An £18m flagship cycling route that is just 75cm wide in places has been condemned as “hazardous” and a compelling case for national design standards, as images seen by road.cc show cycle tracks that force cyclists to give way at every side road, with bollards and railings along the way, at times sandwiched between parked cars and a narrow pavement.
The brand new Leeds-Bradford Cycle Superhighway, a 23km route linking the two cities, and paid for by government Cycle City Ambition Fund money, has proven a disappointment for campaigners who say the government’s lack of leadership on design standards is responsible for a route that puts cyclists into conflict with motor traffic, bus users and pedestrians along its length.
Ken Spence, a managing consultant at Transport Initiatives, an independent transport planning consultancy, is among those critical of the route, which he says demonstrates a fundamental reluctance to reallocate road space from motor traffic. He shared a number of photographs of the route with road.cc highlighting, among other things, narrow bus stop bypasses alongside narrow pavements.
He said: “Cycle Connect (CC) is OK in parts, but the whole is incoherent and in some places downright hazardous. The biggest losers from this will be pedestrians and bus users who are thrown into conflict with CC users at many bus stops.
“The attention to detail is woeful, all those abrupt angles and errant bollards. Also there seems to be no appreciation of how cyclists will get onto the CC from side roads, particularly turn right onto it. The thought seems to be that you’ll just materialise on it.”
Spence, who took a series of photographs highlighting some problems with the route, including a bollard placed in the middle of one of the cycle tracks, says cyclists using the route are forced to give way every 50m at side roads.
He has also raised concerns about cars parked along the route (above).
Cycling Minister, Robert Goodwill, has in the past said it is up to local authorities to decide on the standards of bike routes in their areas, but Cycling UK’s Policy Director, Roger Geffen MBE, says the Leeds-Bradford Cycle Superhighway shows why national design standards for cycle routes are needed.
Geffen said: "What we see in the Leeds Cycle Connect is a compelling case for national design standards to ensure that funds earmarked for cycling are not wasted.
"While the local authorities in West Yorkshire need to accept some responsibility, this is largely a failing of Government, which has so far refused to consider setting design standards to prevent bad and dangerous design.
"Cycling UK urges Ministers to learn from what London is now achieving. Transport for London is delivering iconic cycle superhighways, including one through Parliament Square, thanks to clear political support for sustained investment in high-quality cycling provision. Not only does the Government's Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy need a lot more than the 72p per person currently proposed investment in 2020, but also national design standards to ensure the money is well spent."
Geffen said he strongly disagrees with assertions from City Connect, the body in charge of delivering the government-funded scheme, that 75cm is wide enough for a cycle track.
Campaigners called for a safety review of the route a year ago after it emerged cyclists would have to stop and look for turning motor traffic coming from a fast-moving gyratory before proceeding across one of the junctions.
An Alternative Department for Transport blog post at the time, titled Bradford's Cycle Super Deathway(link is external), said of a junction off the gyratory: "The junction is dangerously designed – turning motor traffic has priority over the cycleway at side roads. The junction is unclear, people on foot and on bike are expected to look left as well as backwards to the right, simultaneously, and so the design is dangerous."
"This is exactly the type of design which all cycling campaigners hate, from the hardened road warriors who love mixing with motor vehicles, to those who dream of the stress-free cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands.
City Connect has been approached for comment.