Towpath bike route could be pedestrian hazard, Leeds councillors warn

£29 million scheme will create cycle superhighway between Northern cities

by John Stevenson   December 30, 2013  

Leeds Bradford Cycle Superhighway

A planned cycle route between Leeds and Bradford could become a safety hazard, opposition councillors on Leeds City Council have warned.

Earlier this year West Yorkshire was awarded an £18m Cycle City Ambition grant to improve cycling provision in the area, including a ‘cycle superhighway’ between Leeds and Bradford. The remainder of the £29 million funding will come from local government.

The scheme includes a largely segregated east/west cross-city route in Leeds which will provide a direct link between the cities, and the resurfacing of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal towpath between Shipley and Armley. There will also be secure bike parking areas, and 20mph zones for vehicles.

Upgrading the 14 miles of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal towpath means it will become the longest continuous cycleway in the north of England.

But Councillor Andrew Carter, opposition Conservative group leader at Leeds City Council, believes that the plan could create safety hazards for pedestrians who currently use the towpath.

According to the Yorkshire Post, Councillor Carter said the stretch of towpath between Kirkstall and Shipley already throws up regular cases of “irresponsible cyclists causing havoc and threatening pedestrian safety”.

Routes that mix cyclists and pedestrians have a history of causing conflict if they become highly used. Earlier this year, transport charity Sustrans called for riders of fast road bikes to slow down on shared use paths “where their use was never foreseen or catered for”.

The details of the towpath and cross-city routes have not yet been decided, so there is still time for the needs of all types of cyclists to be taken into account. Transport consultancy Steer Davies Gleave is currently advertising for members of a consultation team that will sound out local people’s opinions on the scheme.

Councillor Carter’s comments are not the first time Leeds and Bradford opposition councillors have complained about the plan. When the grant was announced Councillor Glen Miller, leader of the Conservative group on Bradford City Council, told the Bradford Telegraph and Argus: “It is yet another pie in the sky idea brought forward – and yet again opposition parties are not involved.

“We must remember road users pay a lot in petrol and road tax. And there are more road users than cyclists.”

But Councillor Val Slater, Bradford Council's executive member for Transport, said: “This funding is fantastic and is a great boost for us to create a high quality cycle route between Leeds and Bradford. 

“It is an exciting initiative that will help encourage more people to make safer cycling journeys for both work and leisure. It should also give children more confidence to cycle and improve their physical activity and health."

16 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

"We must remember road users pay a lot in petrol and road tax. And there are more road users than cyclists.” Another local politician with the mental capabilities of a shrimp. Being able to print quotes like that one must be the cycle journalists equivalent of a free lunch.

Paul W

posted by PaulVWatts [111 posts]
30th December 2013 - 15:14

like this
Like (25)

I'm surprised that the Tory hasn't run off to join the BNP with his level of knowledge and attitude towards cycling.

However, mixing pedestrians and cyclists is not a good idea.

posted by Bikebikebike [54 posts]
30th December 2013 - 15:54

like this
Like (21)

Yeah I am pretty sure getting those kinds of quotes from politicians is the equivalent of taking candy from a baby. I also get that cyclists have a responsibility to slow down in heavily trafficked areas but why do we solely carry the brunt of responsibility for conflict. I was riding the other day and almost hit a pedestrian after yelling ahead that I was passing and then moving to the other side of the path to pass. He was to engrossed in taking a picture to even notice he had strayed across the path!!!

posted by jarredscycling [436 posts]
30th December 2013 - 16:01

like this
Like (14)

jarredscycling wrote:
Yeah I am pretty sure getting those kinds of quotes from politicians is the equivalent of taking candy from a baby. I also get that cyclists have a responsibility to slow down in heavily trafficked areas but why do we solely carry the brunt of responsibility for conflict. I was riding the other day and almost hit a pedestrian after yelling ahead that I was passing and then moving to the other side of the path to pass. He was to engrossed in taking a picture to even notice he had strayed across the path!!!

Cyclists should solely carry the brunt of responsibility in conflict with pedestrians - they are the more vulnerable user. Shouting (or ringing a bell, or beeping a horn) does not change that. Just like drivers should drive more carefully near cyclists, cyclists should ride more carefully near pedestrians.

posted by teaboy [121 posts]
30th December 2013 - 17:09

like this
Like (34)

New infrastructure should be built to a suitable design standard. If there is likely to be bike/pedestrian conflict then the standard should be sufficient to address that.
I feel Sustrans takes the wrong approach here, if the route is suitably designed then there should be very limited needs for anybody to take more than normal care - exceptions maybe at the obvious limited places, unavoidable width restrictions, road crossing points, gates etc.
If they have approved facilities which have ended up with significant conflict problems then their design process has failed.

posted by CarlosFerreiro [42 posts]
30th December 2013 - 17:36

like this
Like (25)

teaboy wrote:

Cyclists should solely carry the brunt of responsibility in conflict with pedestrians - they are the more vulnerable user. Shouting (or ringing a bell, or beeping a horn) does not change that. Just like drivers should drive more carefully near cyclists, cyclists should ride more carefully near pedestrians.

To a point I agree, but there is an element of common courtesy not to move and block others.

Real issue for me is dogs!!!! Law is quite clear about leads and close control, so why do so many insist on letting dogs run loose!

As for a canal side path, what do they do about the fishermen and there deliberate blocking of the path. I say deliberate as they seem to get huffy if you ask to go past if it involves them moving rods, boxes, umbrellas and other assorted crap from the path.

finally, canal side? water??? that is always going to end well!

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [860 posts]
30th December 2013 - 17:42

like this
Like (20)

road tax ... ????? oh for the love of god ... ggrrrrrrr
and just what have car drivers got to do with this scheme ??
oh yes I see, shelve the cycle path due to concerns and siphon
the cash off to road schemes instead - silly me !

still on the 3rd switch-back of Bwlch !

posted by therevokid [585 posts]
30th December 2013 - 18:22

like this
Like (12)

Why is there a canal link between Leeds and Liverpool?
Is there really that much need for boat traffic these days?

Can't the canal itself be drained and converted to a cycle path? Smile

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [503 posts]
30th December 2013 - 20:14

like this
Like (17)

I live full time on my traditional narrowboat and often observe a complete lack of willingness by all towpath users (cyclists, walkers, dog walkers, fishermen, runners and boaters) to negotiate that space with courtesy or consideration.

As a cyclist I agree with teaboy that we should take the primary responsibility to ensure the safety of more vulnerable users than us.

The poor behaviour and entitlement displayed by so many of my fellow cyclists on the towpath so often is both embarrassing and shameful. However, there is a bigger issue of local authorities, tfl in London, Sustrans and the Canal and Rivers Trust (CaRT) encouraging more cyclists to use the towpaths when the majority of towpath is not fit for purpose to support large numbers of cyclists nor are any of those organisations willing to spend the kind of money they actually need to in order to make towpaths genuinely fit for shared use purpose.

Mind you, CaRT get to include all the extra cyclists in their 'boosted' visitor numbers, local authorities and tfl get to say look how much more cycleways we've provided. Sustrans get to include it in their 14000 miles of network. They all win but the actual users are loosers.

I could say a lot more about this including the money tfl and Sustrans have in the past given to CaRT for so called towpath improvements but its a bit painful tapping out long posts on a smartphone so i will leave it here!

posted by djm778 [33 posts]
30th December 2013 - 23:44

like this
Like (28)

Given that to use the Leeds-Liverpool Canal route you need to go North Northeast from Bradford to Shipley, and negotiate a hill or two en route, before turning East to get to Leeds via Esholt and (almost) Yeadon its a pretty dumb solution for delivering a cycling route between Bradford & Leeds, unless you want to go for a nice leisurely day out.

Ah folks, reading the piece properly and looking at the map the Canal is actually not the main cycle route anyway, but instead the route pretty directly follows the main Leeds road

It certainly does need a detail to get over the Leeds ring road at New Pudsey to pick up on the old Leeds Road, or connect with the railway land now vacated where the 4 or more tracks are now reduced to just 2. In fact using some of that wayleave can deliver a cycle route at the top of the embankment where the old railway bridged the current (Midland Railway) lines from Skipton and carried on over the viaduct to Wellington Street Station. The viaduct remains and could form a small city park with the cycle route to reach the River Aire and low traffic roads in the developments to the West of Leeds City Station.

At the Bradford end one option to avoid losing height to cross through the centre might be to pick up on the old railway line to Bowling which can still be traced through to Manchester Road - in Bradford contour cycling around the bowl formed by the surrounding hills is the generally accepted way to make most utility journeys by bike. It is often faster and a lot less effort to ride around rather than go down and back up.

I guess that cycling in Bristol and Bath is not unlike that in Bradford - stick to your contour.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [432 posts]
31st December 2013 - 2:22

like this
Like (16)

This story is a veritable full house on the cycle-haters bingo card!

“irresponsible cyclists causing havoc and threatening pedestrian safety” - what about irresponsible pedestrians and dog walkers that wander all over the place with huge long leads (that's when the dog is on a lead).

“We must remember road users pay a lot in petrol and road tax. And there are more road users than cyclists.”

Are cyclists not road users? This is a path for pedestrians and cyclists. Do pedestrians pay "road tax" or fuel duty? Man is obviously a moron with complete tunnel vision who is unable to see past his Rover steering wheel

posted by gazza_d [132 posts]
31st December 2013 - 8:16

like this
Like (12)

Perhaps we should all write to the guilty party drawing attention to his ignorance and ask for him to correct matters for reason of public safety...the Emma Way affair using the 'road tax' myth as supposed justification for assault is example enough of why such beliefs should be sharply jumped on.

Presented with facts and the reality of the daily tensions out there what good reason can he give for refusing to go on record by making a correction?

This stuff needs to be challenged.

Hating our selfish and ignorant car culture

posted by ironmancole [111 posts]
31st December 2013 - 9:48

like this
Like (11)

Why spend money from a cycling TRANSPORT budget on what looks like a leisure route? Where those for whom it is intended ie cyclists are then hamstrung by being made to slow down, usually draconian barriers impassable to those with disabilities Hardly encouraging cycling to work?

Real cycling strategy would have a moratorium on development on former rail corridors for future development, and consultation and agreement on what routes commuter and regular cyclists want improved

That has not been effectively done in West Yorkshire

posted by langsett [11 posts]
31st December 2013 - 10:58

like this
Like (9)

A V Lowe wrote:
I guess that cycling in Bristol and Bath is not unlike that in Bradford - stick to your contour.

You'd think, wouldn't you? Unfortunately the people who built the roads in Bristol and Bath all seem to have been given set squares for Christmas and were therefore determined to build the roads perpendicular to the contours!

Still, it makes for good hill intervals.

posted by mbrads72 [99 posts]
31st December 2013 - 14:04

like this
Like (11)

Just to add another point, the reality of the problems safe cycling faces is really obvious with this story.

If the title read 'M6 to close due to fears about pedestrian safety' we'd immediately be confused and repeat the word 'pedestrians?' to ourselves. What would they be doing on a MOTORWAY?

Contrast this with the cycling story and instead of asking what are pedestrians doing on a CYCLING SUPERHIGHWAY councillors instead look not at removing said pedestrians, but pulling the project entirely.

Until those pulling the bells actually understand the needs of people who choose to use a bicycle to travel from A to B they'll continually try to cram anything not motorised into one shared space, rather than doing what they do for motorised vehicles, which is basically anything and everything.

Perhaps a trip to the zoo would help them understand the nature of the problem as they seem to be clueless.

Lions have the whole area to roam about in and they can kill as and when they see fit as they can't help themselves.

Within the lion enclosure live the meerkats and the squirrels in their own little bit of space. Despite all generating equal sums for the zoo from visitors the lions get 99% of the food leaving the meerkats and squirrels to fight for the rest.

Every day lots of lions kill lots of other lions and every day lots of lions seriously injure lots of meerkats and squirrels. The lions are still fed as the meerkats and squirrels shouldn't have been in the lion area and should have stayed in their own little bit of space.

Even when the lions venture into that little bit of space and kill meerkats and squirrels they escape freely back into the lion enclosure and the zoo keepers aren't bothered.

Eventually, angry and frustrated with the lions the meerkats start to antagonise the squirrels. The zoo keepers express concern but aren't really too concerned as they really like the lions and are scared of them.

The zoo visitors aren't impressed however and begin to leave feedback cards as the meerkats and squirrels aren't getting along.

The consensus is that the lions are taking the #### completely and the meerkats and squirrels should be allocated their own dedicated space, if needbe taken from the lion area.

The zoo keepers sit and watch for a decade and fail to intervene completely. Much death and injury ensues. The zookeepers, despite the plainly obvious daily lion onslaught insist that they are really keen to help the meerkats and squirrels.

Lots of lions kill lots more meerkats and squirrels completely by accident and eventually Terry Nutkins visits and expresses concern at the incompetence of the zookeepers.

Seperate the meerkats from the squirrels he says, that can never work...and kick out some of those bloody dangerous lions.

He submits an expensive report and the zookeepers welcome it's valuable findings but in wisdom the zoo keepers ignore it completely. They end up giving the lions even more space and the meerkats and the squirrels continue to get eaten and heavily licked. It's a massacre out there.

The lions get fat and can no longer move, the zoo closes as no-one likes fatty lions and the meerkats and squirrels become extinct. The zookeepers blame the previous zookeepers.

If you've read this far you must have really gone with the flow...the film will be out shortly Silly

Hating our selfish and ignorant car culture

posted by ironmancole [111 posts]
31st December 2013 - 17:38

like this
Like (10)

@ironmancole

Ah, but you wait till the 'shared space' advocates like those responsible for the Exhibition Road redesign move on to designing zoos!

Put in expensive looking fancy paving, take out all the signage and barriers and fencing, and tell the meerkats and lions and human visitors to 'negotiate' their use of the shared space!

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [503 posts]
31st December 2013 - 18:12

like this
Like (8)