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CityConnect defends 75cm Leeds-Bradford Cycle Superhighway

Group in charge of delivering the 23km "flagship" cycle route says they are "committed to getting it right" but campaigners call the route inadequate and unsafe...

CityConnect, the organisation responsible for the Leeds-Bradford Cycle Superhighway, has defended its decision to build a “flagship” cycle route just 75cm wide in places, while campaigners say the route is inadequate and unsafe.

The government-funded body responsible for building the Leeds-Bradford cycle superhighway says some of the issues, such as bollards, points of conflict and cars parking on the route, will be rectified before the 23km-long scheme opens. However, campaigners are concerned cycle tracks are, in places, half the 1.5m minimum width mobility aid users need, while giving way at too many side streets, potentially putting cyclists at risk.

Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, says the problem lies with central Government and a lack of national design standards, which means public money is being “misspent” on inadequate cycle schemes by councils across the country.

Leeds-Bradford cycle superhighway just 75cm wide in places

Ginny Leonard, a spokesperson for CityConnect, says some of the issues raised with the Leeds-Bradford Cycle Superhighway will be addressed in the weeks before the route opens.

She said: “This is an ambitious scheme and the first of its kind outside London.

“We are committed to getting it right and we’ve involved local cyclists, cycling organisations (including Cycling UK) and cycling campaigns in the design from a very early stage in the development of the scheme.

She says cyclists will have priority at 166 of the junctions along the route and “an effective width far in excess of 1.8m” for the majority of the route. However, some bus stops (pictured, above) narrow to 75cm for a maximum of 8m where there is “insufficient space”. She added this creates “pinch points” to  slow cyclists down for pedestrians.

CityConnect says it consulted disability and cycling groups, and that this design was preferable to the cycle lane stopping entirely or rejoining the road. The narrow sections have a minimal level difference so “cycles with axles (trikes, trailers, ect) will be unaffected by the narrowness of the bus bypass,” according to Leonard.

However, Kevin Hickman, a trustee for Wheels for Wellbeing, a charity that promotes cycling for people who are disabled, says mobility aid users will struggle to use the route.

He said: “75cm is simply an inadequate width for a cycle lane, path or track. It hardly allows space for a person riding a bicycle let alone people riding other types of cycle such as tricycles. 

“Wheels for Wellbeing advocate a minimum clear width of 1.5m for one way paths and between obstacles such as bollards; this is an adequate  width for the variety of cycles, cyclists and mobility aid users a well-designed cycle route will attract.

“CityConnect seem to have fallen into the trap of considering the views of disabled people and cyclists, but not disabled people who cycle or use cycle paths.”

He says disabled people can find it difficult to look behind them to check for turning traffic, which “heightens risk”, and says he hopes this has been taken into account in designs.  

Roger Geffen, Policy Director of national cycling charity, Cycling UK, said he is not looking to blame the local authority, but says public money is being misspent across the country because of a lack of national design standards.

“It is about a much wider failure of government,” he said.

“There are plenty of other authorities that are making mistakes like Leeds. Government needs to step in to ensure the money is well spent to prevent 75cm cycle tracks which, even if it is only for eight metres, is not acceptable; any safety audit ought to have flagged that up.”

He said whether “local authorities, local enterprise partnerships, developers - whoever is designing cycle infrastructure… there is far too much that is being poorly designed and public funds are being misspent.”

Issues that will be addressed by CityConnect include:

  • Points of conflict will be coloured to give cyclists good visual priority, both at junctions and at bus stops.
  • Bollards, post-boxes and lighting columns will be removed from the route where they obstruct the superhighway.
  • There will be no parking in the superhighway, and this will be enforced by enforcement officers riding bikes.
  • There will be a comprehensive process of rectifying details and snagging, the same as any major scheme.


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