A recurring topic over the past couple of articles has been the proposed new high quality cycle scheme in Nuneaton, on a stretch of road known as the Long Shoot – part of the A47. The scheme is an initial project intended to improve cycle connectivity between the A5 (and Hinckley, beyond) to the town centre. The initial plans have been released and a consultation is open until 18 March where people can comment. In the previous articles, I first took a detailed look at the plans, and then wrote more briefly about my response submitted to the consultation. Since then, I’ve received some additional information about the proposed scheme.
An important piece of information relates to the provision of a buffer between the bidirectional cycleway and the main carriageway. This is important to ensure adequate separation particularly when cycling against the flow of oncoming traffic which could be intimidating and potentially dangerous.
It’s been confirmed to me that there will in fact be a buffer of 0.5m creating that separation.
Good news? Potentially, yes. However, with that information came a proviso – there has been no decision taken on how to provide that buffer which could be unmarked where “effectively a 3.5m path would be provided”. This worries me – an unmarked buffer that effectively adds to the width of the cycleway is not a buffer. In my opinion, to maximise the feel of separation from oncoming vehicles, to improve both real and perceived safety, the buffer needs to be a physical barrier- perhaps through a raised kerb, or frequent bollards (which could also have the benefit of restricting motor vehicle access to the space, preventing it getting blocked by parked cars).
Access to the Scheme (Eastboro Way/Western End)
I noted an issue at the western end of the scheme where the plans did not indicate any form of connectivity to the road continuing on into town, nor to shared-use facilities on Eastboro Way. It’s been confirmed that work will be done to ensure connectivity to the A47 continuing past the roundabout towards the town. This will be included on more detailed plans, so the exact nature isn’t known yet.
However, there still remains the issue of accessible, direct, and safe access to/from the shared-use facility on Eastboro Way to the south of the roundabout. It may also be included in detailed plans, but there’s been no comment specifically relating to this. I remain worried that the scheme may not properly connect, leading to either a disconnected network or an indirect and slow connection.
Cycleway Type (2x single direction; 1x bidirectional)
I made the point that I think two single direction cycleways on either side of the carriageway is more beneficial to the road than a single bidirectional cycleway, mainly because access with properties to the south of the carriageway does not appear to be possible with a bidirectional scheme on the north (the published choice).
The Council have confirmed that my preference was not chosen for a number of reasons including restrictions in space and complication of junction design including how a scheme works with the roundabout at the Eastboro Way end, and the fact that to cross the A5 at the eastern end of the scheme, there is already a toucan crossing at the north side which makes connectivity easier.
I’m not entirely against a bidirectional scheme – but only if the issue of access can be resolved. I’ve suggested that a shared-use path on the south of the carriageway would be needed to ensure that people living at and accessing properties on that side of the road are not cut off from the scheme and can legally cycle from the door.
I’ll look at the issue of space later on in this article.
The Abandonment of Standards at Signalised Junctions
The biggest issue I have with the scheme is how it works crossing larger junctions, namely Greendale Road (an existing junction built in the last 2-3 years as part of a new housing development, featuring an uneven shared-use path and two-stage toucan crossing to get across Greendale Road) and Calendar Farm (still under construction, it is proposed that this will be similar – a shared-use path and toucan crossing(s)). The proposed scheme effectively merges into what already exists or is planned to exist with no attempt to improve the junctions to bring them up to standard.
I’ve been told that due to how new Greendale Road is, it was not deemed viable to replace the junction. With Calendar Farm, the design has been agreed as part of the new development and so there is no scope for changes now. I was also informed that there is not enough space to continue separation past these junctions without significant redesign (again, I’ll come on to space at the junctions further down)
Now, I’ll add the disclaimer here that I have no idea over the financial, political or legal ramifications around changing these junctions, but in return I’ve made the point that both of these junctions are clearly not fit for purpose in respect of the road carrying a high quality cycleway. In hindsight, it would have been better for cycling to be better considered before these junctions were designed, but we are where we are. Therefore, it seems to me to make more sense for the Council to admit a mistake with both junctions and rectify them now regardless of additional costs, rather than creating another significant error which could jeapordise the success of the cycle scheme resulting in even further expense and disruption down the line to correct the obvious problems.
I’ll not go into detail about the issues at these junctions; you can read that in the earlier articles. Just to summarise though, the current design puts two-way cycling and pedestrians into a 3m unseparated space, inviting conflict. The toucan crossing at Greendale Road is also very narrow and crossing both stages can be slow, taking maybe 55-60 seconds versus staying on the main carriageway where cyclists can proceed with the traffic. If these junctions are not properly designed and integrated into the scheme, confident and faster riders are likely to bypass it entirely, which could result in its success being called into question.
The Issue of Space
Space seems to be a bit of a theme with this cycleway. Not only has the point been made about physical constraints at the two major junctions, it has also been given as a reason not to continue separation out to the eastern end of the scheme limits where it again merges down into shared use. I dispute the suggestion that there is not enough space.
For the A5 end, the north-side pavement has approximately 4.4m of space – easily enough for a 2m single direction cycleway with a 1.5m footpath. Similarly on the south-side, there is 3.5m of width expanding out to 5m or more – again, clearly enough for a single direction cycleway and footway.
It is maybe fair to say there is not enough space for a bidirectional scheme to continue on the north-side of the carriageway, to the scheme limits however – or at least, that it might be very tight without affecting the main carriageway.
With the main mid-route junctions, Greendale Road and Calendar Farm, there may not be enough space with the current junction designs, but if they were reconfigured, there is easily enough space to accommodate 2m per direction of cycleway and 1.5m of footpath on either side of the carriageway (it may need to pinch in to 1.5m per direction at the eastern side of the Greendale Road junction where the road narrows briefly). I have estimated this with these two design ideas (these are rough layout examples of what I think would work well; I don’t have CAD nor the skills to create a proper street design).
I’ve said before I’m not in any way qualified in highways design – I’m just an interested layperson with Google Earth and a bit of knowledge about good design for cycle infrastructure – but given the A47 at Greendale Road has about 18m of space available to the west of the junction; about 16m to the east of the junction, it would appear that both of the above layouts should fit, pinching to accommodate the temporary narrowing of space to the east before being able to expand out again. The A47 at the Calendar Farm junction has 21m of space available (between nearside edges of the current footpaths), so a variation of the above layouts should easily fit.
I remain concerned that whilst we have the basics of a good scheme here, there are too many corners being cut for whatever reasons they may be (financial, political, both, something else). Cutting corners on a scheme like this is a mistake if it is to be given the best chance of success and it would seem obvious to me that it is better to spend more money now to get this right, than to leave it as is for the time being, only to come back later to repair the issues at greater cost and more disruption.
This route has the potential to become a key cycling corridor between Hinckley and Nuneaton, a backbone scheme from which a broader network can expand. It needs to be designed to reflect that: large enough to accommodate significant cycling traffic (including commercial cycling) with other, smaller routes branching off it; allowing cyclists easy and accessible transit with no disadvantage to the main carriageway; with direct, safe, and accessible connections to the broader network ensuring there are no gaps.
If the scheme as designed goes ahead, and after completion some cyclists (understandably) continue to use the main carriageway, how can the scheme be deemed successful? Drivers will continue to be frustrated at cyclists not using provided facilities and those riders will continue to be at risk from associated poor driving caused by impatient and risky overtakes, tailgating etc. If the scheme is then not deemed successful, what does this mean for its long-term viability and the creation of other schemes? Will the Council improve the provision, or will it give up?
I have again made all of the above points in reply to the feedback I received, ensuring that those comments have been sent to the consultation response mailbox too, in order that they are all formally considered.
Again, the consultation is open to 18 March 2021 and I urge everyone interested in better cycling infrastructure to please send your own comments and feedback.