In Nuneaton, there is an advisory cycle lane that runs on the Weddington Road/A444 southbound towards the town. The lane is far from perfect – it’s advisory only, frequently has cars parked in it and is only paint not affording cyclists any real protection from motor traffic. In an ideal world, I’d see the whole route upgraded but I’ve decided to write to Warwickshire CC Highways regarding the upgrade of smaller sections to make the route easier and safer to use – improvements to two road crossing points which can currently be tricky, and a better connection between the on-road advisory lane on Weddington Road and the on-road advisory lane on Leicester Road as it goes over the railway.
Crossing One: Old Hinckley Road
The first crossing point is over Old Hinckley Road. This is a two-stage crossing on a one-way road. In theory, it should be quite straightforward with only one carriageway needing to be crossed at a time thanks to a refuge. However, southbound motor traffic can be heavy and finding a gap can take time, all whilst having to check for a gap by monitoring traffic from behind. This isn’t comfortable, convenient nor easy, particularly on a bike.
To improve this, I’ve asked for the following:
- that a protected cycleway be installed to eliminate the current conflict with pedestrians as the cycleway currently moves on to a shared-use path immediately before the crossing point. There is space to do this without impacting on the road space by using the current grass verge area.
- add zebra crossings and separate cycle-priority crossings which vehicles would be obliged to stop for. Currently there is no compulsion for vehicles to stop to allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross, which is where the difficulty in using the crossing arises.
- Widen the refuge and segregate to better reduce conflict between cycles and pedestrians.
- While I’ve suggested an uncontrolled crossing, I have also noted that if this is deemed unworkable and traffic control would be preferable, then to use a sensor-based system for detecting cycles wanting to cross, rather than the common toucan crossing since button operated crossings are not ideal for operation from all cycles.
Shared-use Path Improvements
Immediately after the above crossing, the route continues as a shared-use path leading up to Leicester Road, but one which is unfortunately not smooth with a surface of small tiles and is obstructed by bollards and a chicane barrier. The obstructions are particularly problematic as this is an up-hill route moving up to a bridge over the railway. Having to stop or slow down, losing momentum, makes the climb harder and reduces its accessibility.
To improve this, I’ve asked for:
- A marked segregated contraflow cycleway for southbound cycles only (i.e., one that flows in the opposite direction to motor vehicles) which bypasses the current obstructions and is smoothly surfaced. Again, there is space to do this with no impact on motor traffic and minimal impact to pedestrians by making use of part of the footway and part of the grass verge to accommodate a dedicated lane.
Crossing Two: Joining Leicester Road/A444 Westbound
We now come to the second problematic crossing. Having climbed the hill, to join the road over the railway bridge towards town, cyclists need to cross Leicester Road to join the existing on-road advisory lane. However, currently the only way to do so (excepting dismounting and bumping the bike over curbs) is to use a pedestrian crossing. The problem here is that the path is narrow and will be blocked by a single cycle, the crossing requires a small diversion and U-turn, and once that crossing is made, another uncontrolled crossing of a side road needs to be made before waiting for a suitable gap in traffic to join the road. This is not particularly quick, especially at busy times.
To improve this, I’ve proposed two options:
- First, and perhaps the best option from a cycling perspective, is for a new controlled cycle-only crossing to run from the top of what is currently a shared-use path (or my proposed contraflow cycleway, as above), diagonally across a current box-junction, joining the advisory lane on the bridge. I like this option because it’s a single-stage, easy to use crossing. Operating lights by a detection sensor means lights only need to change when a cyclist is waiting to cross, having minimal impact to drivers. The disadvantage is new lights would need to be installed on the aforementioned side road.
- A second option, perhaps the cheapest but less convenient and less safe, is to create a two-stage uncontrolled crossing starting from the same point as above, to the current central reservation, and then from the central reservation to join the current advisory cycle lane. This should be marked as a cycle-priority crossing i.e., drivers should stop for waiting cycles.
The above changes are relatively small and will have little impact on drivers bar the requirement to wait for cycles and pedestrians to cross, but will, in my opinion, make the route safer and easier to use for those users. For that reason, I hope the proposals (or similar) are accepted and implemented by Warwickshire CC Highways.
Beyond these suggestions, more still needs to be done. The bridge over the railway (Leicester Road) should be fitted with protected cycleways on both carriageways and the existing advisory Weddington Road cycleways should be upgraded to be mandatory lanes, continuous along the entire length of the road to at least the Weddington Walk (NCN52) where it currently ends a fair distance away. Mandatory lanes would make it illegal to park vehicles in their space. Ideally, there should also be a degree of segregation to prevent driver incursion, although this would presumably have to be limited segregation due to driver access to side properties being required – perhaps then using occasional bollards rather than a continuous solid edge.
We’ll see what happens. When Warwickshire CC Highways respond to my request, I’ll post an update.