Gathering on the Move – a Look at Your City walk on 7th Sept 2019

If you missed the Gathering on the Move Look at Your City walk, here’s a brief blog to recount the highlights.

We gathered and started from Tea Room Square in front of the station – a place with *lots* of movement. Various things immediately came up for comment:-

  • Signage is confusing, with a mass of “finger” signage pointing in various directions, but pavements and surfaces basically shaped by vehicular movement. One comment was “You kind of follow your feet – you read the texture and where the pavement changes; people look down” – and this causes issues where pavements don’t follow useful pedestrian routes.
  • Cycle parking isn’t always pretty, but is prettier than having bikes locked to fences, barriers, lamp-posts and anything else which doesn’t move.
  • York walls could be a useful wayfinding tool, but we don’t use them formally.

From there we set off towards the town, swept along in a tide of people, until we paused on Museum Street opposite the Museum Gardens entrance. This was chosen as a stopping point as it has parallels with the entrance to Tower gardens off Tower Street. So, how does this spot work, with the crossing point from Lendal?

  • Although there is no formal marked crossing, the central paved island makes a clear signal that it’s a pedestrian route and vehicles (and cyclists) should give way. We watched as queuing vehicles left space for pedestrians. And…
  • it was felt that some sort of human contact and negotiation (eye contact between pedestrians and drivers) was a good thing. Perhaps because of this, it felt like a more “human” place than Tower Street.
  • The clear view of the garden gates and beyond makes it an inviting route to explore – this is different to Tower Gardens which are largely hidden at eye level and where the entrance is pinched and confusing.

Onwards to the top of Duncombe Place – somewhere we’ve visited before on Look at Your City walks. Always busy, and somehow slightly wild and dangerous – the combination of gusty winds and vehicles and cyclists coming from all angles. One comment was that the presence of the Minster meant it almost didn’t feel public – and the lack of seating (although people perch on the anti-ram blocks) means people don’t really linger…

  • Turning vehicles were seen as a problem, and cyclists tend to come at speed from Minster Yard, so it feels “treacherous”
  • The surfacing was ambiguous – a legacy of the history of the space. Areas look like road – tarmac with kerbs – but are they? Is the buff-surfaced area supposed to be safer?

We took a few perilous steps along Minster Yard, watching cyclists weave around people taking selfies. Again, the lack of seating was noted – it didn’t feel like a place you’d linger. The legibility is poor – the tiny pavings used to mark the cycle route aren’t adequately obvious to really influence pedestrian behaviour. Also…

  • The anti-skateboarding blips on the Minster steps were discussed. Should we be discouraging skateboarders, or are they public space users like the rest of us? Can you plan the space to reduce any conflict?

From here we walked to Kings Square – again a place which merits observation from many viewpoints. As previously, the recently-renewed paving was criticised for not making routes and priorities clear, and the retro-fitting of double yellow lines was seen as a sign of failure of clarity. We also discussed landscape…

  • The trees were seen as positive parts of the space – creating enclosure and shade – but the planters were felt to be alien and a clear afterthought.
  • The materials were also criticised as being not in the spirit of the place; ultimately it was felt that the overall design was the important thing and that more humble materials were fine if the overall clarity of design was good.

To conclude the walk we walked to the junction between Pavement and Fossgate. The high-level sign across the end of Fossgate was admired for its clarity – you can see it from some distance – and for the use of the fish motif which hints at the history but leaves questions to be explored. We wondered whether something similar would guide people from Coney Street into and along Castlegate towards the castle area…

  • We discussed the speed tables which (apparently) double as crossing points and felt they were ambiguous – use of tarmac suggests they’re definitely primarily road.
  • Bike racks were seen as a positive – they basically signal a welcome to people, inviting you to stop and stay.

If you want to see more of the discussions then take a look at the Flickr album with Post-Its and comments – – and if you’ve got any thoughts and comments of your own – get in touch!

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