York is a walkable city, so why do I have to get in my car to go out-of-town shopping because the decreasing number of retail outlets means I can’t find what I want at a price I can afford? Shopping on-line is definitely not the answer. I could eat and drink myself silly all day, but is this what residents want? Not to mention the street disturbances on Friday and Saturday evenings.
So here I am stuck on the A1237, having picked just the wrong time of day. Mind you the Council still allows disabled parking in the city centre, but how long this will continue is anyone’s guess.
As for the market, apparently not thriving, even after consultants’ fees and an inappropriate new look are factored in. No-one knows where it is because of totally inadequate signage and pathetic ‘heritage” colour scheme. Markets used to be fun places, full of colour and interest, and I like to shop there. But it needs a rethink and proper “marketing”. I must say I haven’t a lot of time tor the constantly congested Parliament Street scene – to get to M&S front door often needs a great effort of will.
Cuts in the public realm maintenance are really beginning to show. The road drains in Davygate haven’t been cleaned out for months, and last time I went after a heavy shower the road was almost impassable.
I do wish they would get on and sort out the development along Piccadilly – why does it have to take so long? I always thought that an offshoot of the Air Museum was a good idea.
But it is not all doom and gloom. “Events, dear boy, events” – we can’t get enough of them, which is surely a good thing, and the Council does its best to set the scene with its flower displays.
My message would be -“keep it clean”. York is still a great place, if you would only stop rushing about, dropping litter, and perhaps indulge in a bit of ‘mindfulness” instead.
Making my slow way round the centre of York I notice how well kept our parks and public open spaces are now – city centre streets clearly pressure washed and cleared of litter; risky uneven slabs relaid; pedestrian Petergate sparkling in its new block paving; flower beds to rival those of Harrogate!
All the noxious alleyways are now clean and cleared of obstructions, so that to explore the often unseen secrets of the city has become a pleasure, rather than an ordeal, and the “GOOSE PROBLEM” has been finally resolved (ask no questions!). Even the Foss is kept much cleaner now – fish galore, and more wildlife too.
It is good to see many more substantial trees planted, with helpful seats for those needing a rest from the increasing heat or torrential showers, which are such a feature of our new climate.
It is clear that the bicycle is finally accepted as a legitimate way of getting about, with more secure storage, despite rumbles of objection from those who can’t bear to share road space, and even the bus services are more user-friendly and reliable, now that measures to reduce car use and inner city congestion are beginning to take effect.
Those advocating dualling the ring road gave up years ago, I am glad to say, while the much-vaunted York Central ‘business district” was similarly put to rest, and we now have a delightful mix of housing and well-wooded parkland, much enjoyed by our residents and visitors, with the expanded world-class Railway Museum on its doorstep.
Best of all has been the transformation of the area round Clifford’s Tower, banishing the cars to an underground car-park, and giving us a fine city-centre park complementing the fabulous Museum Gardens on the other side of town.
More people live in town now, after the conversion of many uneconomic hotels into flats, and more living “over the shop”. I wouldn’t mind living in town myself.
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.
Wake up 7am, downstairs to make tea for self and Carol, return to bed. Check emails on tablet. Shower, dress, prepare breakfast. Pleasant morning so we eat in the summerhouse. Newspaper delivered and we do the crossword.
Meeting in town, 10am, with a solicitor about property owned by a charity of which I’m a trustee. Cycle there via, mostly, back-streets using 4 cut-throughs for bikes and pedestrians only. Most dangerous section Castle Mills Bridge – fast traffic and no bike lane. No bike parking at the office I’m visiting so I lean bike on a planter. Face to face meeting. Takes longer but more productive than email or Skype.
Cycle back through city centre stopping to visit stationers for printer ink. Bike racks on Parliament Street full so I hitch bike to railings. Cycle to Bishopthorpe Road shops using 3 bike/pedestrian short-cuts. Sufficient bike parking but the usual unseemly scrummage from the cars trying to park in the Bishy Road car park.
Puchase all my current needs from Bishy Road shops: ironmonger, deli, bike shop, butcher, greengrocer, baker, convenience stores. Chat to several friends and acquaintances. Cycle home. Streets round here can hardly take any more car parking.
Read newspaper, check emails. Collect milk from doorstep.
12.30 by bike to collect grandchild from kindergarten beyond Millennium Bridge. On way call in at GP practice to collect new supply of hearing aid batteries (free). Collect grandchild and his bike and cycle home via Rowntree Park and back roads.
Lunch then entertain grandchild by reading stories from books, a little light gardening and watering together, then “football”. Grandchild collected at 3.45 by parent who works part time. Recover from grandchild by finishing newspaper then catch up with various paperwork.
Invited to nearby home of other child/grandchildren for early tea/dinner. Homemade pizza – delicious ! Leave as grandchildren taken off to bed. Cycle along riverside, Skeldergate, North Street and Lendal Bridge to pub for poetry open mic night at 7. Good age range – teens to over 70s. Pint of York Brewery Guzzler.
Cycle home, no bike short-cuts but pass York Brewery and enjoy the smell of brewing within the city walls. Appreciate the wide cycle lane on Blossom Street as cars park and swing their doors open outside the take-aways. Home, listen to news. Bed by 11.
Contemplate how much has changed, or stayed unchanged, in York over last 40 years.
A Day in Early July 2026
Up about 5am, sleeping downstairs because it’s cooler. Tea in bed – check messages and download newspaper as the print edition ceased a few years ago. It’s light out and already warming up to another too hot day in a too hot summer, a too hot year. Shower, dress. Have breakfast in summerhouse while it’s still cool. Garden still green thanks to torrential rain and thunderstorms in June. Do crossword online.
About 7 Carol and I walk into town to see solicitor about updating our Will. We find face to face still best. Find the walk up Micklegate on the way back a little warm. Use my bike to do the shopping 8ish. Shops and offices tend to open at 6.30am in these hot summers and close by 3 unless they have a long lunch closure and then they open late afternoon and early evening.
The independent shops on Bishopthorpe Road are still all there, solar powered fans keeping things cool. The dry cleaners is now community owned and the former betting shop is the offices for the local community association. Fill in survey about whether the community association should sponsor an early morning milk, eggs etc house to house delivery. They are also arranging special collections for the few types of plastic that the Council still doesn’t collect – plastic bags, film, yogurt pots etc so I call in for a container. Fruit and veg is increasingly local and organic, as is the meat in the butchers. Hardly any traffic, except bikes and buses, so plenty of incentive to stop for a coffee or ice-cream and chat. Remember to buy milk.
Back to my bike, parked opposite the affordable housing on the former car-park. A community initiative initiated by the Bishy Road Traders Association once the free local circular route electric bus service was brought in and the use of park and ride from outside the area became compulsory to improve air quality. There’s so much less parking in the area as car use and ownership reduces.
Around 10.30 I call in at the GP surgery for hearing aid batteries – still free and more efficient. They check my blood pressure at the same time – part of their preventative work, though generally they follow the new less interventionist policies. Cycle across the Millennium Bridge to collect a grandchild (last of 7) from kindergarten. Notice that the river is quite low in spite of the flash flooding in June.
It’s getting really hot now so lunch is inside the house with the solar powered fan on. (Panels installed recently following reintroduction of grants for installation. Then stories from the well-loved books, many of which we’ve had for 40 years, followed by the paddling pool in the shade outside. We fill it from one of the 4 water butts as there is a hosepipe restriction in anticipation of the usual August drought.
Grandchild collected at 1.45 by parent. They, like us, will probably take a siesta. We sleep for a couple of hours and get up again at 4. Read for a while then bike into town to the independent bookshop on High Petergate – the print book refuses to die. So much less traffic in town that some of the bike lanes almost seem unnecessary. Lots more through routes and rat-runs closed to cars. Electric bikes and trikes etc. are allowed to use the bike lanes and have become very popular.
City centre is busy. Many visitors though York itself is much more cosmopolitan than 10 years ago – one of the unexpected results of Brexit. Improvements to the East Coast Main Line, adopted after the abandonment of HS 2 mean that there’s a train up or down to London or Edinburgh every 15 minutes, as well as an improved cross-country and transpennine service. Local services to Harrogate and Scarborough are now half-hourly.
Home to dinner then back by bike to the pub for the poetry open mic at 9, still going after more than 20 years. Guzzler on tap. Home by midnight, passing the York Brewery on the way.
Contributed to the My Future York project, 25th July 2016. The writer prefers not to be named.
Wake up coughing and simultaneously apologising to my partner for waking him up again. Not too much before the alarm clock, so get up anyway. I can hear next door coughing too. I’ve never asked her if she also struggles with poor air quality, but her cough is exactly the same as mine. Take the extra-strong antihistamine and the nasal spray from the GP, and make a mental note to ask her when I can next have a spell on the stronger steroid spray, the one that nearly works.
Shower, breakfast, quick stroll round the garden and then get ready to go into the city centre. There’s a bus from the end of the cul-de-sac, but it only runs every half an hour and takes as long as the bike ride, so I prefer to cycle. A bit later than usual setting off, so get caught up in the school traffic, with impatient cars overtaking my bike and then grinding to a sudden stop just in front of me. Make it out of Hamilton Drive on to Acomb road, but get squeezed too close for comfort to the curb by a lorry as I cross the iron bridge. I cut down Lowther Terrace and across the station car park for a rest from the traffic. It’s not really a cycle route, but even with the idling taxis, it’s a better option than risking Blossom Street. But either way I have to go over Lendal Bridge. Here, the traffic is so tight to the curb that I get off and walk along the pavement. It’s a sunny day so the fair weather cyclists are out and it’s hard to find a spare bike rack, but eventually I get my bike locked up and head to my GP appointment. As predicted, the news from the latest hospital tests is that I’m healthy – apart from the affects of traffic pollution on my sinuses – and nothing much more can be done to reduce the sinus pain, headaches and cough unless the air quality improves.
Whilst I’m in town I do a bit of food shopping, trying to buy as much as I can in local independent shops, although it’s not always easy. Then head off to the University campus, nerves steeled at the junction at the bottom of Heslington Road for the inevitable red-light jumping car. Head home via Walmgate Stray, the Millennium Bridge and Hob Moor after a reasonably productive day, although less so than I’d like given my doctor’s appointment and the general fog of sinus pain. Good to see the cattle grazing on the stray and moor, and people enjoying the sunshine on Millennium Bridge.
After dinner, some friends come round. They’ve just bought their first house, on a fairly anonymous estate on the edge of York. They’re not settling in well, missing the sense of community from where they used to live. There are no shops or communal spaces on or near the estate, and they only see their neighbours when they drive passed. They used to be keen cyclists, but I understand why they’ve driven over to our house. The bike lanes the developer put in just cover the estate, and it’s a very busy main road to get anywhere else. We stay in and have a pleasant evening sat in the garden, enjoying the fine weather.
Wake up with the alarm; shower, breakfast, a quick stroll in the garden and then get ready to go into the city centre. No medication needed now the air quality is better and the traffic pollution problem has been addressed. The bus from the end of the cul-de-sac is electric and since the congestion charge was introduced it runs every fifteen minutes and is much quicker than it used to be. I enjoy the exercise and have a few stops to make, so decide to cycle. There’s never much traffic on Hamilton Drive now, so it doesn’t matter that there isn’t a separate cycle lane. There’s fewer parked cars now too, since most households have reduced the number of cars they have, or got rid of them completely. 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. Even at this time in the morning, there’s some dog walkers sat on a bench, chatting. I take the route to the station to collect the tickets I need to pick up. The car park is much smaller now, with space only for 15 cars plus a few disabled parking bays. What used to be for cars is now a bike park, most of it covered with green roofs to provide shelter from the rain. It will take thousands of bikes, and is usually busy. Today I lock my bike on one of the ‘short-stay’ racks and go to collect my tickets. Then I head into the city centre. It was harder to make dedicated bike paths here, properly separated from other road users, but it doesn’t matter so much now that Lendal Bridge is closed to cars and lorries. There’s plenty more bike racks in town too, circling the new larger pedestrian zone. It’s helped that the roads closed to traffic during the day are now all shut for the same time, and that everything inside the walls on the Minster side of the river is part of the pedestrian zone. No one gets caught out by odd streets still being open to cars. With the rest of the city centre and the inner ring road being subject to a congestion charge, it’s all worked out very well.
I drop the book off at a friend’s house as promised, and take the new dedicated separate bike path to the university. A more productive day than 10 years ago, which is the norm now I no longer have sinus problems. 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. Carry on up Green Lane to the Front Street. Proper planning and investment has encouraged new business and shops, and it’s a pleasure to do my food shopping near to home in independent shops with really high quality food. The hardware shop is busy as usual, but the late-opening bakery thankfully has some lovely bread left. I bump into a neighbour and we chat a while about the fine weather.
After dinner, some friends come round. They’ve just moved to a new build on an estate on the edge of York. It’s really lovely. Their house was built to a really high sustainability standard and costs very little to run. The estate itself has communal green space, including a shared orchard and allotments for those who want one. Cars are mostly keep off the site so children play outside more. There’s also a community building, which seems to always have something on. However, tonight they’ve cycled over to us, using one of the many routes the developers built to connect the estate to other parts of the city. We think about sitting out in the garden, but decide to head out to the nearest pub, where there’s a guitarist playing tonight. We never used to risk the local pubs (the handwritten sign in the ladies’ toilets about drug dealers being reported suggested it wasn’t a good place) but we’ve now got a couple of really good ones which provide a welcoming place to spend an evening – and serve a good cold pint.
The older I get, the earlier I seem to wake so I frequently see the dawn these days, often the most beautiful part of the day when all is quiet, the air is fresh and the birds are tweeting.
Somehow though, however early I get up, I always seem to run out of setting up time at the shop I run, a busy deli in Bishopthorpe Road. Today was an exception and I was cracking on with making the fresh salads we do every day well before my assistant arrived. The sun always brings out the salad buyers and the pitta sandwiches to take away so I need to make lots.
Then it’s on with ordering, checking what’s selling and what’s not and chatting stock over with staff. Always having to think of new things to stock that isn’t just a variation of what we already have. Mondays are usually fairly quiet but there is a steady dribble of customers and always nice when new folks come in. Then it’s on with lunch service and lots of sandwiches! I only work mornings at the shop now since an accident in November 2014 but my day doesn’t finish here! I’ve been away for the weekend so have to catch up with books and banking, cuddle the cat, think about my newsletter and write this!
My back is still giving me problems since my accident so I’m planning on lying on the floor for a bit now doing pelvic floor exercises. My life is so exciting!
Though I loved our home where we lived 10 years ago, being so close to the town centre and having the things around us that we liked and needed, we decided to move after I retired. We wanted an eco house, a Passivhaus if possible which is slowly becoming more common. Though jealous of the eco villages which have been built near Amsterdam, nothing like that has happened here. We thought of building our own house for a while but the cost of land has spiralled even higher and put it out of our reach. Anyway, we really liked the idea of living in a community so bought one in a development just on the edge of York. I have an electric pushbike now which makes getting around much easier now that the car has finally died and we have decided not to replace it.
Today I am going to visit some friends on my bike and will then go and make a delivery of cakes to my old shop. I still really like baking and fortunately the new owners were happy to keep taking them. It gives me a bit of income as well. 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. Some time after I sold the shop, an anonymous donation made possible the plan for a “Shared Space” along Bishopthorpe Road shops which now means that traffic goes at walking pace, winding it’s way around colourful plant beds. It all needs watering and weeding so any spare time is spent there.
Then it’s on to meet my partner at the corner cafe on Bishopthorpe Road where Cycle Heaven used to be, which is now a really good wood fired pizza place. A few glasses of wine and a great pizza. Perfect end to the day.
Early and bright. Routines unfold. The towel. The stairs. The shower. Then as the hand slides round, gaining speed towards the precise moment of necessary exit. Then the rush. Teeth cleaning. The keys. Phone. Bag. Out the house. Notice three more houses on the street are for sale. And one more now for let. 17 minutes walk to the station down Cinder Lane.
The changing same. The flowers in a beautiful garden. The broken pattern in the pavement. The hollow sound of my feet on the foot bridge. The back passage between Holgate and Leeman Road once walled, once falling over, now more pragmatically fenced creating a visual connection between the railway maintenance sheds and the trickle of commuters heading for trains to offices in West Yorkshire. Then down the metal steps, across the car park. Nod to the attendant who ensures parking payment is given but also tidies, picks up litter, says hello to the regulars that park and walk across his patch. 4 minutes until the train leaves.
Practiced ticket buying. Muscle memory of the spatial choices needed to get a day return to Leeds. On the platform in time. Early enough (and late enough will do too) to get a seat. The odd public-private space of a commuting train carriage. Mutually respective of need to sleep, eat breakfast, apply make up, of laptop. The many working lives that compel travel and ‘being flexible’, all of us have the ability to focus anywhere and the need to use those 22 minutes to Leeds in some way. I work too and also watch the ripples of the seasons, catch a view of a favourite village, spire, field, sometimes a deer, usually rabbits. Each acting as a kind of visual echo of my childhood, of fields, and sunrise, and mists. My rural past in my present within and between two urban spaces. Then Leeds starts to emerges slowly between the fields and then faster as we enter the station. Happy to not yet entirely have to speak or to listen to others, before an equally happy day at the University of much of both.
Arriving back into York station. Busy train, though it is past commuters most popular home time. Seat on the aisle. Managed to work until after the final signal into the station, another email done and some sense of satisfaction. My day measured out in cups of tea and things struck off scrappy to do lists as well as good conversations and the constant flows of ideas and glimpses of possibilities. The working day over as the train stops. Rush. Laptop in cover. Then in bag. Grab scarf.
My bag is heavy with stuff bought at Marks and Spencer – at a price – at Leeds Station. The penalty of disorganization. The bustle of many people getting off a train and not knowing how to exit the station. But I become free as I head back out the back of the station with those heading to their cars and then the many fewer heading to Holgate or Acomb. The same path. Sometimes here, just before the footbridge over the tracks, I suddenly smell the earth on a damp yet warm day or fragrance of pollen. Over the bridge, past the train spotters. Then back way past the allotments [and fleetingly feel bad about the weeds that are probably growing in mine and my sisters allottment], the bowling club playing in whites, smiling at the dog walkers, down between the terraces and notice the beautiful purple flowery weeds growing in the crevices Victorian wall, never repointed.
Back through the door. Bread and salad plus expensive not-that-great cheese. Discuss the day – or we choose not to. The news. And then the sofa, bit knackered, but watch a television programme and a fictional world to which we have long committed and much discuss: beautifully made, complex, compelling, enriching. Then messing around, familiar jokes, always and every day slightly adjusted with a different texture, tone or context, and door shutting and light turning off, the improvisations of life lived together. Sleep.
The alarm comes and goes. Some days I must get up straight away, and embrace the old routines, adjusted a bit for the greater regularity and speed of trains to Leeds. Yet it still takes 17 minutes to walk, though now Cinder Lane is populated by trees and planting and always alive with singing and movement. One of the most positive things to emerge from York Central has been the National Railway Museum working to keep with the rail industry in York as part of its living heritage approach. The NRM has become a place which connects collections and archive and with a lab for technological and engineering innovation with lots of apprenticeships and tourist actively invited to full engage with and understand all the crucial labour, from clearing to maintenance, which keeps the railways running.
Today, there’s no need to get up. I still love very much teaching but we brokered new contracts which meant we all work fewer hours so that there could be more members of teaching staff, this was part of the free education revolution in higher education which laid the way for student-led and more horizontal and collectivist ways of organizing learning. I am glad we no long grade students (something I have always found painful) but instead we offer students ongoing dialogue and interaction around their thinking and interests, something they also offer to us as staff in abundance. This way of working has radically reduced student anxiety, stress and mental health referrals but has also massive increased the space for students to show initiative, generate their own agendas and ultimately contribute so fully to their communities and places. We hope we will soon be moving to an even more open form, finally and fully realizing the idea of life long learning with Universities working in very strategic and embedded ways with the networks of community libraries that are volunteer run and create nodes and passage point between ideas and bodies of knowledge. Arts, humanities, cultures, philosophy, political theories are be part of everyone’s everyday life as we all also share the other forms of labour that keep the city working.
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.
This new reciprocal relationship with visitors has been partly to underpin what was once called a tourist tax, but we now call the Visitor Gift. Money from our visitors is important. We now have a living wage service economy, so pubs, hotels, historic sites all pay their staff enough for them to live and thrive living in York. The Visitor Gift is used to invest in free life long education for all who live in York (for however long, Visitors take part too and often run short workshops sharing their cultures), youth groups, active community history and cultural groups and the network of free, open, indoor and outdoor public spaces across the city. It has also been crucial in creating a Housing and Land Trust that builds environmentally sustainable and low energy community housing and has developed older terraced housing which are now completely affordably on the city’s living wage. Funded the same way is a Community Land Trust which has enabled green spaces to be supported both in urban York and on the outskirts. This has updated the Green Belt idea for 21st Century. It has allow new villages with their own community and facilitates to be build and it has enabled a much enhanced and bio-diverse green spaces in between, the green wedge idea extended outwards.
Having welcomed a group of Chinese tourists, I learned a few more Mandarin words and got to practice my basic Mandarin language skills. I introduced them to the both the histories of feminism and the Women’s Liberation Movement in York and a taste of Centurion’s Ghost and Rudgate Ruby Mild. On my back, I stop by the train station which is now a really thriving hub, where we welcome visitors and can buy local food and local bread through outposts of York’s favorite shops. I cycle home, feeling very safe on the generous bike paths down Holgate Road and the Blossom Street.
Pass by Mum and Dad’s house and we 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. The A64 seems to get quieter and quieter every time I come out here, as few and few people use cars now. Back to Holgate to see my sister Katie on the allotment (which is full of asparagus, broad beans as well as wildflowers and butterflies).
Head back home via meeting friends in a cooperatively run pub, The Golden Ball has inspired many more across the city. As I walk into the house I appreciate for the 1000th time the cracks and time marks in this house built in 1898 and cared for by only four previously inhabitants. The fitted cupboards made by the first owner, a joiner at the Carriageworks. The familiar pattern of sun coming through the triple glazed back doors open down to the summer, and casting different colours on the tiled floor. Now that housing is no longer a commodity – our terrace street is now one of the co-operatively owned Community Housing Trusts – all there is now is appreciating and working with the grain of the fabric within which your life is caught.
Then TV, thanks to subscription services there are still the richest, long form, dramas. The slow emergent revolution of the last 10 years was not televised as such but there is television in my utopia. Then the happy changing same as we go to bed.
Day in My Life 2016:
I get up early, just before 6am, and rush around getting ready so I can be on the 6.53am train to York. I live outside of the city now, about 20 miles north. It’s a 10 minute drive and then a 25 minute train journey to work each day. We moved away 2 years ago after living in central York for 8 years. We had been slowly priced out of the private rental market, and also disliked the insecure short term tenancies, the difficulties with letting agents and the way long-term renting is perceived as a kind of personal failure. Now we let our house from a landed estate on a long term assured lease, in a village where this is true of the majority of our neighbours. I learnt to drive at the age of 31 especially so we could move.
I arrive in York around 7.30am and hurry from the station, up over Lendal Bridge towards the Minster. The traffic isn’t too bad yet, though it’s already starting to build up. I grab a coffee from Costa, getting to my desk around 7.40am so I can work in peace and quiet for an hour before the office starts to fill up.
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, except for the two homeless people I pass. The man begging in the doorway of the old Robson and Cooper shop is a regular library customer and we greet each other.
Shopping done and it’s back to the office where I eat my lunch at my desk over emails. It’s still too chilly to eat outside in the Museum Gardens and there isn’t any indoor public space I can go for lunch. The benches on the first floor landing of the library are already full of people picnicking on sandwiches.
I catch the 5.40pm train home and the dash to the station is the least favourite part of my day. Lendal Bridge is crammed with traffic, the pavements are heaving and it’s raining. There is a lot of impatient hustling between umbrellas.
I finally arrive home around 6.30pm and am grateful to be out of the city. I let the dog out, following her into the garden, checking the fruit trees for any sign of apples, pears or plums. The air feels so much cleaner and fresher here, and I’m grateful all over again to be so lucky. I don’t mind having to rent or the commute so long as I can have this in return.
Day in My Life 2026:
The alarm goes off at 7am and the dog groans from her bed. She’s getting on a bit now and feels a bit creaky first thing in the morning. We don’t have to be up as early as we used to though. We were able to move back within the City of York boundary a couple of years ago, joining a new housing scheme that means we can have a secure and reasonably priced home in a cooperative community. Each person chooses the home that best suits their way of life, whether that’s a flat or a house, with or without a garden. We have a small contained house with a well sized secure garden for the dog, which backs out onto communal green spaces. 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.
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.
Alternatively there are off-road cycle routes from most areas, as well as well-kept footpaths. Since most of the centre of the town is now pedestrianised and off limits to traffic there are few incentives to take a car anywhere. The outer ring road is almost deserted and sections of it have been closed.
When I arrive at work the library is already open, offering a space for commuters to come together in the morning for a coffee and a chat. There are spaces like this all over the city now, where it’s possible to drop in and spend time together working on projects, having discussions and getting involved with the way the city is run.
At lunch time I nip out to grab my shopping from the local food assembly. I’ve ordered what I need online from local suppliers and producers and it has been brought to one place to pick up. The mini supermarkets are mostly gone now – who needs them when there so much available locally? 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.
Before I go home I head out with friends for an early evening walk around the city. This used to be the worst time in York, when everything shut down early and the streets were full of tomorrow morning’s rubbish and recycling. Now it’s a time for people to relax at the end of the day.
Back at home I pick the dog up from the neighbour who has been looking after her for me. 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. Then it’s home again for dinner, after which I chat to family or a friend on the phone for a while. Finally I retreat up to bed with a book I borrowed earlier.