Picture-post: MORE terrible cycleways on York Road in Leeds

So in the previous instalment we headed west, from the Ring Road towards the city centre.

This time we’ll cross the road, turn around and head back eastwards to our starting point, but on the other side of the road.

The Superhighway begins here as a Superfootway, i.e. it used to be illegal to cycle here but the council have put up a sign so now it’s perfectly safe and OK.

What looks like a footway, but has been designated part of the Leeds-Bradford Cycle Superhighway, so now cycling is allowed here

The shared footway soon splits into a spearate cycleway and footway, and we then arrive at our first bus stop bypass:

A cycleway passes a bus stop but people walking are expected to cross cycleway twice, and both surfaces look the same

So if you’re on foot, you’re expected to look over your shoulder and cross the cycleway twice simply to walk straight on.

I assume the bin isn’t fixed, but the lamp-post and overhanging shrubbery – plus the sharp angles – make the cycleway feel uncomfortably narrow. There’s also little differentiation between the two, I imagine people getting off the bus will have no idea what all this means.

After the bus stop above, people walking are meant to leave the road (there’s a footpath on the left) and the old footway along York Road becomes a cycleway, though of course people will continue to walk here.

The next bus stop is a real doozy…

A narrow footway with bus stop has been converted into a shared-use footway/cycleway despite there being clearly too little space

I mean, come on, seriously? The photo above shows Leeds Cycle Superhighway in all its crapness. Imagine when there’s a few people waiting for a bus, perhaps someone with a pram or pushchair, or children playing around.

Utterly unacceptably poor. There’s no defence for this.

Here’s another bus stop further along, with added blind corner for extra thrills:

Another badly-designed bus stop bypass, this time with a dangerous blind corner

So people going to the bus stop will be coming from just behind that concrete wall, directly opposite the tactile paving you can see. A recipe for collisions (or it would be if more than a handful of people actually cycled in Leeds).

Later on, after more shared footway, we reach a junction which serves only a pet shop (and fire engine access):

Shared cycleway/footway crosses a minor side road, with confusing priority

The kerbing here is a mess, it doesn’t scream “give way to cycles” to me. I certainly wouldn’t trust cars coming off the main road to stop here, as the kerb line guides them smoothly around the corner.

I’m nothing if not fair, so here’s a photo of a bit that isn’t too bad:

A cycleway that isn't too bad, but has strange drainage undulations

It’s (fairly) clear, it’s free from obstructions, it’s a decent width, the drain covers are wheel-friendly. If it was all this good, I wouldn’t complain. But then, the straight bits should be simple to do!

Note how the right-hand side undulates, rising and falling where the drains are. Now I’m no drainage engineer, but shouldn’t this have been achieved with camber? I can’t say I’ve noticed cycleways elsewhere doing this, but perhaps there is a good reason for it (and this isn’t the case elsewhere). As least they’ve thought about drainage, a concept which seems to have escaped engineers elsewhere!

Another bus stop bypass now, which is ridiculously narrow given the width of the road here (almost 40 metres wide!):

Narrow cycleway past bus stop despite extremely wide road width

This is followed by a whole bunch of driveways to private business properties, each of which has been designed like to:

Driveways interrupt cycleway on York Road in Leeds

Does it look to you like the cycleway (or the footway) has priority over motor vehicles here?

Note also that, due to the smooth ride which King Motorist must receive, the cycleway undulates at each driveway (look at the kerb and you’ll see it). That’s not how to do it.

Nor is this:

Wide-radius junction for fast motor turning cuts across cycleway and footway, on York Road A64 in Leeds

Again, a cycleway junction this close to a 40mph road will never be safe. What’s odd is that elsewhere along the route, the space occupied by the old painted cycle lane has been taken, whereas here the entire new cycleway is within the old footway. Combine the old painted cycle lane with the space available on the left, and this junction could have easily been designed to be much safer and comfortable.

Instead yet again the protecting island ends too far back, the kerb line cuts across the cycleway and guides drivers smoothly around the corner at speed. No amount of paint will fix this. It needs redoing from scratch.

A little further on, the cycleway and footway are once more squeezed together at a bus stop, so that motor vehicles may pass unhindered:

Barely-used driveway interrupts cycleway/footway, after shared-use bus stop

And the driveway – for an electricity substation, so hardly a busy driveway – has visual priority over people walking and cycling.

Here’s a view from a footbridge, showing the narrow medieval route ahead:

Photo taken from footbridge over York Road in Leeds, facing east, looking over eight lanes for motor traffic (two of them bus lanes)

For a look back towards where we’ve just come from, click here.

Moving on, we’ll see how the old painted cycle lane is being taken away to provide more space for a cycleway:

Unfinished work on the Leeds Cycle Superhighway, with parked motor vehicles blocking the footway

I really don’t like the look of that junction though, and the plans show a mere painted cycle lane here (so not much different from what we see today).

The residents of this part of the road park their vehicles all over the footway, but formal parking spaces are being provided as part of the scheme, so I hope the cycleway and footway are kept clear of parked vehicles.

Further on – past more poor junctions and squeezed-in bus stops – we arrive at… shared-use footway and toucan crossings!

Cycleway and footway become shared-use at busy junction, with three separate crossing phases

Yes, this is how the Leeds Cycle Superhighway is treated at busy junctions. Legalised footway cycling and toucan bloody crossings. The very crap which has failed to do anything for cycling in the UK, but this time it’s Super.

Nothing says Cycle Superhighway quite like having to mix in a narrow space with people on foot, and wait at THREE separate signals just to go straight on across one side-road (it’s the access road to Asda, if you’re familiar with the area).

Truly dire.

Further up the hill at the next junction, the same treatment has been used:

A separate cycleway and footway turn into shared use area at junction with limited space

Once more, I ask: is there really enough space here? What if a family is waiting to cross the road to the right? This clearly is a bodge job, and not even nearly the best solution.

Moving on, we find that at an access driveway the cycleway disappears altogether:

Poor and dangerous cycleway design at service driveway, where motor vehicles appear to have priority

This is the access to the parking for a fire station (not the emergency fire engine exit). Given all the space available here, this is an awful design.

Next we come to what is probably my favourite section:

Insane junction design where cycleway and footway criss-cross each other multiple times

The design team were surely on some very strong drugs when this was drawn. It’s all a bizarre attempt to give access to the existing traffic island and toucan crossing on the left, without making any changes to the existing road layout.

From where I’m stood, the cycleway is on the left (coming towards the camera). I’ll let you trace the various paths yourself.

Turning around, we see that we’re back at the section where the cycleway is raised above the footway. This means that you’re now cycling on a long podium right next to fast-moving motor traffic. Don’t wobble!

Cycleway is a strange raised platform right alongside a busy 40mph road

Would it really have been so difficult to move the whole thing left by a couple of metres? That would have made all the difference. It’s just grass!

Another junction now, does it look like priorities are clear?

Very poorly designed junction of cycleway, footway and side road, with vague priority and mess of white paint

That’s a minor side road sweeping across both the footway and cycleway there. People will be cycling towards the camera (in theory, anyway) and will have to watch for cars approaching from three directions.

We’ve almost finished our safari now, just a few more things to see…

Here we have another side road with wide, sweeping junction, which is dangerously designed despite the amount of space available. (This is where the old York Road heads left, and is a popular rat-run.)

A car turns off the 40mph York Road directly into the path of the cycleway

Followed by the entrance/exit to a supermarket car park:

Car park entrance/exit with motor priority over walking and cycling

And finally, a shrug of the shoulders at a toucan crossing. I’m becoming numbed to this rubbish now.

Cycleway and footway merge at pedestrian crossing to form shared use footway

And that ends our walk along the eastern section of Leeds’ so-called “Cycle Superhighway”. I hope you’ve all enjoyed yourselves, and please – don’t have nightmares.

If anyone would like to see the whole 130-odd photographs I took, get in touch and I’ll make them available somehow.


Coming soon! The Superhighway in the West (of Leeds).



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13 responses to “Picture-post: MORE terrible cycleways on York Road in Leeds

  1. Pingback: Picture-post: Terrible cycle infrastructure on York Road in Leeds | The Alternative Department for Transport

  2. Do you know how much input did local cycle campaigners had in this scheme? It seems like a lot of money was wasted to produce that rubbish!

    • Martin Stanley

      Campaigners had several meetings with the designers. However, the main issue is that we never saw the revised plans as a result of our input. Therefore, construction started without anyone but the designers having a clear knowledge of what was being put in.

      I would say most of the responsibility lies within the city council for imposing an incredibly restrictive brief. i.e. No reduction in motor vehicle capacity.

      • Oh I’ve been in design meetings with council highways engineers. They listen, take notes and then completely ignore any comments. They are tickbox exercises; have you consulted cycling groups? Yes,TICK!! And that is why you end up with rubbish like this 😦

  3. It will be interesting to see if the addition of paint will make prioritisation more clear.

  4. Rob Shepter

    The only thing that will make that infra better is when the cyclist and pedestrian KSI figures get into double figures…

  5. Andy R

    “Now I’m no drainage engineer, but shouldn’t this have been achieved with camber? I can’t say I’ve noticed cycleways elsewhere doing this, but perhaps there is a good reason for it.”
    I’m not a drainage engineer either, but that just looks like an exaggerated version of highway drainage in a flat area, with false high and low spots. In fact with those gradients it almost looks like the designer is reacting to criticism of poor drainage elsewhere and making sure this length drains properly and won’t have pooling water making it unusable.

  6. Andrew Willoughby

    This does look a mess in Leeds, but what do you actually want? I walk, and I cycle and drive cars.Do you want these narrow cycle lanes separated from pedestrians at all?
    I find that people walking will walk anywhere and everywhere. If there are four of them they walk four abreast. Any amount of signing and painting makes little difference – it can just lead to accusations ‘you are on the wrong bit’.
    Simple shared use is not ideal but it seems the best option. We all walk and cycle around each other without hassle, and without kerbs to bump up and down. So how did you end up with this mess in Leeds?

    And once it is signed will you take councillors and highway engineers to show them the mess? You should.

  7. AndyR

    “Simple shared use is not ideal but it seems the best option. We all walk and cycle around each other without hassle, and without kerbs to bump up and down.”
    Maybe for an able-bodied cyclist, but like it or not there are user groups – in particular the blind and partially-sighted (but also those with impaired mobility who cannot move quickly) – for whom cyclists feel like a threat due to their speed and relative silence. Now, most cyclists will slow down around peds – but that then negates the fact that bikes should be a faster means of transport than walking.

    • MJ Ray

      Cute rant, but ignores the point that marking distinct cycle tracks and footways currently mainly means constraining cycles to an inadequate width (or exposing them to police harassment if they use the often-identical-spec footway to pass others) because Brits routinely walk taking up the full width of cycle tracks, regardless of whether there’s a footway alongside.

      I’ve sympathy with people with sight and mobility problems but as long as they don’t walk across the full width and people cycling use bells, is it so bad?

  8. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    I wholeheartedly agree with 99.9% of what you have written here. It’s also saved me a job because I wanted a similar venting of frustration of something which has been a complete missed opportunity by LCC!

    Plain and simple; vehicles have priority over the cyclists. The side roads will be littered with cyclists going over bonnets of cars which turn off and fail to give way as per the road marking. I can do 30 – 40mph down stretches of this bit of road. Why the hell would I do that with pedestrians and the risk of being catapulted over a car bonnet?!

    The superhighway is complete utter farce when it comes to commuting anywhere in any reasonably amount of time.

    So what’s the 0.1% I disagree with? Well it’s the bit you think “isn’t too bad”! For me, it takes me down a slip road I don’t want to go down, to a junction I don’t want/need to cross, to a roundabout I don’t need/want to navigate, to a set of lights I could’ve avoided to rejoin the road the cycleway just made me leave! That, and in it’s current unfinished, poorly managed and signed state, takes you down hill into a gravel trap without warning!

    On opening – we should take LCC, the engineers and the other’s involved in this farce on a commute speed ride into Leeds at rush hour. Split into 2 groups. One uses the road the other the cycle superhighway and see how we all get on. I’d be surprised if the superhighway group make it in one piece down York Road to be honest!

  9. Pingback: Copenhagen bus stops – Nicer cities, liveable places

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