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“Doing nothing is not feasible”: Council defends “life-saving” cycle lane after opponents said it would cause “traffic stacking” and destroy green space

Leeds City Council also disputed the claim made by a residents’ group that the consultation over the bike lane plans was “biased”

Leeds City Council has defended plans to install protected cycle lanes on a major road into Leeds, after local campaigners claimed that the cycling infrastructure would be “dangerous”, cause “traffic stacking”, and increase pollution.

The plans, which are funded by Active Travel England, focus on the A660, a main road stretching from the north-west of Leeds into the city centre and a popular route for commuters and students accessing university and college campuses.

The A660 is also one of the busiest, and most dangerous, cycle routes in Leeds, with over 1,000 cyclists using it daily, while 172 people were killed or injured on the road between 2016 and 2021.

Leeds City Council’s proposals, which were announced earlier this year, are part of broader plans to upgrade the Otley Road and involve the installation of inbound and outbound two-metre-wide segregated cycle lanes along most of the route, widened footways, a reduction of the speed limit to 20mph in certain places, and the closure of two residential streets to prevent rat-running.

“The A660 is a key commuter route into Leeds City Centre. These plans will provide safer, alternative travel options for residents while aiming to reduce casualty numbers and achieve the Leeds Safe Roads Vision Zero 2040 Strategy goal of eliminating road deaths and serious injury on Leeds’ roads by 2040,” the council’s executive member for infrastructure and climate, Helen Hayden, said earlier this year.

> Three segregated cycleways planned in Leeds to cover ‘missing links’

However, the plans have been criticised by a local residents’ group, who claim the proposals will increase congestion and pollution in the area, as well as wipe out green space.

In a presentation to councillors in March, the Friends of Woodhouse Moor group argued that turning a pavement into a shared-use lane on one section of the route would cause “traffic stacking” and increase danger for pedestrians.

However, in a response published this week, and reported by Leeds Live, the council noted that the scheme will help save lives, increase safety for all road users, and improve the environment by offering more easily accessible alternatives to motor transport. The local authority also disputed the group’s claim that the consultation process surrounding the proposals was “biased”.

> Council scraps £500,000 Harrogate cycle lane expansions… even though majority support plans

“The council is committed to making Leeds carbon neutral by 2030. By providing new sustainable infrastructure to help residents reduce their own carbon footprint, the proposals aim to provide a viable alternative to the car and as people choose sustainable travel, pollution should decrease,” the local authority said in a statement.

“Confident cyclists currently use bus lanes or the carriageway, but by providing a segregated cycle path or shared-use path (Avenue Walk, Woodhouse Moor), it gives people who are newer to cycling an alternative to cycling in a bus lane, which can feel intimidating.

“People who cycle in shared-use spaces should be travelling at slower speeds and giving way to pedestrians.

The council continued: “To do nothing is also not feasible, as the existing issues of road safety, lack of connectivity, and congestion would not be addressed.”

> Pub owner who blocked cycle lane says he’s “being punished” after council asks to remove all barriers

In response to criticism from residents concerning the planned loss of grass verges to create space for the cycling infrastructure, the council said it would maximise the “re-use of paving and kerb materials” and that this would be “targeted at the areas of greatest conservation priority, such as Woodhouse Moor”.

The council also noted that while 11 trees will be felled as part of the work on the cycle lanes, some of these are in poor health, with 33 new trees set to be planted.

According to the council, a public consultation on the A660 scheme, carried out earlier this year, found that 63 percent of respondents supported the plans. Work on the scheme is expected to commence in the summer.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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15 comments

Avatar
Steve K | 1 year ago
1 like

Of absolutely no relevance to the proposed cycling infrastructure, but as an ex-student of Leeds Uni, I can't read this report with a sense of nostalgia for the Otley Run pub crawl down that road.

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Brauchsel replied to Steve K | 1 year ago
0 likes

Also irrelevant, but don't give in to the nostalgia. For the last 10 years at least it seems that it's been mandatory to do it in fancy dress. Although it's just occurred to me that you might not be an embittered 40+ like me, in which case dust off that onesie. 

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Steve K replied to Brauchsel | 1 year ago
0 likes

Not fancy dress in my day.  But then I'm 53.

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chrisonabike replied to Brauchsel | 1 year ago
1 like

Pretty sure that was the case in the mid 2000s!

Never tried myself, I was already late to the party...

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Car Delenda Est | 1 year ago
3 likes

"Doing nothing is not feasible"
Wish Labour in Brighton had such a mindset, instead they've cracked under pressure to the same weak arguments.

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VinylJEDI | 1 year ago
11 likes

I got knocked off my bike at the corner of Headingley Lane and North Grange Road by a driver rat running across the road from Buckingham Rd then hooking a left onto North Grange Road. It was dark, I have two sets of bright lights on my e-bike, the driver came from behind, passed me and immediately hooked left, cutting me off. I hit the front passenger door, the driver carried on and FAILED TO STOP! Luckily I got off with a few bruises on my right leg and having to limp around for a couple of days, my front wheel buckled and the headset bearings needed adjusting - about £50 worth of damage. Any improvements Leeds City Council could make to this cycleway would be most welcome in my opinion!

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the little onion | 1 year ago
2 likes

Leeds council aren't perfect by any means, and they are starting from a very low base (very car centric city, the legacy of the motorway city of the 1970s), but they do have some decent ideas for cycling. Lots of new segregated routes popping up, but not enough, not connected enough, to be a  network

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eburtthebike | 1 year ago
14 likes

.....local campaigners claimed that the cycling infrastructure would be “dangerous”, cause “traffic stacking”, and increase pollution.

Ooooooh, me sir!  Please sir, me!  I know what makes roads safe, stops traffic stacking, and decreases pollution: fewer cars more bikes.

I'm guessing that isn't the answer that the Friends of Woodhouse Moor wanted though.  Pity, as it is one of the only ones that works, and as the council so firmly point out, it is necessary.

Such a pity all councils don't have the cojones to stand up to these car-obsessed people, who only become concerned about safety, congestion and pollution when the proposal is of benefit to cyclists.

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IanMK replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
10 likes

As the campaigners are concerned with pollution levels I assume they are lobbying for an ULEZ as well.

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Accessibility f... | 1 year ago
15 likes

I'd love to know how many of those worried about grass verges have paved over the front garden of their homes to add car parking.

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Browsie replied to Accessibility for all | 1 year ago
3 likes

Or simply use the grass verges as extra parking space!

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muhasib | 1 year ago
6 likes

If the scheme can go ahead it will be a definite improvement to this route, typical that there will still be a vocal opposition who if you look on their website have more articles concerned about the prevalence of human defecation on Woodhouse Moor than this scheme. The 'green space' given up is actually less than 1 metre in width of a grass verge. They have raised 8 FOI requests with Leeds Council and seem aggrieved that after 3 responses the other 5 have been categorised as vexatious. Somewhat amusing that on their own website there is no function for feedback so no 'practice what you preach'.

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eburtthebike replied to muhasib | 1 year ago
1 like

muhasib wrote:

Somewhat amusing that on their own website there is no function for feedback so no 'practice what you preach'.

It's probably one man and his goat, who are so insecure that they can't take any criticism at all, and are allergic to other opinions.

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headingley replied to muhasib | 12 months ago
0 likes

Friends of Woodhouse Moor are hardly representative of the local population. They are a fringe group made up from few sad busy bodies. If they want to protect the environment they should be supportive of the proposals - they don't seem to have had much luck fighting the real cause of the problem - motor vehicles. Traffic has got worse in the area over the last 20 years but they say nothing.

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HarrogateSpa | 1 year ago
11 likes

Well done Leeds.

Showing commitment, not giving in to the grass verge lot. Starting in the Summer means they are getting on with it.

It should serve as an example to North Yorkshire Council, who habitually cave in to a noisy minority, and are utterly incapable of building anything to a timetable or at all.

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