Back in November, I wrote commenting on plans published surrounding the redevelopment of Nuneaton’s leisure centre, The Pingles, and surrounding park space. Yesterday (29 February), consultations closed asking for members of the public to make their own comments on these plans and other town-centre focused development ideas. My response to the consultations was as follows:
Q1 – What is most important for the park (bear in mind what is already available at the park). Rank your choices from 1, most important – 7, least important
- Path and Cycle path Creation and Improvements
- Signage and Information Board Improvements
- Wild Habitats
- Teenage Play Facility Improvements
- Sport and Fitness Facility Improvements
- Children’s Play Facility Improvements
- Public Art Improvements like Installations etc.
Q2 – What did you like most in the plans / suggestions for improvement?
Suggestion to improve cycle facilities; improving the alignment of the cycle route crossing Avenue Road; flood mitigation measures; creation of an additional route under the railway bridge; new link between Mill Street and Bridge Street.
Q3 – What did you dislike most in the plans / suggestions for improvement?
The following comments are not specifically ‘dislikes’ but suggestions for improvements and considerations to be made on the existing plans, or elements that may not be clear at this stage but should be taken for consideration on more detailed plans as they are developed. These are given in no particular order of priority; more looking at the plans from north to south:
- The quoted provision of new 3m cycle paths does not clearly state whether this is to be a shared-use facility similar to the case at present or whether this will be a 3m cycle-only path excluding pedestrians. If it is the former, these plans are not adequate as they will continue to invite conflict and congestion. If the latter, then an associated elevated footpath must also be provided for pedestrians creating clear segregation between foot and cycle traffic by the creation of what would effectively be a ‘cycle road’. Without a side footpath, even if the route is officially designated ‘cycle-only’, pedestrians will use it making it a de facto shared path. Shared-use facilities are sub-standard infrastructure for both pedestrians and cyclists and must be avoided. This comment applies to the full north-south route from Wem Meadows through to Bridge Street.
- With the proposed extension of the George Eliot Gardens between Mill Street and Bridge Street, this is welcome but the same comments re route width apply. As the park joins Bridge Street, cycle infrastructure must seamlessly continue through the town to the north (the railway station and beyond) and west. This route must be bright and highly visible to create an inviting area that can be used at all times, discouraging loitering and antisocial behaviour. At Mill Street, NBBC should work with the County Council to provide a continuous foot and cycle route across the road, with motor traffic giving way (i.e. keep a continuous level effectively creating a speed bump; give-way markings for motorists; maintaining foot/cycle tarmac colour).
- Improvements to the Vicarage Street underpass must include greater visibility on approach from either side and improvements in lighting. At present it is not possible to see straight through the underpass from a distance and therefore that section is isolated with the associated problems (real or perceived) that can bring in terms of loitering and antisocial behaviour as well as a risk of conflict not only between pedestrians and cyclists, but also users of the same type travelling in opposite directions. Adequate width and segregation as already noted will also help with the latter. As part of any redevelopment of the A444 Vicarage Street by Warwickshire County Council, NBBC must liaise to ensure any upgrades to the underpass can be accomplished at the same time.
- The plan indicates the path on the east of the river to Sainsbury’s may be widened only if budgets permit. This must be given a much higher priority as a key cycle link to the supermarket, reducing the dependency on cars for shopping. As such, it should be given the same 3m width for cycles and an additional side footpath for pedestrians.
- The proposed new bridge across the river by the Wedding Garden should be positioned at a right-angle across the river and moved slightly south to better accommodate cycles travelling to Sainsbury’s where currently the turning angle is far too high for laden cycles, utility cycles or those towing trailers etc. It may therefore be a better plan to replace the existing narrow bridge with a new facility suitably wide for pedestrians and cycles (maintaining the minimum 3m width for cycles with a side footpath for pedestrians).
- As published, the cycle path crossing access points to the proposed new eastern car parking facility is unsafe and unsuitable for children, less confident and less able cyclists where it risks conflict with turning vehicles on three occasions in quick succession. This will discourage take-up of cycling particularly in the case of families bringing young children by cycle to the leisure centre or on to the town centre. The cycle path must be routed behind that car park along the line of the proposed footpath with my comments re width and side footpath provision applying.
- Whilst the route between The Pingles and Gala Fields is aligned with the crossing on Avenue Road, the same is not shown for the crossing point at Coton Arches. With the aligned path, work needs to be done with WCC to upgrade the on-road crossing where currently cycling is not permitted between Gala Fields and The Pingles. This crossing must be setup with a sensor (induction loop or pole mounted sensor) to detect the presence of cycles and to operate the crossing automatically, as is the case currently for cycles travelling on-road using the traffic lights. Such systems are common abroad (see Rotterdam) and make cycling easier and more accessible where the use of a ‘beg button’ is not necessary except as a backup. The current common toucan crossing setup is inappropriate where buttons are usually positioned too close to the kerb meaning cycles need to edge towards/into live traffic to operate the crossing.
- Where the cycle path runs through Gala Fields, there is a conflict point with an alleyway connecting to Morris Drive. Although this lane is designated no cycling, some cycle riders have been known to use it. With poor visibility both into the lane from Gala Fields and exiting the lane, there is a risk of conflict. The same is true for pedestrians exiting the lane who cannot see approaching cycle traffic, who in turn cannot see the exiting pedestrian. Improving visibility here is therefore important perhaps by altering the main route away from the boundary by a couple of metres to give users the chance to see each other and react appropriately.
Q4 – Is there anything you’d like to see in the park that would encourage you to do more exercise or enjoy a healthier lifestyle than you currently do?
As a confident rider, I already cycle as much as possible to access the park, its facilities, the town centre and beyond. However, improvements to the cycling facilities to create a safer, less conflicted route for cycling to/from the town centre that connects well for onward travel would be welcome for other family members and for family trips. Strategic positioning of generous amounts of sheltered, secure cycle lock-up points would be welcome, particularly for The Pingles which is often overcrowded with locked cycles, but also for other areas in the park (the museum, play areas, event locations). These facilities should be covered by good quality CCTV.
Q5 – Is there anything you’d like to see in the park that would improve your experience of using the park?
- Improvement of access between The Pingles and Riversley Park which is hindered by the narrow tunnel under the railway. Accepting it is unlikely due to budgets, ideally this tunnel would be widened (or an additional tunnel provided) to create a wide, bright and visible underpass which accommodates segregated cycling and walking to eliminate conflict and congestion. Whilst this should be the aim in the longer-term, in the meantime no rider should be asked to dismount here on equality grounds. Where signage is required, all users should be asked to share with care.
- At peak times, access through the above tunnel may be difficult and the suggestion of a new route to the east by the river is welcome as an alternative. However, whilst the narrow tunnel remains, rather than the rolled-stone surface this should also be treated as a main cycling route and be given the same tarmac surface treatment and width allocation as the rest of the space. This will also improve the cycle link from Ribbonfields to the town centre.
- Flood mitigation measures in George Eliot Gardens are welcome. Measures also need to be implemented in Donnithorne Woods where flooding recently blocked the route. There is currently no safe alternative route to bypass the flooded section for inexperienced riders/children who may need to travel to/from town, The Pingles and the tennis club.
- The crossing point at Donnithorne Avenue is difficult. The alignment of the routes either side of the road currently means there are two crossing points – one for the school and one for onward north/south travel. Both crossing points are uncontrolled and using them at peak times can be time consuming and hazardous. Whilst acknowledging budget constraints, ideally this route would be consolidated and realigned to a single controlled crossing point to the west of the brook, with a new pedestrian and cycling bridge crossing the brook near to the existing play area south of Donnithorne Avenue and the realignment of the existing path to connect the same. This would also eliminate conflict between pedestrians and cyclists on the Donnithorne Avenue bridge where visibility to/from the road-side path to Donnithorne Woods is poor. Flood mitigation will need to be considered here.
- In Wem Meadows, the route needs improvements where there is a short, steep section and a low ‘chicane’ barrier. The barrier is an inappropriate restriction: cyclists travelling north will quickly gain speed anyway once the barrier has been passed with limited visibility to the bottom of the hill; it creates an unwelcome obstruction for those travelling up-hill; it may pose difficulties for those with non-standard cycles or trailers, tagalong bikes, heavy loads etc.; it creates a point of conflict between pedestrians and cycles who may meet at that point at around the same time.; its low height is a hazard for all users particularly in low light. The curvature in the route here should be removed to create a long, straight section that is highly visible. With segregation between cycles and pedestrians as already noted by the use of an associated footpath alongside a dedicated cycleway, this would allow for the barrier to be removed, improving the accessibility of the route and making the hill easier to climb for weaker cyclists/children who can safely pick up some speed on the approach to the climb – particularly important for those whom dismounting and pushing is awkward and difficult.
- The access point at Marston Lane (where the route connects with the off-road path to Sterling Way) can have limited visibility and work should be done here to make improvements. At present users leaving the route (i.e., travelling east to Sterling Way) have to approach close to the road edge see traffic approaching – evidently this can be dangerous, particularly when travelling with children or for cyclists using cycles where the rider is further back (e.g., cargo/utility bikes). This can be improved at times by cutting back overgrown foliage but there is still a limitation here. Permanent removal of foliage near this crossing point would improve visibility at the expense of the attractiveness and nature of the area. Alternatively (and preferably) NBBC should work with WCC to change the nature of the on-road speed restriction here to bring the path out into the road to create the pinch-point rather than the presence of a traffic island (which itself is too small to safely accommodate a waiting cycle or more than a few pedestrians, if taking the crossing in two stages). The crossing point could also become a pedestrian/cycle priority area with my earlier comments regarding Mill Street applying.
Q6 – Do you support proposals to increase cycling facilities at the park including improved cycle paths, children’s ‘learn to ride’ track, BMX ‘pump’ and mountain bike track/trail and skatepark?
Q6a – Which of these would you most like to see provided?
Improved cycle paths which should adhere to best standards as demonstrated in the Netherlands, be properly connected to ongoing routes to/from the park and seamless with other infrastructure provided elsewhere either by NBBC or Warwickshire County Council.
Q7 – Would you or your children/grandchildren be likely to use the cycling facilities?
Q7a – If ‘yes’, do you think that these cycling facilities could support you/your children/grandchildren having increased levels of physical activity/exercise?
- Whilst we cycle to/from town a lot at present, improving access will make this easier and safer particularly at key conflict points such as crossing Avenue Road and the A444. Better active travel links are likely to enable the cycle as a transport choice for the less confident, reducing dependency on the car (assuming this is even a choice in the first place), and as such have a key part to play in improving the physical and mental health of the borough as well as being a contributor to mitigation against the climate emergency.
- All access points to the park and the route must be at the most minimally obstructed (not more than bollards at a spacing of 1.5m with straight-on access) where currently a number of different obstructions and restrictions exist, ranging from ‘no cycling’ and ‘cyclist dismount’ signs, bollards of varying quantities and spacings, and ‘chicane barriers’. Equality impact assessments must be carried out on the length of the route to ensure it is accessible for all users regardless of cycle type (or indeed mobility scooters, wheelchairs for pedestrians). This comment applies not only to the route indicated in the plans but wider too; for example, the feeder route between Paul’s Land and the Marston Lane access point via Sterling Way and any new routes established in new housing developments.
Q8 – Which of these would encourage you/your children/grandchildren to use those facilities (rank them from 1, greatly encourage – 7, not encourage):
- Secure cycle storage nearby when using other park facilities
- Clear, informative and explanatory signage
- Cycle repair facilities and support
- Access to nearby café/refreshments and toilets
- Free limited hours bike loans to use on cycle facilities
- Website giving information about facilities and tips, guidance and links
- Free coaching/support when first using new facilities
Q9 – Are there any other comments you would like to make about the plans and proposal?
- Cycling and walking are two distinct modes of transport and they must therefore be treated as such and not be lumped together as one. Pedestrians do not want faster-moving cyclists ‘darting’ between them (even if the speed is a relatively sedate 10mph or less); cyclists do not want to be obstructed by slower pedestrians who can also be unpredictable. Neither user wants their route to be obstructed or inaccessible; cyclists need routes to be clear and properly connected without interruption. Only by designing out conflict between the two users will both be happy, which will then lead to an upsurge in route usage.
- The Council must consider all grades of cycle rider, from young children to the elderly; nervous new riders who may be less stable to the experienced rider; able-bodied riders on ‘standard’ cycles to disabled riders on adapted cycles and tricycles etc; riders with cargo or utility bikes, trailers, tagalongs, child-seats, laden panniers – all valid users which the Council must be seen to be accepting and indeed wanting to encourage for the benefit of the town and its residents. The Council can only demonstrate this by providing appropriate infrastructure to known best standards.
- NBBC and WCC must work together now to ensure both adopt the same standards in terms of signage, tarmac colour, accessibility etc. based on leading examples in Europe. The two councils must ensure that both on-road (WCC) and off-road (NBBC) routes connect in a seamless, unobstructed manner and that all routes are well-signed and easy to follow for all grades of rider.
- Whilst acknowledging that published guidance for cycle infrastructure does not formally apply to NBBC’s off-road routes, it should adopt and even exceed the best practices found in such guidance, creating routes on-par with the best examples seen abroad.
- Whilst the plans do not specify what (if any) access restrictions may be implemented, NBBC must ensure that these are avoided except where absolutely necessary, and where they are used, restrictions do not go beyond the use of bollards with a 1.5m spacing. This is an accessibility issue to ensure that all users, no matter what type of cycle is used, can access the routes. Whilst the illegal use of motorbikes is noted, this is not a sufficient reason to install barriers that discriminate against lawful users as has been the case in the past and continues to be so at various locations.
- The proposal to implement additional parking on the existing green space between Avenue Road and The Pingles should be scrapped. Whilst some carparking is necessary, the Council must prioritise travel to the site by alternative means – foot, cycle and public transport. Where additional parking is provided, this will have the result of inducing demand, encouraging more to drive with the associated negative effects. In the event that this area of parking is scrapped then the comment made above about re-routing the cycle path to avoid conflict with carpark access points need not apply.
- At present no buses directly serve the leisure centre and the plans as published do not indicate a change here. A bus stop should be provided outside of The Pingles leisure centre to encourage those who cannot walk or cycle to take public transport over driving. This will improve accessibility of the facilities particularly for those who do not have access to a car.
Nuneaton Town Centre – Abbey Street
Q1 – Would you like to see a greater range of food, drink and leisure activities in Nuneaton town centre?
Q2 – Do you believe Nuneaton town centre would benefit from improvements including public art, improved public realm and events/entertainment space?
Q3 – Do you believe there is a need to improve the Abbey Street area?
Q4 – Do you support the idea of providing more residential accommodation, within town centres, on under-used areas in our town?
Q5 – Please rank the following statements from 1, most like to see, to 6, least like to see. “I would like to see…”
- Improved leisure offer within the town centre
- More family restaurants and evening economy
- Extended green spaces in the heart of Nuneaton
- Improved public realm and public space
- Improved access from Queens Road to Abbey Street
- A preservation of character buildings in the area.
Q6 – Do you think enhancing the area at Abbey Street would create a vibrant and improved hub in the town of Nuneaton?
- 75/100 – cautiously hopeful.
Q7 – Are there any changes you would like to see that we have not shown in our plans?
- Improvement of cycle access to Abbey Street, the wider town centre and the railway station/transport interchange from all surrounding points of Nuneaton, including through the use of segregated high-quality cycleways built to best Dutch standards (be they on-road or off-road).
- Where cycle routes must cross roads (e.g., the A444 ring-road), ensure these crossings are accessible, automatic, completed in a single phase, and have minimal wait times. E.g., use sensors (induction loop or pole mounted) to detect the presence of approaching cycles and automatically activate the crossing request; have the entire road crossed in one go and ensure approaches are straight, not at angles. At present some crossings can require excessive wait times of a minute or two, particularly where they are done in multiple stages, and this must be avoided.
- The promotion of access to the town centre by foot, cycle and public transport with the car only as a last resort where currently road traffic chokes the town centre and makes it less attractive to visit.
- A well-defined route through Abbey Street should be established. Outside of that route the town centre should be designated a shared space where considerate cycling is welcome.
- Generous secure lock-up points for cycles should be provided at regular points through the town, not just at access points, to enable cycling almost door-to-door – a common arrangement in the Netherlands which makes cycling easier and quicker than the car.
- Existing shared-use paths should be upgraded to segregated routes separating cycles and pedestrians, particularly on key routes such as NCN52/Wembrook Trail. High quality and visible signage should be established on foot and cycle routes to clearly signpost users through the use of time markings rather than (or in addition to) distance markers.
Q8 – Are there any specific parts of the plans that you like/dislike?
- The plans appear to show development of units (leisure/retail) on the current Abbey Street car park. If this is the case, that is to be welcomed as a better use of space. However, this parking must not simply be moved to an alternative location. The loss of parking is key to steering visitors to access the town centre through other means, be it foot, cycle or public transport, reducing the negative effects that excessive car use has on the town – but that must also be supported by good quality, reliable and affordable public transport links; and high quality, safe and accessible foot and cycle routes.
- A green corridor through Nuneaton from the south to the train station will be an excellent improvement to the town significantly improving the look and feel of the area and reducing the impact of motor vehicles. This corridor must feature continuous segregated foot and cycle access to connect with Bridge Street, the George Eliot Gardens and beyond, as detailed in the associated plans and consultation – i.e., a cycle-road with side footpath for pedestrians.