I’ve covered the dreadful design and execution of the Leeds-Bradford “Cycle Superhighway” before, but I’ve never had chance to get a good look at it up close, relying instead on reports and photographs from concerned readers.
However, recently I got a chance to take a detailed look for myself, and unfortunately, even with the low expectations I had, I was disappointed. For the money spent, disruption caused, and time taken, this could have been great, but it’s rubbish.
No doubt the propagandists responsible for defending this shambles will once more repeat their favourite phrase, “it’s not finished yet,” as mitigation for the poor design you’re about to see. But a lot of the roadworks are finished, and some paint and a few signs aren’t going to make much difference.
So join me, if you will, for a stroll along the A64 York Road, Leeds’ main east-bound traffic artery, signed for a 40mph limit which is often ignored. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, we’ll shake our heads sadly. My dear readers, I present to you, Leeds Cycle Superhighway…
We’ll start at the eastern point of the scheme, next to the Ring Road, and head west into town. I’ve not included photos of every inch, but I’ve tried to give a sense of what’s been installed here (the junctions I’ve missed out aren’t much different to the ones I’ve included).
Firstly we can see that the definition of both the cycleway and footway disappear at every driveway for some reason, presumably because today’s motor vehicles couldn’t possibly mount a small kerb, right? (Though prams and wheelchairs clearly can…)
What this will probably mean in practice is that drivers will continue to treat the cycleway as part of their driveway, and park their cars there. Why was red asphalt not used? Why is the kerb line interrupted? There’s no need for this, it should be better.
For some reason, beyond the junction the cycleway is raised up above the footway (i.e. the opposite to what you’d expect, and not what was promised by City Connect).
Soon the cycleway disappears altogether, and turns into shared-use footway, despite York Road being over 35 metres wide at this point.
Note the car parked on the Superhighway/shared-use-footway in the distance, and the nearer cars parked on the footway too. (I’m told enforcement is due to start next month.)
After the parked car, the shared footway becomes a separate cycleway and footway again, but note what you’re expected to do if you’re walking straight on (the footway is on the left, by the way).
Yes, people on foot are expected to continue along the ever-decreasing footway, then cross the cycleway. (From this point on, the cycleway is a raised platform above the footway – you can see the hump just after the crossing in the photo above.)
Then, once you’ve walked past the bus stop, you’re expected to… cross again!
This is a recurring theme – the cycleway and the footway cross each other constantly, which introduces unnecessary conflict, indirectness and delay. Of course, in reality, people will just walk along the cycleway here.
Next we come to the junction with Cross Gates Lane, which is a huge junction for what should be a residential street. The speed table and give-way markings are undermined by the kerb line and the double yellows, which both interrupt the visual priority of the cycleway.
The footway is also severed here, which makes it look even more like people driving have priority. To add to the danger, motor vehicles can approach from three directions, as there is a turning gap in the median along York Road.
Nope, instead we’ll re-route people walking across the road (again!) onto a narrow footway, then designate the existing footway as the Cycle Superhighway, put up some ‘no parking’ signs, job done.
The message is clear, at least. But will it be heeded?
At the bottom of the hill there is a petrol station, and here is how the crossover is handled:
I crossed from the other side of the road to take the above photo, and I found I had no idea which side was footway and which was cycleway. I later deduced that the raised section (on the left) is the cycleway, and the footway is the bit with the road sign and advertisement blocking it.
Around the corner, after some more shared-use footway, we reach this ancient relic of an earlier attempt at cycling infrastructure.
So Leeds City Council are still installing the same bad infrastructure that they were back when this was fresh. It’s almost as if they want to suppress cycling…
Further along still, we find a long section on which work hasn’t even begun. I’ve been told that the route will open in Spring – I’m assuming that means Spring 2016 – but that’s clearly not going to happen.
I’m not even sure where the cycleway could go here, given that at no point so far has any space – not even one lousy millimetre – been taken from motor vehicles. More shared-use, perhaps? Or an on-road painted lane?
Moving on, and we eventually arrive at a footbridge which crosses York Road, giving us this panoramic view of the narrow, medieval streets into which decent cycling infrastructure simply won’t fit.
Again, note that work hasn’t even begun on the westbound section. It’s not looking good for a Spring 2016 opening.
Incidentally, even though the walk from end to end would take about an hour, it took me about double that, as I was stopping to take photos and switch sides. In those two hours I saw three people cycling – two children messing about, and one adult actually using a bike to get somewhere.
In that same time I must have been passed by many thousands of motor vehicles. You can do the maths yourself to estimate the modal share on this particular Saturday afternoon.
To prove that Leeds’ lone transport cyclist wasn’t a figment of my imagination, here is documentary evidence of this rebel, who helps to give some scale to the dreadful bus stop bypass:
Three lanes of motor traffic and still the bus stops in a lay-by, meaning walking and cycling both suffer.
I don’t remember where he went next, but I hope he looked over his shoulder very carefully:
Yes, that’s a slip-road which exits off a 40mph main road and crosses the cycleway and footway at an oblique angle. The cycleway is apparently going to have priority over turning motor vehicles here.
This clearly isn’t safe. How do these so-called engineers sleep at night?
Just beyond that mess we reach another service road, which should be an open goal, right? Again, no:
It’s still under construction, but that will be the cycleway on the right, squeezed up alongside a fast, busy road. Surely that space would have been better used as car parking, with cycling sharing the service road?
Finally on this wastbound run, we reach the extent of the current works, at the very edge of Leeds city centre, just after this masterful work…
That’ll do for this post, there’s only so much you can take in one sitting. Once you’ve steadied your nerves, we can take the trip in the other direction, heading out from town back east towards the Ring Road. If anything, it’s even worse.