More broken promises on Leeds’ so-called “Cycle Superhighway”

After the anger surrounding the dangerous new junction at Grange Avenue in Bradford, another kind reader has sent me photos of shockingly poor design on the brand new Leeds-Bradford “Cycle Superhighway”.

This time, the junction is at the A647 Stanningley Road (a busy motorway-esque road with a 40mph speed limit) and Houghley Lane (a residential street with some, but not much, rat-run potential). Here’s a link to the location on Google Maps, the junction in question is the one on the north (eastbound) side of Stanningley Road.

Like last time, the original plans released by City Connect clearly show a junction with priority for those cycling across the minor road:

A section of released plans for the junction of Stanningley Road and Houghton Lane in Leeds, clearly showing an unbroken painted cycle lane across the junction mouth.

Although it’s a very poor design, there is at least clear priority for people cycling across the junction. The original PDF is here.

Never mind that the design – used frequently in the Leeds-Bradford plans – shows the kind of junction at which cyclists are returned to the carriageway, meaning this won’t be attractive to people who currently don’t cycle.

Never mind that this is exactly the kind of junction design despised by German cycle campaigners for its role in many cycling deaths and injuries.

Never mind that this junction is where Kate Furneaux was killed in 2009 by rat-running lorry driver Peter McCurry. And never mind that the new design shown above offers no protection or benefit over the painted cycle lane that Kate Furneaux was using.

Never mind that the junction could easily be removed entirely, eliminating the danger altogether. Residents could instead use the signalled junction at Cockshott Lane, adding a mere 0.1 miles to their journey.

Never mind that Stanningley Road is over 30 metres wide at this location, with a huge grassy median and turning area, providing plenty of space which could be used for a top-class junction design.

So never mind all that information, which tells us that several far superior solutions were possible, desirable and necessary.

Let’s take a look at what has been installed:

A cycleway and footway next to a busy road, with a junction just beyond. The cycleway suddenly ends, the footway becomes shared use for walking and cycling, and metal barriers appear.

This doesn’t look continuous to me. And it certainly ain’t “super”.

I’m told that a safety audit flagged up the death of Kate Furneaux, and suggested that a painted cycle lane wasn’t safe here. It should have been clear from the start that this junction needed genuine improvements. Why must it come to a safety audit before anyone realises that painted cycle lanes are no good? Any cycle campaigner could have told them that years ago.

So I can see why the original plans were changed – but the delivered design is a terrible solution that does little to address the danger. There is so much wrong with it, it might even be worse than what was planned.

People riding along the cycleway are expected to join the footway, turn left, turn right, then cross the side road (without priority) as if on foot. At the other side, they’re expected to perform the same manoeuvre in reverse to join the next section of cycleway (which is being used as a parking bay in the photo above) just before a busy driveway cuts across it.

To add insult to injury, there’s two grates and wheel-grabbing tactile slabs just as you’re expected to make the left turn.

Unsurprisingly, many people are choosing to leave the cycleway at this point, and rejoin the carriageway – as is evidenced by the many tyre tracks in the mud. No doubt this will cause aggravation as drivers believe “cyclists don’t even use the perfectly good cycle lane provided.” This stuff doesn’t please those who already cycle, and it won’t entice many to begin cycling either.

The City Connect scheme was an opportunity to reconfigure the road to provide real cycling infrastructure, safe and suitable for all. Instead we’re left with another broken promise, another dangerous junction, another useless piece of pretend infrastructure squeezed into a tiny slice of land between the footway and a dangerous road.


 

Before publishing this blog post, I asked City Connect if they’d like to comment, and received the following:

“The design was altered following concerns raised through the safety audit. The concerns are around the junction layout and a cyclist fatality at this junction. In addition to this, the time and budget constraints on this project mean that we are unable to change the junction to a more desirable line due to 3rd party land constraints. Given that this scheme is the first one that’s sought to create a predominantly segregated cycle route, and the current cycle lane is on highway, it would not meet our aspirations to leave as is.

We are committed to reviewing the operation of these facilities and, if necessary, make any alterations, subject to funding availability. We are also reviewing the pedestrian guard rail at this point and the proximity and positioning of it in relation to the cycle track and there is also a speed table to be installed. We recognized concerns raised by local cyclists and are addressing them through the programme resource. It’s not yet finished and the consultation and review process for the whole scheme is continuing.”

I’m grateful for the swift reply, but I’m not convinced by any of the points raised. The safety audit rightly recognised the lack of protection offered by paint, but the chosen ‘solution’ is clearly encouraging many cyclists to use the carriageway, negating any benefits which a cycleway might bring.

While I accept that City Connect may well be “committed to reviewing” this farcility, it’s clear that the money has been spent and it’s pretty much going to remain like this for a long time. Enjoy using your Superhighway, folks.

As Leeds has just been outed as one of the worst UK cities for air pollution (air pollution costs Leeds £480m anually, and obesity costs £304m) you might expect the council to enable active transport, yet instead we merely get half-baked infrastructure and more hot air in the form of weak excuses.

Leeds may well have been the Motorway City of the Seventies, but it’s now Car-Choked City of the 2000s – and the council is doing everything they can to make sure it remains that way for a long time.

 


 

Does anyone have any genuinely good examples of infrastructure from this project worth sharing? Get in touch if so.

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19 Comments

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19 responses to “More broken promises on Leeds’ so-called “Cycle Superhighway”

  1. “wheel-grabbing tactile slabs”

    “cyclists don’t even use the perfectly good cycle lane provided.”
    or “pulled out in front of me without looking, m’lud”

    OTOH at least it’s not horribly ambiguous
    http://metro.co.uk/2016/02/11/van-and-bike-collide-on-a-main-road-but-which-vehicle-is-at-fault-5676441/

    • D.

      I hate those linear tactile paving slabs; I’d always felt like my wheel was suddenly toboganning (best way of describing it) but had assumed it was something *I* was doing wrong. Glad (?) to find out it’s not just me.

  2. There will need to be a pushback on the tactile paving at some point. In use the surfaces fill with grime and polish to a slippery finish, they don’t provide adequate friction through their life. We have even worse examples in Australia with most of the tactile patterns being made out of smooth plastic or metal.

  3. Tim

    Obviously in this case the tactile slabs are to indicate where the “shared use” pavement (ugh) starts. For the pedestrians this is an aid to anyone who is partially-sighted or blind, as they won’t see the warning signs to indicate they will be sharing with cyclists.

    I don’t see why it’s required for the cyclists to cross those slabs though. Here’s an example in Manchester where cyclists have the option to go up the dropped kerb onto the footway, inside the shared use area, and navigate the junction using the toucan crossings rather than cycling across the junction using the carriageway.
    https://goo.gl/maps/15ay8UVtB8u

    Of course it goes without saying that both Manchester and Leeds junctions are a bodge. The minute you direct cyclists onto the footway (even optionally as in the Manchester example) you’re admitting your junction isn’t safe or convenient for cycling.

    • Yes, lovely, let’s help the partially-sighted walker, but why not do it without screwing the limited mobility cyclist who slides along those tramline tiles and falls over into the fence? Surely it’s feasible to use flat/inset kerbs like that Manchester example in many more places?

  4. Barry Bethal

    Look how much space they have to play with here, yet still place the track right up against the road, and install a sharp narrow chicane around the bus shelter. They’re not even trying. https://www.google.com/maps/@53.8073151,-1.6454624,3a,75y,76.13h,60.35t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1suJs_FYEA9ipM7Pea80HNnw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    • David layton

      I used to use this section of road to cycle all the way into Leeds. since they started this abortion it is totally unusable the road is now too narrow to be used by cyclists and cars comfortably. I wouldn’t use the new infrastructure if they paid me. Even with my limited knowledge it screams accident waiting to happen. I take a different route to work every day now, adds about 2 miles

    • Dan

      Spin the camera around and you’ll see the parked cars and the curbs that stop you going around them should you enter one of the sections and don’t see the blockage. Farce.

  5. Someone needs to file with an obudsman. Someone needs to file with a court explaining that cyclists are not looked after, their safety despite a wealth of information out to you and many people willing to explain, many for free, why your own design is dangerous and why the best designs are far superior to the one you came up with instead. It violates equal protection laws, and it fails to recognize that motor vehicles are the ones who must give if no other solution can be found.

    The people who came up with the design in Leeds need tomatoes launched at them. Someone needs to sit on their desk and not leave until they create a specific plan making this truly up to the Dutch best practice.

    • Ian S

      Pull the discrimination card too. In cases of deaths in industrial facilities the judge will categorically reject the ‘I did not know’ or the ‘I knowingly did not operate my facility to reduce the risk to personnel to as low as reasonably practicable’ excuses. If the information is there and readily available, especially in published standards and studies, then the operator/owner/designer is accountable. Your engineers must be registered to operate as engineers. Have you tried taking it up with the national engineering body and asking direct questions?

    • David layton

      When the first death happen’s they need to be up in front of a judge. just like i would be if i did not take all due care to avoid a accident at work. the sad thing is it wont be a experienced cyclist who dies they wont use it it will be some one who is lulled into the false seance of safety this abortion gives

  6. Although you rightfully highlight the Houghley lane junction, the section from Bramley Town end to Armley Park is good and although not open, is cyclable. I would have thought that, if you’d cycled the Hougley Lane you would have completed this stretch? The Junction with Armley Ridge Road and further down on the way to Leeds in the section on Armley Road, the junction with Pickering Street offer a much clearer priority for cyclists. I’ve posted video clips of these sections on Twitter showing driver behaviour, and particularly at the fuel station on Armley Road. Crucially this section offers cyclist far better protection to cyclists especially on the links; as we all know the links are often the easiest part, and its the junctions where the engineers and signal specialists are tested and in West Yorkshire are learning. Next time you cycle this section, I’d be happy to come with you… Pete Z

    • Hi Pete, thanks for commenting.

      I haven’t actually cycled any of it myself yet (I’m not even sure how I’d reach any of the finished bits from Leeds main station) though I have been to see some of the bits along the section to the east of Leeds city centre. As you say, some of the links are good (but I’d be amazed if they weren’t, these are after all the straight, easy bits) but pretty much every junction, driveway and bus stop I’ve seen is sub-par in some way.

      The photo was sent in by a reader (as was the one on Thornbury gyratory) but I’m familiar with the junction, as I lived not far away from it 10 years ago, so I’ve driven past many times, but cycling along there never even entered my mind!

      I do intend to ride the length of the cycleway once it’s open (still on track for Spring this year?), but in the meantime if you have any photos that show the better junctions, drop me a line by email and if there are any genuinely good ones I’d be happy to write about them.

      • Jitensha Oni

        For reference, Pete Z’s clips are at:

        But while I’m here I do have an issue with using the rider’s death as the council officer did to justify the junction treatment. According to the Yorkshire Post*, a lane off the main road by the junction was coned off, funnelling traffic into the area when and where the death occurred. That scenario was removed with the end of the roadworks, so I don’t see how that can be used to develop the solution in the photo for normal operation (especially with the dropped kerb, which seems to undermine any pretence to be safer).

        However, I suspect that, at bottom, this junction is proving problematic for the same reason Grange Avenue was – the locals want unfettered motor access to and from the main road, whereas a no entry off it (perhaps let them come out with a speed table) would be the most typically Dutch solution (if not the absolute safest).

        * http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/trucker-jailed-over-talented-scientist-s-death-1-2566903

  7. At the same time CityConnect has plenty of time for other activities, such as designing a new logo a posting “cycling-related” content on social media, and organising “bike photoshoots”

  8. Has ANYONE ANYWHERE got an example of a safety audit that has significantly improved cycling facilities in a cycleway/carriageway conflict?

    It sometimes feels to me like safety audit teams are embedded motorist groups that only act post-consultation and secure changes that benefit motorists which are not seen by cyclist groups until they’re built. A local example: there was a cycle track which was meant to lead from the minor leg of a redesigned T junction into advisory cycle lanes on the major road where the centre line would be removed (rather like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fietsstrook_Herenweg_Oudorp.jpg ) but I’d agree with the safety auditors that it wasn’t good enough because there’s too much motor traffic on that road for that design. Their suggestion, though? “it is preferable to make no formal provision for cyclists”. That road is still an obvious desire line between four cycle routes! No suggestion of reallocating road space or trying to provide an alternative route for either motorists or cyclists. While probably not unsafe (there are few recorded collisions), it’s unattractive to cycle for half a mile around bends with a queue of motorists building up behind you.

    Oh and then to cap it all, the junction that should have connected the cycle track and cycle lanes was simply deleted from the plan, leaving the cycle track ending on the inside corner of a T junction, conflicting with and giving way to almost all on-carriageway movements! Unsurprisingly, it’s turned the cycle track into pretty much a while elephant… well, that and the safety auditors didn’t challenge any of the blind junctions on the cycle track. 😦

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