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.