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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.

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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”.

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“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.”

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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 as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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