Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Whitley cycle route downgraded

Roads like the A444, A45 and Coventry's ring road present major barriers to cycling across the city. So cyclists need to take interest in any changes at the few places where they can be crossed.

Coventry Council proposes to increase the traffic handling capacity of the access to the Jaguar Business Park at Whitley. As is the usual practice, improvements for motoring mean a down-grade for walking and cycling.

The current arrangement:
The carriageways are shown in red and the toucan crossing a little north east of the roundabout outside the business park is shown in turquoise at the bottom of the diagram.

To understand the orientation, here's the above diagram pasted onto a satellite image:

The council's proposals:
The main aim of the changes is to add slip roads to the A444 for traffic to/from the Stivichall Interchange.

As far as walking and cycling are concerned, I've submitted the following comments (planning application reference FUL/2013/2599):

1) The proposals will make cycling and walking between Leaf Lane and the Business Park more time consuming and inconvenient. At the moment pedestrians and cyclists need only cross the path of Leaf Lane traffic. The proposals will force them, in addition, to cross the path of all traffic entering the Business Park, all traffic leaving the Business Park travelling south and all traffic leaving the Business Park travelling north (twice).

2) The idea, expressed in the Transport Assessment (Section 4.2, November 2013) of "requesting that cyclists dismount when crossing and within the central storage areas" on the island in the middle of the new bridge is fanciful. The requests will be ignored, leading to friction between pedestrians and cyclists.

3) As an alternative proposal, I would suggest grade separation between motorised and non-motorised users. Separated by grade, the delay suffered by both motorised and non-motorised users would be reduced. The hazard of cyclists/pedestrians tiring of waiting and crossing against the lights would be removed, as would be that of motorists ignoring/jumping signals at red.

Subways under the new slip roads and use of the southern rather than the northern side of the new bridge would be a means to this end. Use could be made of the new bridge over the Sherbourne to allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross the access road to JLR at a level a little above the river's surface.

This alternative would allow a contra-flow cycle lane on Leaf Lane between the west most subway and Black Price Avenue. This feature would remove the risk and inconvenience to those cyclists travelling west/south bound towards Black Prince Ave. or the south most portion of Leaf Lane of twice crossing Leaf Lane.

Further points:

4) The plans seem to indicate that all the paths used by cyclists will be at least 3m wide.  This is an improvement on the current situation where some of the paths (especially on the bridge over the A444) are very narrow.

5) The current cycle path at the Black Prince Ave. end of Leaf Lane is too narrow, especially as cyclists should not be expected to cycle close to the kerb (a gap of at least 500mm is needed between wheels and carriageway edge). The current design is also awkward for cyclists travelling  southwards along Leaf Lane towards Baginton. Note that LTN 01/12 para. 7.36 recommends a path width of at least 3m plus a buffer zone of at least 0.5m between a path and any carriageway (para. 7.60).

6) Segregating cyclists and pedestrians would be preferable to "shared use". The paths are likely to be used by commuting cyclists in a hurry. A white line would be better than nothing. Although a line might be ignored by many pedestrians when there are no cyclists present and also by many cyclists when no pedestrians are present, a line would be helpful when both types of user are present. There's a parallel with the "keep left" rule for vehicular traffic.

7) The diagrams in the planning application are inadequate for public consultation. None of them show only the latest proposal. Instead diagrams such as "General Arrangement Sheet 1 of 3 Dwg 5123654-ATK-DR-S-0001" show not only the latest proposal but also an older proposal (with the existing bridge being used for bus access), the current arrangement and various other details all in the same diagram.

Some might think that allowing the existing bridge to be a cycle/pedestrian route is a bonus. But it's in a place which won't bring any benefit - I suspect it would be expensive to demolish and might have a future use in supporting a bus route.