more and more people lend their voices and ideas to York’s future… what is your ideal day in 2026?

Come and share your ideas:
24th September, 2-4pm. My Future York stall on Bishopthorpe Road.
1st October, 2-4pm. My Future York stall on Front Street, Acomb.

Join us to make sense of all the ideas at our next Open Analysis Workshop:
19th November 2-4pm
Venue to be confirmed. Express interest via myfutureyorkresearch@gmail.com

How are different aspects of our lives connected? / How do we hope to be living together?

From cycling over Hob Moor (pictured) to ways of co-existing better with the Race goers: the Day in My Life stories indicate new ways of being connected and living together.
From cycling over Hob Moor (pictured) to ways of co-existing better with Race Goers: the Day in My Life stories indicate new ways of being connected and living together.

In the second of our blogs this week, we will explore the second and third of our 2026 analysis questions. These questions focus on how our Day in My Life correspondents are imagining the different aspects of their lives to be connected and the ways in which we might hope to be living together?

2026 Q2: How are different aspects of our lives connected?

Work and life merging together
One notable thing from our first crop of Day in My Life stories is that in the future work and life seems well integrated. On one hand for some there seems to be less work – some people have retired or talk about slowing down or working less. Or work is distributed differently. Either in the sense that work, and types of work, are distributed more fairly between people. Or in the sense that work is spread out throughout the day more flexibly to enable time for cycling, walking, bumping into people, seeing friends and family.

Infrastructure for connection (travel / bike parks / routes / wifi)

There was a very strong emphasis in the stories on the infrastructure necessary for connection. Public transport and bike infrastructure, as mentioned in the previous blog, was almost universally mentioned. Wifi was clearly the backbone of few people flexible and public spaces work plans.

2026: ‘Then I hop on a tram (heavily subsidised for residents, and running every five minutes) that takes me back down Bridge Street, along Rougier Street and up Museum Street’.
2026: ‘At 8am the tram stop is busy, but since they are every 10 minutes nobody is too concerned. The new eco tramways into and around the city have made it possible for most people to leave their cars at home. Annual passes can be paid for through salary sacrifice schemes making public transport very affordable. Putting the trams in was hugely disruptive but nobody would want to go back to the pollution and traffic jams of ten years ago’.
2026: ‘Sort out all the online work information exchange, and then sling the tablet in a rucksack and head for the tram stop’.

Moving between is itself is important
Yet one thing to note is a sense that movement itself – negotiating York – is also crucial. In some of the stories there is a real sense of enjoying passing through areas of York, whether that catching a sight on the Minister, imagining new ‘shared spaces’ with less traffic on Bishopthorpe Road or the joys of cycling over the Millennium Bridge, Hob Moor or a beautiful new bridge over trees imagined for York Central.

2026: ‘Once I get to the end of Hamilton Drive, there’s a great new bike route. One of the first things to be built with the York Central site was a series of bridges and bike paths to link the west of the city up with the city centre. The biggest one is as elegant as the Millennium Bridge, although rather than looking down on the river it looks over the trees planted before the development work began’.
2026: ‘Cycle home via Walmgate Stray, the Millennium Bridge and Hob Moor. Good to see the cattle grazing on the stray and moor, and people enjoying the sunshine on Millennium Bridge.
2026: Today it’s quiet, and I pause to look up at the Minster against an overcast sky. Someone once told me that you’re never “from” York until you can pass the Minster without looking up; I’m not from here, I’m from Lancashire, but it’s my home and I reserve the right to respond to it with childlike wonder’.
2026: ‘In my lunch-break I nip down to Bishy Road, loving its pedestrianised through-route that means traffic has to slow down to a crawl since it shares the road with schoolkids, mums with buggies, wheelchairs and perambulatory pedestrians like me. And I adore its big, shady trees at the pavement edge that I can shelter under in sun and rain alike. The lack of traffic lights has put an end to the horrible, scary incidents where traffic speeds up to beat the lights and quite often goes through on red, endangering pedestrians and cyclists alike’.
2026:’It’s early, and there’s a deer peering out above the crops in the fields. I never thought I’d move out of the town centre but when the chance came up to build on a custom build plot out at Whinthorpe, among like-minded oddballs – well, we signed up’.
2026: ‘At the end of the afternoon it’s still sunny and calm and I regret taking the tram, so take a bike from the hire rank in Parliament Street and after a quick wander round the newly-pedestrian-priority Bishy Road head down the riverside, over the Millennium bridge and out of town along the cycle path. Lots of others out too – cars are so expensive to use that it only takes a whisper of sun for them to get forgotten’.
2026: ‘now Cinder Lane is populated by trees and planting and always alive with singing and movement’.

2026 Q3: How do we hope to be living together?
The third of our research questions came from our reflections on Ruth Levitas’ idea that utopia contains different ways of imagining how we might live together and the kinds of social relationship that we might build. The stories submitted so far are full of a sense of a rich and complex social fabric. There is a lot of chatting, bumping into people as well as the joys of family and friends. Direct connections between less traffic and it being quieter and new casual social interactions are imagined: ‘In fact, most traffic during the day now takes a different route into York to avoid Bishy Road. Hurrah: it adds to the sense of community and allows people to stop and chat together without noise or fumes’.

Alongside these type of daily social encounters, there is also some ambitious new type of social relations imagined too.

Co-existing better with the Races
One interesting issues was people in their 2016 story noting that the Races causes them issues – as they live on that side of town. Yet in their 2026 stories there was specific imaginings not of completely transforming the Races and Race Goers but of enabling better forms of co-existence.

2026: ‘At the end of the day my partner and I venture into York to see a film at City Screen. It’s a race-day and the drunken people staggering down Bishopthorpe Road make the walk less pleasant than usual… so we cycle around the back streets from Bishy Road into town, which is a much nicer experience now that the back roads have been traffic-calmed’.
2026: ‘I awake to an automated text message reminding me that this Saturday is a race day. I’m grateful for the warning; perhaps I’ll go for a bike ride that afternoon to get away from the noise. It should all be over by 5pm in any case; the racegoers will have walked into town, sobered by the tap water provided by the racecourse to every departing guest, and helped en route by the friendly team of racecourse employees who give directions and clean up mess as it’s left’.

Welcoming new comers and visitors
For some York tourism 2016-style was clearly an issue. For example: 2016: ‘At lunch time I head out into the city for some shopping. It’s busy with visitors and I dodge in and around people taking photographs or consulting maps. It feels very much like a tourist attraction’.

Yet there were also hopes for 2026 of a different type of social interaction with visitors.

2026: ‘My big task today is to take part in the York Welcoming Collective. 1000s of us volunteer, as part of the work the city needs, to welcome visitors, tourists they were once called, to the city. Our aim is to develop interpersonal interactions with our visitors from all around the world so they enrich our lives and understanding and we can introduce them in a meaningful and enriched way of the city of York. I’ve learnt so much this way and now many of us have friends in China, Indian, Pakistan, Mexico and Russia as well as across Europe. We want people to engage locally with us just as we are open to their localities across the world. We build our own translocal community in the wake of the EU referendum. We ask everyone who comes to bring something to share, their language, a dish – and we share with them the complex histories and cultures of York. No visitor can just see York as pretty old buildings any more’.
2026: ‘The clinic is even more popular now than it was 10 years ago, because nobody – even those on a low income, of whom we have plenty since York signed up for the Welcome European Economic Migrants initiative to support the servicing of its tourist trade – have any issue getting into town easily, quickly and cheaply via buses and trams’.

There were many imaginations of people voluntarily and co-operatively contributing to their places and communities. These ran from straightforward volunteering to redistribution of wealth schemes through food co-operatives and shared housing.

2026: ‘We go down to the library and spend an hour volunteering. The library is open until 10pm and busy with classes, homework clubs and events’.
2026: ‘Pass by Mum and Dad’s house and Dad, Mum and I walk out to the new woods on the edge of the city. Dad’s been part of the volunteer team researching the new and rich ecosystem and biodiversity created’.
2026: ‘Then I’ll be going to one of my volunteering jobs which is the upkeep of the planting which happened in Bishopthorpe Road when I was still running the shop with funding from winning the Great British High Street’.
2026: ‘The community is built around shared space, including growing spaces, play areas and learning spaces, including a centre with a library and health drop-in. There is a micro-pub down the street in a neighbour’s garage, and many residents have joined the ‘pop-up restaurant’ rotation, taking it in turns to cook for those who want to go out for the evening. There is an excellent balance between public service provision and community action, which is co-produced between the council and the community’.
2026: ‘I chose to pay an additional 10% on top of my shopping bill which goes back into a communal pot that all members of my assembly can draw on if they have a time of need’.

Our final blog in this series will pull out the specific policy ideas – so we can open them up for debate and plan public events to explore alternatives.

How to analyse ‘Days in My Life’

Our first attempt at analyzing the Day in My Life stories using key questions.
Our first attempt at analyzing the Day in My Life stories using key questions

At our first Open Analysis workshop, the My Future York team worked with the initial clutch of Days in My Life stories as a way of identifying and refining the analysis questions. We came up with:

Q1: What is good about now?
Q2: What are the issues now?
Q3: (What different types of future are being produced now?)

Q1: What do we want to be able to do? (practical things)
Q2: How are different aspects of our lives connected? (home, work, fun)
Q3: How do we hope to be living together? (social relations)
Q4: Ideas for designing alternatives? (specific ideas that we can follow up with events)

These ideas emerged partly from reading our Days In My Life stories but are also underpinned by some ways of utopian thinking might act as a method for understanding – and changing – society today. One point of inspiration is Ruth Levitas. In her Utopia as Method she outlines three dimensions:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 08.35.06

For reading the 2016 stories, we translated ideas in Levitas’ work into both looking for positive things, 2016: Question 1, and not only issues and criticisms, which will be captured through 2016: Question 2. The third 2016 question – refers directly to Levitas’ archaeological perspective – and looks for the futures which are implicit in how we live our lives now. So, to take an example from my own Day In My Life, when I want to work on the train to Leeds with my headphones in you could say I am unselfconsciously making a future where work permeates all aspects of life and where the individual prioritizing their own needs over social interaction (…though I would resist this reading and in my 2026 story I was very interested in thinking about how collective spaces and endeavors can mix with personal space too). But it is quite useful to think about what futures are implied in our lives today and how different the 2026 futures we hope for are from the futures that would emerge organically from our 2016 stories.

In thinking about the 2026 stories, we began with quite a practical head on so 2026: Question 1 is ‘what is it we imagine ourselves doing?’ with 2026: Question 2 asking ‘how are theses activities and spaces connected?’ The thinking here is about the different kinds of ways home, work, life, fun might interrelate – they might not all flow in the 9-5, office and then home kind of way. 2026: Question 3 is a version of Levitas’ ontological question – new forms social relations – and the stories suggest there are plenty of those, lots of collective and collaborative imaginings. For example, all the stories have quite lot of social life in them: family, friends, queer spaces and networks, volunteering, bumping into people you know at the tram stop. Finally, 2026: Question 4, is architectural (the final strand of Levitas’ method) and will be used to pull out the new ideas for designing/structuring/facilitating the lives and activities imagined. For example Victoria Hoyle imagines a local food assembly where she pays ‘an additional 10% on top of my shopping bill which goes back into a communal pot that all members of my assembly can draw on if they have a time of need’. We might especially use ideas that emerge under this question to plan events and explore interesting and successful ideas and practices from elsewhere.

As I write we have had 12 stories submitted. My next blog on questions of analysis will be a reading of all submitted using our questions – we can then see what these questions reveal and if they need to be adjusted or rewritten.