Thoughts on the Golden Mile (Belgrave Road) consultation

LCCG committee member Dave Warnock recently attended a Council consultation event on the Belgrave Road Improvement Scheme. Dave was able to have extensive conversations with a number of staff from the planning consultants Phil Jones Associates, including Phil himself. Dave shared his thoughts with those attending our December meeting and has since produced this detailed comment. You may find it helpful to read this while considering your own response to the consultation (link here), which is open until 15th January 2016.


Belgrave Road/Golden Mile Consultation
Dave Warnock, for LCCG

Three options are being presented:

– Option 1: Four lanes (2 each way) with central reservation (pdf: Option 1)
– Option 2: Two lanes (1 each way) with central reservation (pdf: Option 2)
– Option 3: Two lanes (1 each way) with partial central reservation (pdf: Option 3)

The printed material is available on the consultation website as 3 plans, each with a simple summary of some of the consequences. The Council had also prepared videos showing each of the options in action.

Sadly none of the material showed anything much about cycling, no pictures of cyclists anywhere, no details about provision. However, the conversations were much more useful.

Wider Network

While there was nothing on display, the team were able to demonstrate that they are planning wider connections for cycling, particularly for crossing the Golden Mile.

They plan to introduce infrastructure-free cycling contraflow on all the one-way streets around the Golden Mile. I believe we should offer this a cautious welcome. “Enhanced permeability” (ie. making it easier to get to and from a particular point) is a very good thing. However, on streets with parked cars on both sides, it will take a confident cyclist to ride contraflow with no protection from vehicles.

All the options include better crossings of the Golden Mile for cyclists, making East/West movement much easier and faster. This should be welcomed.

There are a small number of other connections they hope to make in all the options, particularly from Belgrave Circle past the Gandhi statue to the Cossington Recreation Ground. Again this is good news.

Cycle Parking

All the options claim to provide opportunity for new cycle parking. However, there is no detail about location, numbers or style. Good quality, secure, convenient cycle parking right along the Golden Mile would be a significant improvement. A few Sheffield stands dotted at random will not be.

Option 1:  Four lanes (2 each way) with central reservation 

This option is very similar to what is there today. It provides no cycle infrastructure along the Golden Mile and no significant improvements for pedestrians. I do not believe we should consider supporting this option which offers no improvements at all for cycle journeys along the Golden Mile.

The video and presentations ignore the current reality of illegal parking which means that one lane always has multiple blockages in it due to illegally parked vehicles. So the theoretical traffic flows are never achieved.

Options 2 and 3: Two lanes (1 each way) with varying central reservations

These options actually differ very little for cycling. An argument for option 2 (with full length central reservation) is that there is still space for good cycling infrastructure while also making it easier for pedestrians to cross the road.

It does seem to me that one of the key advantages of the central reservation is that it stops people simply parking anywhere along the road as they would completely block all traffic. Of course, unless something is done to stop it they will simply park on the footway (or cycle track).

From a Cycling Campaign viewpoint, the problem is that the plans show so little about cycle infrastructure that essentially we are being asked to simply trust Phil Jones Associates and the Council to actually design and implement something that works.

Sadly the videos were extremely unhelpful in encouraging that trust. They showed only an advisory cycle lane (dashed painted line). They didn’t include a single bike and they showed vehicles driving in the cycle lane. They also failed to show any safe junctions for cycling.

I am assured that Phil Jones Associates believe that in both options there is space for a full separated cycle lane in each direction that would be at least 1.8m wide (and hopefully even over 2m – which is the recommended minimum after all). They appear to be committed to providing this even though they have not shown it on the designs so far (apparently the difference between a painted line and fully separated infrastructure is a “detail”).

I am also assured that the detailed design will include safe junctions for cyclists. These are likely to be slower than simply ‘taking the lane’, as they will include some diversions to use zebra crossings (the new sort with a parallel crossing for cycles).  However, I think this is the right approach for junctions such as these, as it can take away one of the most significant dangers which is left-turning vehicles. One example will be when heading north to get past the Loughborough Road turning. Therefore we should support these as the right way to open up cycling to the full range of potential users.

In my discussions with them I made the following points:

  • A painted line (mandatory or advisory) will not be considered acceptable by the Cycling Campaign Group. We would expect to find it frequently blocked by parked vehicles and it offers no protection at junctions. It would do nothing to encourage people to choose to cycle.
  • A hybrid cycleway (½ step kerb up from the road and another ½ step kerb up to the footway) is attractive, provided vehicles are prevented from parking on it. Without protection from parked vehicles it is no use at all, especially on a street where so many drivers already park illegally.
  • We all agreed that any cycleway needs to be properly separated not just from vehicles but also from pedestrians. That needs to be more than just a painted line in order for it to work for people with visual difficulties and for guide-dogs.
  • Together we wondered about meeting the concerns of shop keepers wanting to be protected from ram-raiding as well as keeping the cycleway clear of vehicles and providing cycle parking by putting barriers between the cycle way and the road that could also be used for bike parking. At its simplest, this would be a line of Sheffield stands between the cycleway and the road (although they were thinking of a more “stylish” alternative). I felt this would be an excellent option as not only would it protect the cycleway and provide lots of bike parking it would also keep the footway clear of bike parking.

Conclusion

I recommend responding to the consultation by rejecting option 1 and by supporting either option 2 or 3 providing that the detailed design includes safe, separated cycleways along the full length of the Golden Mile that are clearly separated from pedestrians (by level, colour and surface) and which are protected from vehicles parking in them through kerbs, wands, posts, Sheffield stands or some such means. The cycleways must provide safe and convenient crossings of all junctions.

I also recommend supporting the increased permeability and wider cycle network connections while pointing out that without separated infrastructure these are likely to be of limited benefit in encouraging people who do not currently cycle to choose to do so.

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