Leeds-Bradford CityConnect: an update

You can read all the posts about this particular junction, in order, here.

Well yesterday’s blog post, and especially photos courtesy of local resident Lee, have caused quite a stir.

In case you’re new to the topic, here’s a good summary here on road.cc, but the short version is this: part of a brand-new cycleway is dangerous crap, a photo was taken which spread like wildfire, and as a result someone at CityConnect has presumably had a bad day at work.

The project’s mouthpiece has now issued a statement on their Facebook page, which I shall reproduce here in case it is taken down:

“Thanks for all the comments on the junction off Dick Lane, we appreciate the time taken to let us know your views and have got the following response;

The design for this junction has not differed from the design consulted on although we acknowledge that the design drawings for this junction may have been misinterpreted. Safety concerns from the safety Audit Team were one of the factors for the design of this junction.

This junction has been subject to the same sign off process by Advisory Group and Programme Board that all other designs have. Advisory Group includes representatives from Sustrans, CTC and Leeds Cycle Campaign as well as other interested parties. The design for this junction has also been subject to the same public consultation process on and off line.

However, in light of the considerable interest on social media and sections of the press, the design team have been asked to produce a position statement to be reviewed by the Advisory Group to ensure that the final design is the best possible outcome in this location.

If we have been quiet today it is because we have been looking at the issues raised and progressing a solution. The safety of cyclists and the provision of an ambitious piece of infrastructure remains our key priority.

We’ll keep you updated. Thanks”

Unfortunately, the two main claims are untrue.

“The finished junction matches the plans”

I’m not sure whether they’re suggesting that the cycle campaigners misinterpreted the plans, or that the installation team did. Unfortunately, as we’ve never been provided with detailed drawings, I have no idea what plans the installation team received.

If they’re suggesting that the consultees misread the plans, then it takes about 30 seconds to reveal this claim to be nonsense – it’s on their own website. Section A, sheet 4 (PDF).

Here’s the junction in question, as shown on the consultation plans. I’ve removed the parking restriction markings as they’re irrelevant here and just confusing:

Original plans for the junction in question, where the cycleway has priority over the side road

Modern art or engineering plans – or maybe neither?

One problem with the plans provided is that they’re not detailed enough. They’ve been over-simplified, in an apparent attempt to make them appealing to the public. The lack of detail was something I complained about before, but while I asked more than once for detailed plans, I got nowhere.

I assume that proper detailed plans must exist somewhere, as the installation crew surely can’t have worked from this vague doodle.

The plans are frustratingly unclear. For example, if the two parallel lines to the left of the junction mouth represent the incline of the raised table, what happens to the left-hand half of the cycleway? Also, where’s the segregating island to the north of the junction?

So the public plans are a vague mess, but one thing is clear: there is a give-way marking on Grange Avenue before the raised table, and there are no give-way markings on the cycleway. This doesn’t match the now-famous photograph of the finished junction.

This means that the plans were changed – but who made the changes, and why? CityConnect needs to provide the answers.

Also, is it only this junction that has received such a change, or have any others been altered too?

“The design was approved by CTC, Leeds Cycle Campaign and Sustrans”

Now, I’m not known for being kind to CTC – quite the opposite – but I strongly doubt that, in 2014, they would have approved this design. (If nothing else, to have given the thumbs up to such a junction would do more damage to their reputation than Turbogate and the Niceway Code put together.)

My contacts within Leeds Cycle Campaign tell me that they too insisted the cycleway must have priority at side roads, and I see no reason to doubt them. They have nothing to gain and everything to lose by accepting such unnecessary compromises.

Sustrans… Well actually, I can believe that Sustrans would approve such a thing, or even design such a junction, given their rather patchy reputation, but again my contacts, who were intimately involved in the consultation process, tell me that in this case the local Sustrans bods did reject designs which gave motor vehicles priority at junctions.

Anyway, the claim that cycling lobby groups approved the finished design (and not the design shown above) sounds to me like rubbish.

So what next?

What next indeed! Well I’m working on a blog post covering what should have happened at this junction, and what could be done to mitigate the current design. Whether any action will be taken is another matter.

Other parts of this project have also come under scrutiny, including the canal tow-path, which I shall be blogging about too (read the comments under the previous article for an overview).

And I also have another question for the CityConnect team: when does your funding run out? For at the moment, it’s very useful to have one point of contact to which we can address these concerns. I’m not always impressed with the answers I get, if any, but at least there’s something.

At some point this year this project will be considered closed. Will the website lapse into decay? Will the Twitter account go silent? Will the Facebook page be removed? Because if that happens, we’ll merely have two silent councils and the only answers will come from painfully slow and obstinate responses to Freedom of Information requests.

 

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33 Comments

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33 responses to “Leeds-Bradford CityConnect: an update

  1. MJ Ray

    Ask how we got here. This happens all the time, all over the country. Plans are changed from what cycling campaigns and bike users groups agree to and usually nobody bothers even to tell us, much less ask us if the new design is still safe. Some parts of Norfolk and West Norfolk councils are finally telling us about changes and asking for reappraisal, but others keep on in the bad old ways, changing plans and wasting money building dangerous crap that people hate, whether cycling, walking or driving. As far as I can tell, the usual culprits for post-consultation changes are councillors who seem to act as if only motorists vote and the safety auditors, most of whom seem not to know how bikes work.

    • Jitensha Oni

      If I find a prospective house to purchase that is in a dilapdated condition I don’t really need to ask for the detailed history of how it got to that state, I primarily want to know what’s wrong and how and how much it’ll be to fix it.

      Whatever, one of the great things about blogs like this, though, is that, linked to onside publications like road.cc and august institutions like twitter and facebook, we the disgruntled can make much more of a stink than was previously possible, get others on board and I like to think, help change council attitudes and ignorance more quickly than has been the case in the past. This Leeds-Bradford project might yet turn out to be a good example. But even if that’s wishful thinking and principally catharsis, the history of council whinging, misapplication of funds etc is now all down in detailed black and white (and colour) for when the official entities have signed it all off, shut up shop and are pretending it didn’t happen. To be held up against the next piece of sh… rubbish infra. All hands to the pump.

      I agree though, as one commenter memorably said recently, it’s all a bit whack the mole. And there does nearly always seem to be that final meeting where cycling advocates/experts are mysteriously not invited.

      • MJ Ray

        I think we need to know how we got here to try to figure out how to stop getting here again, and again, and again. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

        That mysterious meeting and the failure to publish the updated plans should be stopped. I think we’re going to have to push MPs to make that happen.

        The other thing people could do is break out the paint/tarmac/tools and fix it themselves. It shouldn’t be needed, but how else do you defend your neighbours from killer councils?

        • Andy R

          I hate to say it, but I think the reason this is the way it is is given here;

          “Safety concerns from the safety Audit Team were one of the factors for the design of this junction”.

          I suspect it was the main factor and, at a guess, to do with visi from the minor arm (too difficult to tell from Streetview). Not that that should have been a showstopper – something like a continuous footway (there’s that Bromells Road example, again) would have given ped/cyclist priority and cars from Grange Avenue – a residential street for crying out loud, not exactly a 20,000 AADT through route – could have exited/entered appropriately slowly.

          It all comes down to how the Auditor was briefed. If they were told cycle priority was paramount (albeit, not something that should have needed saying), then they could/should have first looked at alteratives that retained that priority.

          Someone might want to do an FoI and see if they can get the (Stage 2) road safety audit from the Local Authority and see what their reason actually was.

          • MJ Ray

            So, in other words, we suspect the Safety Auditor has led the project to replace a questionable layout with a physically-impossible-for-people-on-bikes known-lethal mini-A316 layout? O_o If that turns out to be the case, can the auditor be disciplined?

            • Andy R

              The final say is down to the Designer, they are ultimately responsible for what goes in to the final design. However, if it was the Auditor’s comments (and despite my earlier comments that’s currently a big if) then the Designer may not have felt in a position to ignore them, or might even have been advised that all the Auditor’s comments should be taken on board – lock, stock and barrel. A safety audit is by no means the Word Of God, but it can sometimes be seen that way.

  2. Matt

    Thank you for your post and your continued time and energy to make sure we get what we’ve paid for.

  3. Yup, beware of the “well we consulted CTC / Sustrans / cycling representatives” response. It happened down here in SW Wales and, as the local CTC RTR campaigner I was able to categorically refute the Highways Authority claim – as were Sustrans.

    • It seems like this happens all the time. There’s an invisible, secret step that’s taken once all the campaigners have left the room – perhaps some council officer with a red pen, crossing out junctions and stuff.

      I’m going to try to find out from CityConnect who made this change, when and why. Surely they can answer that?

      • Well, since they have already resorted to being dishonest and blaming people who weren’t to blame, what makes you think that they WILL answer it? I predict that they will come up with something like the Data Protection Act, or a “confidentiality agreement” or some such fiction, and just refuse to tell us.

  4. Paul Mackie

    I could be wrong but I think the City Connect team will be around a while yet as the most recent CCAG bid mentioned ‘City Connect 2’. Lets hope the sequel is better than the original.

    This whole project is turning into a disaster which could affect everyone, not just people in Leeds. As it stands it’s looking like it’s going to be too inconvenient for existing cyclists to use and too dangerous to tempt people to start cycling (no matter how much marketing ‘encouragement’ you give them). Other cities could well look at the amount spent and deduce that building infrastructure is pointless and that white paint has the same effect.

    City Connect need to halt work on this NOW and publish the actual plans so that people who know what they’re doing can have a look at them.

  5. the highwayman

    Yep – the project is going to be here for a while yet, possibly much longer. There is a phase two to the towpath works which has yet to be implemented, and they have submitted a bid for an extension of the works to include more towpaths and urban routes.

    You may be interested to know that City Connect have recently recruited at least two more people to work purely in the communications and marketing team – it is classic British cycle provisioning, providing money to tell people that cycling is wonderful, rather than providing infrastructure to make it wonderful. Check out the conversation on their facebook page.

    • Enough with all this piffle about infrastructure. According to one local council, marketing is central to encouraging active transport (PDF).

      Rather than actually count wheels on the road to gauge the effectiveness of its Choose How you Move campaign, Redditch is all about measuring awareness of the possibilities and benefits of ‘choosing how one moves’:

      “imparticular [sic] we’ve been able to help residents to
      become more open-minded to the possibilities
      of sustainable travel.”

      Whether or not ‘open-mindedness’ is a goal worth aiming for, judging by the lack of people riding bikes around the town it’s clear that anyone opened-minded enough to even consider the possibility takes one look at Redditch’s car-centric transport infrastructure and decides ‘no way’.

      Meanwhile, when it comes to actually doing something concrete to enable cycling, the campaign’s focus is limited primarily to what one does after getting off ones bike:

      Cycling
      We looked into the provision
      for cyclists in various parts of
      Redditch and found that parking
      stands and shelters needed
      installing or replacing. In other
      cases, additional signage was
      added or changes made to make
      journeys by bike easier.

      • the highwayman

        As someone pointed out on the city connect facebook page, there is ample evidence (i.e. proper academic studies, with statistically significant sample sizes) which convincingly show that the marketing approach doesn’t work. Or at least, doesn’t work in getting people on bikes. It does work in terms of showing that a council is “doing something” about cycling…..

  6. SpokeForDayz

    Just a heads up, you can find some more detailed plans on the website,

    This is the section in question:

    http://cyclecityconnect.co.uk/downloads/tro/TRO-24A.pdf

    This is the index on the site (not brilliantly labelled):

    http://cyclecityconnect.co.uk/documentation_tro.php

    • SpokeForDayz

      Oh, and we have cityconnect 2 to look forwards to now!
      So hopefully they won’t be disappearing any time soon.

      http://www.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/News/Articles/CItyConnect2/

    • Wow, many thanks for the link to that page – I’ve never noticed that, they managed to keep it quiet didn’t they!

      There is a bit more detail in those TRO plans, but they’re still pretty basic. They can’t be what the installation team went out to site with.

      I wonder where the real detailed stuff is..?

      • SpokeForDayz

        I can’t find any TROs for the Leeds side of the route, which is a little worrying seeing as they’ve already started building it.

        You’ve opened a Pandora’s box by talking about cycling in west Yorkshire, don’t get me started on the Otley road trolleybus (the labour councils pet project) which promises to “improve facilities” for cycling by projecting a decrease in the business case on the cities most ridden route!

        I’d be interested to see how successful other cities have been with their ambition funding.

        • Oh, the trolleybus! Another grandiose project which refuses to get in the way of cars.

          I quite like the route around the back of the Headingley Arndale Centre – but why should the bus take that route? Surely the private motor vehicles should be routed around the back, while the bus gets the quicker, direct route.

          Anyway, that’s another blog post…

  7. The tragic part is that, even though the project has been caught red-handed lying to the public and building rubbish, it could be very, very easily remedied.

    The mistakes so far seem to be paint mistakes. They could be repainted in days.

    Instead, the mouthpiece website is building a refutation, a cover-story. They are digging their heels in, blaming it on everyone else. This is obvioulsy preparing for not fixing it.

    In Leeds, there was a famous “cycle path” that was hilariously bad at Sheepscar Interchange. Having got it wrong, Leeds council refused to fix it for over 30 years.

    I fully expect the project to refuse to fix this, with pointless stubbornness and laziness, and cover it over with a thick layer of lies.

    Once again, we are reminded that our overlords do not care whether we live or die, but DO care about making sure we are inconvenienced for the benefit of motorists. It is almost as if they enjoy making cycling difficult. One might even ask why they are bothering to build the cityconnect cycle path, given that they have decided to make it more inconvenient and dangerous than not having one at all.

    I can only assume that vanity and self-aggrandisement (the main motives for most urban road projects in the area) are the primary explanation why the project got started; now it is under way, the powers that be have ALREADY lost interest in getting it right.

    I therefore expect decades of it being unmaintained and ignored. The websites will indeed become moribund, but that is irrelevant because their operators are already ignoring the needs of their subscribers.

    • You were right: http://cyclecityconnect.co.uk/downloads/Grange_Avenue_Statement.pdf

      This project isn’t getting better, it’s getting worse.

      • I wish, I so very strongly wish, that I was wrong instead.

        cyclecityconnect have demonstrated that they will not, will not, will not be influenced by the opinion of those that the path is intended for. Why else would they have consultations based on plans that they know to be confusing? Why else would they justify the design by referring to a similar junction in London, which London’s design guide has abandoned a year ago, and which had already killed someone?

        The only conclusion is that the purpose of the whole path is not, as advertised, to attract more people onto bikes or make their rides safer, but to get them out of the way of motorists, for the benefit and convenience of motorists, without reducing the capacity of the roads for the use of motorists.

        The Benefit Of Motorists could be an alternative title for the local road planning teams. It has always been the primary objective of road planners in this area. The short period during which we were fooled into thinking otherwise was merely a PR exercise by those who simply do not care if people on a bicycle get killed or not.

        The cynicism and duplicity involved stuns me, even after decades of watching the awful way that Leeds treats cyclists.

        The weird bit is that this chunk of the path (the junction that has caused all the hoo hah) is in Bradford, not Leeds. Bradford was always “merely” a land that was ambivalent to the safety of bike riders, as opposed to Leeds where their deaths always appeared to be actively sought.
        Just days ago, Bradford finally declared that its other cyclepath PR disaster was now complete, and that people can use it to get from Shipley, miles north of the centre, to somewhere not far away from the centre. Initial rides seem to indicate that it is not bad, by Brit standards (although still conspicuously toenail clippings compared to the Dutch designs of 30 years ago).

        http://road.cc/content/news/148331-contaminated-incomplete-cycle-path-between-bradford-and-shipley-finished-15

        Why would Bradford council, who paid for this almost-good facility, tolerate cityconnect pulling such a shitty trick on their patch? Cityconnect’s method of flushing lakes of cash into a shit design seems to be at odds with their quest to be seen to be doing the right thing. Is it because cityconnect doesn’t draw funding from Bradford council tax payers, but the Shipley path did?

        • I feel the same – I’d much rather be writing about how amazing the Leeds-Bradford cycleway is, and how the UK has a great example of cycle infra to use as a template. Perhaps my friends and family would finally understand what I’ve been banging on about for the past four years. But unfortunately we’re so far away from that scenario, and I dread talking about this shambles with all the people I know who still live there.

  8. MJ Ray

    Leeds Cycling Campaign have responded: http://www.leedscyclingcampaign.co.uk/?q=node/967

    “To suggest that the design has in any way been ‘signed off’ by Leeds Cycling Campaign, is at best disingenuous. We have engaged purely in an advisory capacity and the one thing that we didn’t want to happen by engaging so wilfully in the process was to be used as a tool to justify bad design.”

  9. Martin Stanley

    As have Sustrans:

    “I can’t recall the specific example of Dick Lane / Grange Ave ever being discussed in advisory group meetings. We certainly spent a lot of time and effort, over the course of a year, arguing for the principles of priority, safety and convenience. None of which this achieves.
    We will discuss this at the next advisory group meeting.
    ‪#‎TdFLegacy‬”

  10. Paul M

    Actually, from what you have quoted from CityConnect, they did not in fact state that CTC etc had approved the scheme. They haven’t told a direct untruth.

    They have, however, apparently used a crafty piece of misdirection by stating – which is no doubt true – that CTC, LCC and Sustrans were on the Advisory Group through which the designs were processed. They simply haven’t mentioned whether CTC etc voted in the Advisory Group in favour of or against the designs so they have implied that they support them.

    This is a very common trick. A recent, notorious example was the New Forest’s new cycling events code which was tabled at the liaison group which included representatives of the local authorities, the NPA, the police etc and which seeks to place severe restrictions on the size and scope of mass cycling events there. A similar economy with words sought to imply that CTC and Sustrans supported the code, an accusation both groups angrily denied and which the NPA was forced to confirm was the case.

    Local authorities are full of weasels!

  11. Pingback: Bradford’s new Cycle Super Deathway | The Alternative Department for Transport

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  14. MJ Ray

    The painfully slow and obstinate process may be going on at https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/for_construction_drawings_and_sa

  15. Pingback: CityConnect: You’ll get what you’re given | The Alternative Department for Transport

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