Warwickshire County Council is currently consulting on its draft LCWIP – or Local Cycling and Walking Investment Plan – that it will use as a foundation for planning for active travel over the coming years. The plan covers the entire county but is broken down into each of the five districts. Here, I’m taking a look with a focus on Nuneaton and Bedworth.
The new LCWIP has been developed taking into account suggestions made by members of the public in last year’s map-based online survey. This received over 2000 individual responses highlighting real-world issues that get in the way of everyday walking and cycling. The plan will set out a “prioritised programme of delivery
for cycling schemes for the next 10 years”, so it’s an important piece of work. It’s also a live document that will evolve over time as further needs are identified, routes are developed, and new opportunities become apparent. Today we’re at the start of an ongoing process which will help shape the evolution of sustainable travel throughout the county.
As part of this consultation process, which runs from 17 June to 14 August, people are able to view the plans and submit comments on what has been proposed. There have been a number of drop-in sessions around the county, and an online question and answer session will also be held (to be recorded for those who cannot attend live). The WCC website has more details.
In this article, I’m going to identify particular issues. This isn’t intended to be a harsh or overly critical analysis especially given that the LCWIP is in draft format. The intention is to highlight potential issues and problems in order that the final document is as good as it can be. The comments here will form the basis of my own submission into the consultation. Others are welcome to use this as inspiration for their own responses, adapting the comments as necessary.
The LCWIP is a long document and it takes time to read and absorb what is presented within it; similarly, the consultation is long too. However, I would strongly urge that everyone who has an interest in walking, wheeling, and cycling responds to the consultation as it is important to get the views from as wide a demographic of people as possible. Even if you don’t currently walk, wheel, or cycle for local transport, if you want to then this is as opportunity to get your views across – what in the LCWIP will help enable you to choose sustainable travel? What’s missing?
Head over to the Warwickshire County Council website, take a look at the documents relevant for your area, and make sure to submit your responses ahead of the consultation deadline.
Index of Improvements
A summary of key points for improvement given in detail below, is listed here. This is provided for convenience given the length of this document, but it does not replace the broader comments made. These points are given in no particular order of priority.
- Ensure language is inclusive and communicates the correct intent (cycles not bikes; separated not segregated; include wheeling with walking; enable not encourage). [link]
- Make sure priorities are ordered correctly – the Climate Emergency must be the most pressing issue despite the importance of recovering from the pandemic; investment must go ahead of promotion. [link]
- Remove statements that enable the County Council to avoid providing infrastructure or that allow the authority to choose whether to apply standards or not (so-called “get out” clauses). [link]
- Remove references to “many excellent examples” of infrastructure in the county, and remove or reclassify existing imaging that shows sub-standard in-county infrastructure. Admit that the county has a long way to go where walking, wheeling, and cycling has been historically neglected, and demonstrate what it is aspiring to achieve through photographs of actual excellence. [link]
- Update statistical information to include figures from the 2021 Census as soon as they are available. [link]
- Correct errors and misclassifications present in the current Nuneaton and Bedworth infrastructure. Ensure that this does not paint an overly optimistic picture of the local cycling environment. This should be realistic, even if it’s not a positive picture. It must show the position from which the Council is starting. [link]
- Ensure that where walking and cycling routes are the same, that there is a clear steer away from shared use space and that separated routes are provided. [link]
- Avoid using isolated routes such as canal towpaths and parks, where these create real or perceived risks to personal safety, or may not be suitable for year-round, twenty-four-hour access for walking, wheeling, and cycling. These routes have uses but they must be secondary or even tertiary to the primary network. [link], [link], [link]
- Ensure good quality walking links between Nuneaton and Bedworth that are not reliant on the Canal towpath. [link]
- Ensure existing rights of way are not relied upon for primary walking routes where these may be inaccessible, unless upgrades can be provided. [link]
- Provide level and continuous footways with clear priority over minor side roads; avoid the repetitive rise and fall that is evident on many pathways crossed for driveway access. [link]
- Focus on creating a core, high-quality, direct, roadside cycle network that adheres to all the core principles of LTN 1/20, with a target for a rapid build-out over the next decade. Ensure this primary network is (as far as is physically possible) separated from both motor traffic and pedestrians, and is afforded generous space to enable use by all cycle users including commercial use. Avoid diverting resources into smaller schemes at this stage, except where they can be facilitated as part of other development schemes or road alteration projects, or where they can be shown to provide an important link (e.g., safe routes to schools). [link], [link]
- Ensure there is at least one connection on the primary cycle network between all settlements to enable travel between localities that includes suitability for commercial services (e.g., delivery services). [link]
- Deal with the issue of cycling on the A444 Bedworth Bypass. [link]
- Place a much greater emphasis on “quick wins” that can be enabled at speed and relatively low cost (LTNs, School Streets, speed limit reductions, removal of barriers etc.). [link], [link], [link]
- Include cycle hire as a means for enabling cycling for local transport, perhaps in conjunction with the scheme run by the West Midlands Combined Authority. [link]
- Push for a more rapid roll-out of infrastructure, avoiding delays and slow developments that characterise current programmed schemes. Divert highways resources as needed. [link]
- Avoid the perception of a north-south divide by ensuring Nuneaton and Bedworth gets a fair share of new schemes, and that development is not overly skewed towards the south of the county. [link]
- Ensure all relevant WCC sections and departments are fully committed to the LCWIP and improving sustainable travel. [link]
- Improve public engagement. [link]
Detailed Plan Analysis
Given the length of the plans (which are broken down into three parts), my analysis is also broken down into sections, as follows. The “Borough Focused” section looks at Nuneaton and Bedworth but some comments may also be relevant in other areas too.
- Interesting statistical information
- Road safety
- Existing infrastructure and routes
- Walking (and wheeling)
- Cycling proposals
- Network Vision
There are references to encouraging sustainable travel. These should be changed to enabling. It’s a subtle difference perhaps, but enablement means putting in routes and infrastructure that (for cycling) adhere to the core principles of LTN 1/20, and allow people to naturally make the choice to cycle because it is easy, safe, and friction-free. It also means adding in friction to driving for short journeys, making those trips less attractive. In contrast, encouragement can mean asking people to walk, wheel and cycle even if they are not comfortable doing so, such as through communications around health benefits, clean air, and saving money – but not through any meaningful network changes.
“The LCWIP reviews, updates and formalises the walking and cycling network development plans for each of the main urban areas, and sets out a prioritised programme of delivery for cycling schemes for the next 10 years. This will ensure that high quality infrastructure is in place – to encourage sustainable travel patterns for everyday journeys and provide inclusive access for leisure activities – meeting the demands of a growing population and supporting a vibrant economy.”Draft LCWIP, Part 1 – Introduction, 1. Foreword, paragraph 4 (emphasis added).
The document also frequently makes reference to segregation, where a more inclusive and sensitive term would be separation. The former is extremely common but given its historical associations specifically with regard to race, the latter may be a more appropriate choice.
There are references to bikes/a bike at various points. In order to ensure inclusivity, these references should be changed to cycles/a cycle. This will then serve as an important reminder that infrastructure must be able to accomodate a variety of different cycles, regardless of the number of wheels, and not just the so-called standard bicycle.
Throughout the document, the phrase walking and cycling is used. This should be expanded to walking, wheeling and cycling. Similarly, wherever walking is used on its own, wheeling should be included. Sustrans recently announced and explained its reasoning behind including the term wheeling in order to be more inclusive of people who use wheelchairs, mobility scooters etc. and who maybe do not identify with walking. This would also serve as a reminder that infrastructure must be accessible and inclusive and help to ensure that this is front of mind when developing new schemes or improvements.
Where possible, avoid using technical terminology to ensure this document is accessible to a wide, non-expert audience. Where such terminology is used, ensure it is clearly defined. For example, in the statement “TEMPRO growth factors were applied to adjust the 2016 MND to reflect growth in travel demand up to 2020” (see Part 2: Nuneaton and Bedworth, Nuneaton and Bedworth Cycling Infrastructure Plan, Potential for cycling – travel demand (short trips), Paragraph 2). Is the term “TEMPRO” actually needed here?
Order of priorities
The Challenges and Opportunities section puts top priority on managing the impacts of COVID-19. Without wanting to minimise the impact of the global pandemic, the top priority should still be responding to the climate emergency. Also, the reference to climate change downplays the urgency. It should be changed to read climate emergency or climate crisis.
Challenges 2 and 4, listed under Table 1, talk about promoting walking and cycling, and then about investment. Similar to the point above noting the difference between enabling and encouraging, these two points should be swapped. The investment must come first, after which walking, wheeling and cycling can then be actively promoted. The latter will not make a meaningful difference without the former.
“to promote walking and cycling as low carbon alternatives to single-occupancy car journeys, and invest in walking and cycling infrastructure”.Draft LCWIP, Part 1 – Introduction, 3. Challenges and opportunities, Table 1, Challenge 2. (Emphasis added).
Challenge 5 references perceptions of safety and actual risk, noting the need to “provide safer infrastructure for walking and cycling”. While these comments will look at Nuneaton and Bedworth in more detail later on, it’s worth noting that there appears to be a conflict with this statement and the intention to provide many off-road walking and cycling routes throughout the borough including the use of the Coventry Canal and through parks. Such routes can feel isolated at quiet times and after dark, increasing risk to personal safety, and the perception of that risk. Priority must be given to high visibility routes on key highway corridors where people can feel relatively comfortable and safe regardless of the time of day. This will also aid navigation where routes are familiar and easy to follow.
A concern that presents itself in Sections 5 and 6, is a potential “get out” to providing infrastructure. This is first given due to physical constraints which may apply to historic streets. There must be a priority on providing access for walking, wheeling and cycling first above motor transport (particularly private motor transport). If space is an issue, drivers must be given secondary consideration and expected to make room. That might be through one-way systems, bus gates, low traffic neighbourhoods, cycle streets (where drivers are strictly considered guests – see Dutch “fietsstraaten”), or broader road closures to private vehicles.
Whilst it is not practical to design every walking and cycling route at the network planning stage, it is useful to identify the type of infrastructure that is desirable, in order to develop cost estimates and assist in the feasibility and prioritisation process. The type of infrastructure on each route will vary according to criteria such as traffic speeds and levels of use, as well as physical constraints (this being particularly relevant in Warwickshire’s historic streets).Draft LCWIP, Part 1 – Introduction, 5. Types of walking and cycling infrastructure, paragraph 4.
A second “get out” is presented in Section 6: Design guidance and assessment techniques. The County Council must not look to choose whether or not to apply design standards to highways projects; it must apply them. These standards must not be optional. The latest cycling infrastructure design guidance LTN 1/20 provides a variety of options for infrastructure, promoting the ideal and best, but allowing for a reduction through constraints if necessary.
Warwickshire County Council will utilise relevant assessment and audit tools (including those listedDraft LCWIP, Part 1 – Introduction, 6. Design guidance and assessment techniques, paragraph 5.
below) to review existing and planned facilities, and where feasible will apply latest design guidelines
(including LTN1/20) on all new highways projects:
Types of infrastructure
Moving on Section 5, “Types of walking and cycling infrastructure”, it is good to see reference to improvements such as contra-flow cycling on one-way streets, and 20mph limits in town centres and residential areas. It would also be good to see a stronger emphasis on blanket speed reductions to 20mph in urban areas, with 30mph given as an exception rather than the rule, and for the provision of infrastructure such as School Streets and low traffic neighbourhoods to improve the attractiveness of sustainable travel for local transport needs versus driving.
While investment in high profile dedicated cycling infrastructure on key corridors is likely to have the biggest impact in terms of increasing cycling levels, there are also opportunities for other infrastructure improvements to make cycling easier, safer and more convenient, such as permitting contra-flow cycling on one-way streets and introducing 20mph limits in town centres and residential areas.Draft LCWIP, Part 1 – Introduction, 5. Types of walking and cycling infrastructure, paragraph 1.
There is also a reference to “many excellent examples” of walking and cycling infrastructure – but where are they? There are some pleasant shared use routes which may be considered good for slower daytime leisure trips, but in the Nuneaton and Bedworth borough it is difficult to identify anything that may be considered better than reasonable in terms of practical infrastructure that enables modal shift to everyday sustainable transport.
Following this statement, there are then a number of photographs of infrastructure, many of which have clear issues and would be considered sub-standard. Given the issues, their inclusion is questionable:
- Permissive path, Baginton – appears to show an access restriction which may cause accessibility issues and may not be inclusive.
- No through road to motor traffic, Stratford and Warwick – inaccessible modal filters shown. The Stratford filter provides a narrow dropped kerb which may be difficult for wider cycles or with certain trailers; the Warwick filter does not show a dropped kerb at all.
- Cycle exemption to one-way street (modal filter), Warwick – the filter appears to be narrow and may pose an accessibility issue, particularly given tight turning angles.
- Horizontal traffic calming (give-way with cycle bypasses), Baginton – shows an extremely narrow cycle bypass which would not be accessible to wider cycles or those with trailers. Unforgiving kerbs create a crash risk if clipped. These types of filters are often filled with detritus and many riders will avoid them entirely.
- Vertical traffic calming (speed cushions), Baginton – these types of speed restrictions encourage some drivers to position vehicles closer to the kerb to minimise the bump. This can put cyclists in conflict with drivers. They can also present a toppling risk to riders of tricycles, requiring riders to move centrally into the lane for proper balance. This may not be attractive or comfortable to less confident riders.
- Bus and cycle lane, Rugby – while using bus lanes may be considered preferable to general traffic lanes, mixing with bus traffic can still be very intimidating and may not be considered safe for younger or less experienced riders. Faster riders may encounter a “leap frog” situation on a route where a bus stops frequently, with the cyclist and bus driver frequently overtaking each other. This is not ideal for either user.
- Advanced stop line for cyclists, Leamington traffic, Warwick – ASLs provide little protection to riders. An extension of paint-only infrastructure, they may be infringed by some drivers and can invite conflict where a rider enters the box having filtered passed traffic waiting at a red signal. This is the bare minimum of infrastructure and does little to enable cycling.
- Mandatory cycle lane, Warwick – again, a form of infrastructure in name only. There is no physical protection for cyclists. Many drivers will not afford cyclists the minimum safe passing distance of 1.5 metres where a painted cycle lane is present (mandatory or advisory); drivers may see that the cyclist and the driver are each “in their lane”, and so everything is fine. This can be particularly intimidating when being passed at speed or by larger vehicles, especially on narrow lanes which the image appears to show.
- Advisory cycle lane, Leamington – see above. These lanes are often pointless and can in actuality be more harmful to cyclist safety than no infrastructure at all. They may increase the perception of safety for some riders, but actual safety benefits are negligible at best.
- Kerb segregated cycle track, Warwick – the example shown of user separation is poor. There is no buffer to main road traffic and the kerbing is unforgiving risking a crash should the edge be clipped. Space for pedestrians and cyclists is extremely limited.
- White line segregated cycle track alongside road, Warwick – this example offers a more comfortable experience than the previous, especially given the buffer to main road traffic. However, pedestrian space is extremely limited here and it is likely that the white line will do little to promote cyclist-pedestrian separation. This can be a particular issue for visually impaired people or those who are less steady and who may meander. Therefore, this design invites conflict and may not be considered properly accessible or inclusive.
- White line segregation cycle track through open space, Warwick – see above. Where paths like this are provided, they must be sufficiently wide (minimum 3 metres) to minimise the risk of pedestrian-cyclist conflict. Ideally, two paths would be provided with a buffer strip between them to promote separation.
- Raised white line segregation cycle track with tactile surfacing, Leamington – see above.
- Kerb segregated two-way cycle track alongside road, Birmingham – this is a better example from the images given, however it still invites pedestrian-cyclist conflict at crossing points and where street furniture and trees cause the lane to narrow. It is not clear if there is stepped separation to the pavement, but if not, then the above comments still apply where pedestrians may meander into the cycle lane, not treating it in the same manner as a road.
- Shared use routes – looking at these images collectively, the lower three images show routes that are clearly primarily for leisure. Whilst these are important, they should not be considered part of everyday sustainable travel infrastructure. Routes can be narrow, isolated, dark, and surfaces may be poor in certain weather conditions. The canal route also presents its own dangers given close proximity to water. In general, shared use routes are discouraged except where mixed traffic is low and space allocated is at least three metres wide.
- Crossings: Refuge islands – pictures of pedestrian refuge islands; these present as pinch-point areas for cyclists on the carriageway and can therefore result in very close pass incidents. Refuges that also accommodate cycling may be too narrow to safely accommodate non-standard cycles, those with trailers, or multiple cyclists without incursion into the carriageway. The Tiger Crossing, Solihull shows pedestrian guardrails on what appear to be fairly narrow paths on either side of the crossing. While parallel cycle crossing facilities are generally welcome, this example may not be accessible given tight turning angles, and may invite conflict.
- Staggered toucan crossing with kerbs rather than a guard rail, Rugby – staggered crossings in any form are a negative experience for pedestrians and cyclists, where they require travelling off the desire line to cross, can force many people together into a small space inviting conflict, requires potentially difficult turning angles, and takes more time than should be needed to complete the crossing. The removal of guard rails is a positive in that it lessens the ‘hemmed in’ feeling, but still maintains the remaining issues. This is motor-centric infrastructure that puts driving ahead of the needs of pedestrians and cyclists and should be discouraged.
- Puffin crossing, Warwick – This crossing arrangement is inaccessible. The location of the crossing control requires cyclists to move cycles very close to the carriageway edge; in the case of cargo cycles and other ‘non-standard’ cycles, it may require incursion into the carriageway to reach the button. With signals being located on the near-side, this causes sight issues where a green signal may not be visible without turning the head to look behind (depending on approach angle) versus greater clarity offered with far-side signals. Sunlight can also hinder readability in this arrangement.
- Foot and cycle bridge over River Leam, Leamington – this bridge has similar issues to other shared space in that it is narrow (in this case, extremely narrow) and invites conflict. The design of the bridge sides exacerbates this problem where the effective width for cycles is reduced further (riders cannot use the full width of the bridge deck where handlebars will interfere with the railings). The image shows a rider who has dismounted; if this is requested of riders, this may be an accessibility issue where not all riders can comfortably dismount to walk across. Cyclists should never be asked or expected to dismount.
- Access controls on foot and cycle bridge over M40, Warwick – the arrangement of bollards is inaccessible and does not meet current guidance where straight-on clearance of 1.5m is required to allow cyclists to pass comfortably. This staggered arrangement may be difficult for users of non-standard cycles including tricycles, handcycles, cargo cycles, and cycles with trailers.
- Cycle parking – while a number of the images here show good Sheffield Stands, there is a particular issue with the facility shown in Stratford-upon-Avon where the parking appears to show cycles secured by the front wheel. This presents as a security issue if a cycle cannot be easily secured via the frame. Requiring users to push a cycle up an incline may present as an accessibility issue for users who might have difficulty doing this, and the arrangement appears to be non-inclusive where only ‘standard’ cycles will fit. There are potentially similar issues with the Sheffield stands and shelter, Leamington where users need to bump cycles over mounting bars on the ground. This can make positioning a cycle difficult, and there is a potential security risk if the stands themselves can be removed due to the accessibility of bolts (versus stands that are mounted into concrete).
- Wayfinding – a variety of different signage styles can be a hindrance to identifying routes, particularly for people unfamiliar with an area. There should be a standardisation on the blue-backed signage style shown in the third image, incorporating that design into other displays as necessary.
It is clear that in the main, the images do not showcase good examples of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure and that the county has a long way to go with regard to improvements. It would perhaps be more useful and appropriate to showcase examples of excellence from elsewhere in the country (or even abroad) to demonstrate what the county must aim for, and what can be achieved when designing and building to up-to-date standards, rather than highlighting flawed infrastructure which needs to be confined to history.
The second part of the LCWIP is broken down into five documents – one for each of the county’s boroughs/districts. In this article, I am looking primarily at the Nuneaton and Bedworth document, but comments here may be relevant or adaptable to other areas too.
Interesting statistical information
The introduction identifies some interesting statistics which are included here as useful points of interest. Whilst these figures are interesting in their own right, as data from the 2021 Census is published throughout 2022, it would be beneficial to bring statistics up-to-date as soon as possible:
- In 2011, 22.4% of Nuneaton and Bedworth households did not have access to a car or van. While this figure is dropping, it is still reasonable to expect that maybe one in five households do not have access to a car or van. Note that households can include more than one person.
- In 2011, around 35% of Nuneaton and Bedworth households had access to two or more cars or vans. Additional vehicles creates storage pressures. Whilst some of these will have private storage, others will rely on public realm storage.
- The number of vehicles on the roads in Nuneaton and Bedworth increased by 15.9% in the decade between 2001-2011, with an additional 8,908 vehicles on the road. Growth creates an obvious and unsustainable pressure on the road network.
- In 2011, in Nuneaton and Bedworth, 9.3% of people walked to work and 2.1% cycled. This compares to the national average of 10.7% walking, 3% cycling.
Table NB1 identifies road traffic collisions in the borough that involved pedestrians and cyclists, showing the numbers killed, seriously injured, and slightly injured. While these figures are important in the absolute terms as presented, it would also be beneficial to put these into some degree of context such as per X miles walked/cycled and in comparison to county and national averages. The document makes reference to this, but doesn’t include the figures.
Although the number of collisions is decreasing, the proportion of all casualties that are pedestriansDraft LCWIP, Part 2 – Nuneaton and Bedworth, 1. The current situation, Road safety, paragraph 4.
and cyclists in Nuneaton and Bedworth is large compared to the expected mode share in traffic
volumes or miles travelled, and compared to county figures. In 2020, the proportion of casualties
that were pedestrians and cyclists was 26% in Nuneaton and Bedworth, compared to 21% in wider
Existing infrastructure and routes
The document notes that Nuneaton has an estimated 18km of so-called dedicated cycle infrastructure, however it then notes this includes routes such as the Coventry Canal and Weddington Walk. Neither of these can be classed as dedicated cycling infrastructure given they are shared spaces with pedestrians, have numerous access restrictions hindering or preventing use, are not lit, and (particularly in the case of the Coventry Canal) can be narrow and poorly surfaced. At best these are daytime slow leisure routes best suited for good weather riding, but certainly not dedicated infrastructure.
Misclassification of routes such as these paints an overly optimistic and incorrect picture for cycling in Nuneaton.
In 2018, it was estimated that the total length of dedicated cycling infrastructure (off-carriageway or on-carriageway) was 18km within Nuneaton. This includes traffic-free paths such as the Coventry Canal towpath and Weddington Walk (National Cycle Network Route 52). Other routes within the town (see Figure NB4) are a mixture of on-carriageway cycle lanes and shared use footways / cycle tracks adjacent to main roads.Draft LCWIP, Part 2 – Nuneaton and Bedworth, 1. The current situation, Existing facilities and networks, paragraph 8.
There is a reference to gaps in the network, which is a valid concern. However, when noting the National Cycle Network Route 52, a gap in Kenilworth is identified whilst a significant missing section throughout Bedworth is not. However, this paragraph may be an error where it reads as being more suitable in the Warwick District version of this Part 2 document.
NCN 52 (Warwick – Coalville): connecting Warwick to Kenilworth, Warwick University and Coventry, although this has a missing link in the centre of KenilworthDraft LCWIP, Part 2 – Nuneaton and Bedworth, 1. The current situation, Existing facilities and networks, paragraph 9, bullet point 1.
NCN Route 524 is noted as running through Bar Pool Brook. However, Sustrans note this as terminating at the eastern end of the traffic-free path. That greenway path itself is obstructed at numerous points, including at some accesses and mid-route, and is difficult to pass on a regular cycle. There is no positive indication on-site that this is a shared use route and it is certainly not accessible nor inclusive.
NCN Route 521 is also noted. This is a useful branch of the National Cycle Network but it is important to be aware that it is heavily obstructed at various points along its length (not least Maple Park), connects poorly with roads and crossing points, and is isolated and remote when considering after dark access.
It must not be assumed that just because some routes are identified as part of the National Cycle Network, they are good routes. This is not the case. These routes have issues that make them difficult to use or unattractive and are not substitutes for good quality road-side infrastructure. For example, it is noted that an upgraded Coventry Canal towpath would present as a good daytime cycle route, but this limits its use as a practical everyday connection especially in winter months. Also, unless significant towpath widening upgrades are undertaken rather than simple resurfacing, there is not the space available for even moderate flows of pedestrian and cycle traffic.
Leisure routes all have their uses and are valuable in their own right, but it is not appropriate to consider them as part of the primary cycle network. Good quality infrastructure must be accessible to all users without hindrance, regardless of time of day, weather, and time of year.
There is reference to existing 20mph zones, however the wording perhaps suggests that these are more widespread than they are in reality. Such zones are not uniformly applied across the borough and plenty of residential areas are still classed as 30mph zones, even if such speeds are not appropriate. Adherence to speed limits is also a problem regardless of the posted limit.
The analysis of cycle parking provision makes a reasonable assessment, however it should be noted that town centre cycle parking is mostly limited to the perimeter of the town and there are fewer options within the town itself. This is important as provision adjacent to where people want to go makes cycling more attractive and accessible; it can make cycling that much easier than driving when factoring in parking the car and then walking to the destination. Table NB3 is also not entirely accurate whereby Nuneaton station offers a number of Sheffield Stands on Platform 1 which are covered and do have CCTV (or at least, what appear to be CCTV cameras are visible). Further stands are available outside of the station which are partially sheltered under a canopy and also appear to be covered by CCTV. In total, 48 spaces are available for cycle parking at Nuneaton Station, although these may not be accessible to all types of cycle.
Walking (and wheeling)
As noted above when discussing language, it is important to include wheeling in the Walking section to emphasise the importance of considering people who use wheelchairs, mobility scooters etc., and to ensure all routes are accessible and inclusive.
The section focusing on walking routes presents isochrones showing a 2km zone around town centre locations, identified as areas which are walking distance at a moderate walking speed. However, there is no clear indication as to how this speed has been identified given speeds can vary based on age, sex, health, and disability. The indicated distance should err on the side of caution and reflect a realistic walking and wheeling distance for slower demographics.
My own experience walking the local area is limited, so I don’t feel in a position to make a detailed evaluation of the proposed infrastructure indicated in Table NB5 and Figure NB10. However, I would note a number of broader points of issue, as follows below. While detailed route designs are beyond the scope of the LCWIP, it would be good to have the following matters settled within the document as a steer towards high quality infrastructure:
Shared use paths
Here’s a beautiful greenway in Bute Park. pic.twitter.com/P2PceiiQyl— The Ranty Highwayman (@RantyHighwayman) June 18, 2022
Some routes may suffer from isolation and may be off-putting especially to more vulnerable people. Isolated routes may not be attractive to use after dark, even more so if lighting is not provided. Walking is a slow means of transport and does not offer the same escape opportunities as cycling (which in itself can suffer on isolated, trapped routes such as the canal towpath).
An emphasis needs to be placed on ensuring key walking routes are highly visible, lit, and that they have good, frequent, and unobstructed access points. Again, it is important to have this set as a high-level design policy.
Walking for Bedworth and Bulkington
There is a possible issue of direct connections between Nuneaton and Bedworth (e.g., no walking improvements proposed on the Coventry Road corridor). The only marked route is along the Coventry Canal with the issues as noted above, but which also suffers from being a less direct route given its winding nature.
There is also a general lack of marked potential improvements in Bedworth and nothing indicated for Bulkington. It is important that areas other than Nuneaton are not forgotten. Some improvements may come alongside cycling improvements, but these should still be indicated on the walking overview. For example, it should be feasible to walk between Bulkington and Bedworth in greater comfort than the narrow pavement that currently runs alongside the 50mph rural road.
Public rights of way and footway standards
It is important to acknowledge that while a number of public rights of way exist, these are not necessarily accessible routes particularly to people wheeling where they may require the use of gates, stiles, crossing rough paths in fields etc. While useful and enjoyable for those who can make use of them, they cannot be relied upon to form the basis of an accessible and inclusive walking network.
Focus should be given to providing level and continuous footways, creating a clear indication of priority at appropriate junctions. It is also important to avoid having paths with frequent dips and climbs where dropped kerbs (more realistically described as dropped pavements) as provided for vehicle access to driveways, for example, create an uncomfortable surface. Footpaths should always be level, smooth, continuous and of sufficient width to ensure they are comfortable and attractive to use for all whether walking or wheeling.
New footways must be designed in this manner and older infrastructure upgraded over time as paths are renewed or updated.
Based on the flow maps (Figures NB13 and NB14) cross-referenced with indicative cycle routes (Figures NB17 and NB18), there appear to be gaps or missing segments where provided routes would offer a clear benefit. For example:
- Nuneaton to Bulkington (B4112),
- Gipsy Lane (East), Nuneaton*,
- Gipsy Lane (West), Nuneaton,
- Golf Drive, Whitestone, Nuneaton to Bulkington Lane,
- Lutterworth Road, Nuneaton
- Avenue Road, Nuneaton*,
- Greenmoor Road, Nuneaton*,
- Coventry Road, Bedworth,
- A444 Walsingham Drive to Sutherland Drive, Bedworth,
- Sutherland Drive, Bedworth,
- Heath Road, Bedworth to Ash Green,
- Newtown Road, Bedworth,
- Weston Lane, Bulkington*,
- Wolvey Road, Bulkington,
- School Road (B4029), Bulkington to Wolvey
- Bulkington Road (B4029), Bulkington to Shilton.
If prioritised and developed, many of these routes would form a core primary cycle network useful not only for local cycling within a particular locality but also for connecting settlements together (e.g., Wolvey to Bulkington, Bulkington to Bedworth, Bulkington to Nuneaton, Bedworth to Ash Green). A number of routes, marked with an asterisk, are also a benefit for providing safe routes to school (including for St Thomas Moore, Wembrook Primary, Chetwynd Junior, Arden Forest Infant).
Of particular concern is the apparent demand indicated on the Flow Map for cycling on a short section of the A444 Bedworth Bypass – a major, multi-lane arterial road that is in no way suitable for cycling – yet no provision is made for people using this link, to remove cycling from this dangerous road and on to safe infrastructure. It is clear that this is an important route for employment given the line links Bedworth to the Bermuda Industrial Area.
Although included in the above list, it is worth emphasising that the Part 2 document for Nuneaton and Bedworth highlights the interaction between Nuneaton and Bulkington, but that connection is not enabled in the proposed network.
The above list is not necessarily exhaustive, but suggests that the current draft of the LCWIP does not put enough emphasis on creating a core, high quality, direct primary cycle network throughout the borough. Given the current environment for cycling, the priority for the next decade must be to quickly create that backbone network along identified key corridors, after which the network can be expanded out from this core provision. Whilst smaller local routes have their benefits and should be built where the opportunities arise (e.g., through new developments or general road changes), they should not be the core focus at this stage. The exception to this should be the provision of safe routes to schools given the greater vulnerability and inexperience of younger riders.
Network Vision: Nuneaton and Bedworth
The following maps indicate a vision for a core cycling network in the Nuneaton and Bedworth borough, branching out to Coventry and Leicestershire. This backbone network would form the basis for further developments in the long-term, but provides good connectivity both in local areas and across the broader borough. The core network runs close to many schools, and where it does not, additional priority routes are indicated that still follow main roads and connect to form a cohesive network.
Some elements of this network are already programmed (e.g., Nuneaton to Hinckley, and parts of the Bedworth to Coventry connection). Future schemes following this layout would offer significant benefits for a high visibility network enabling safe cycling on busy main road routes.
Blue: Direct line inter-urban corridors; Yellow: Major routes along key inter-urban corridors; Pink: Additional routes for schools and education; Green circle: Education sites.
(Click on an image to enlarge)
Under Potential for cycling – travel demand (propensity to cycle), the use of the Propensity to Cycle Tool (PCT) has been noted as one method of identifying cycling potential. It is noted that this needs to be used with caution due to the age of data (from the 2011 Census). It should also be noted that where this tool identifies areas where cycling is common, it does not show why cycling is not common in other areas – perhaps due to a perception of safety risk. Also, identifying routes based on those who cycle currently is to work on a subset of people who are comfortable (or at least tolerant of) cycling despite the absence of cycling infrastructure. It does not capture demand from, nor identify the routes of, people who would like to cycle but are currently discouraged.
Regardless, the PCT identifies people cycling along routes noted in the list above despite the absence of cycling infrastructure and on which local knowledge will identify as hazardous and off-putting. It further emphasises the need to ensure the creation of a high quality, cohesive core network that is developed on key direct lines alongside the road network.
Proposals for cycle infrastructure does reference measures beyond dedicated cycle infrastructure, such as the removal of barriers, schools streets, speed limit reductions etc. However, these measures, which could be “quick wins” for improving the environment for cycling without needing significant infrastructure changes, feel rather buried and hidden away. They do not appear to be given enough importance, where the County Council will only “consider” other measures rather than committing to pushing ahead with them. Significant emphasis should be placed on these measures where their implementation, even if initially only on a trial basis, could be managed comparatively quickly and cheaply, and have a rapid effect on improving the cycling environment.
“In addition to cycling-specific infrastructure such as cycle tracks and cycle lanes, consideration will also be given to other measures such as the removal of barriers, lowering of speed limits, introduction of traffic calming and parking restrictions, reallocation of road space and the establishment of school streets, quiet lanes and low traffic neighbourhoods.”Draft LCWIP, Part 2 – Nuneaton and Bedworth, 4. Nuneaton and Bedworth Cycling Infrastructure Plan, Proposals for cycling infrastructure, paragraph 4.
Examples of School Streets are already being seen elsewhere around the country and Warwickshire County Council has made some limited soundings about them, but no trials have been announced as yet despite driver behaviours at school gates being a known significant problem. Implementation of measures such as this would have an immediate impact on improving the local environment for sustainable travel (walking, wheeling, and cycling), and will help to meet the national target of 55% of children walking to school by 2025. Yet the LCWIP is affording School Streets effectively a singular mention, buried in just one line throughout the plan (albeit repeated in the different sections for walking and cycling).
Many aspects of the implementation document are covered earlier in this analysis (e.g., important routes for Nuneaton and Bedworth, and the prioritisation of resources towards a primary high quality cycle network across the borough and indeed the wider county).
To reiterate the point, it is important to focus resources on the creation of a core high-quality, direct cycle network that can be rapidly developed over the next decade, creating a backbone that can benefit as many different users as possible, for a variety of purposes – commuting, school trips, local errands, visiting friends and family, and commercial use etc. Some deviation from this may be justified to connect significant destinations such as schools, hospitals etc. but routes should follow busy, primary corridors as far as possible. Once in place, this network can serve as a basis for further extensions over the following decade.
There are indicated aspiration routes in the plan that follow an indirect, detoured route such as the Bedworth Town Centre Link running north-south through the town, instead of straight along Coventry Road. Directness and avoiding stop-start travel is extremely important for comfortable cycling in order to minimise the effort needed to travel between A and B. The Dutch Cycling Embassy clearly highlight this point, and it is echoed in the core principles of LTN 1/20 which notes that “Cycle routes should be at least as direct – and preferably more direct – than those available for private motor vehicles” (LTN 1/20, Figure 1.1: Core Design Principles).
In addition to this, “quick win” solutions such as low traffic neighbourhoods, school streets etc. should be implemented rapidly where these can improve the attractiveness of cycling around local streets where traffic reduction improves safety and comfort.
Cycle hire schemes
There is minimal reference to cycle hire schemes throughout the plan and nothing noted in the Implementation document. While it is acknowledged from public feedback that there are no schemes for hiring cycles in Nuneaton and Bedworth, and Challenge 6 in the Introduction document does talk about investigating cycling and scooter hire, these are the sole references. This concept should be broadened out and given greater prominence, perhaps investigating cooperation with the West Midlands Combined Authority to join WM Cycle Hire given the close proximity to the West Midlands.
Cycle hire is an important aspect of enabling cycling where people may not have their own cycles, may wish to try cycling but are not ready to commit to purchase, may not have the space to store a cycle, or may have concerns about cycle security especially as part of multi-modal transport (e.g., cycling to the station before taking the train to work).
Warwickshire has a problem with regard to timescales, where existing programmed schemes are known to be taking a very long time to develop. Locally, the Nuneaton to Bedworth/Bedworth to Coventry programmed scheme has taken over 2.5 years since funding was awarded in 2019, yet it is still in the preliminary design phase and is estimated to take another 18 months to two years before it is complete. The A47 Long Shoot scheme was originally expected to begin construction in 2021 but has been delayed with current estimates suggesting development will begin in Autumn 2022, but with no guarantees). Meanwhile, neighbouring Coventry has built its Coundon cycleway and is significantly into the build of its Binley scheme with others in the pipeline.
Warwickshire is taking far too long to build its already programmed schemes. This leads to an impression of a distinct lack of urgency. The cross-cutting benefits of active travel infrastructure and enablement are noted in the LCWIP. A push to move much faster, to develop a rapid roll-out of infrastructure in conjunction with “quick win” solutions is essential for realising these benefits, and as such it is vital that timescales are shortened.
Given the urgency and importance in developing a network for sustainable travel, Warwickshire County Council must divert its resources away from other highways projects which do not feature walking and cycling as a fundamental element. If a broader road scheme is identified as required, it must only be approved subject to it contributing to the build-out of the core network where that delivery can occur within the timeframe of this initial LCWIP. The focus on motoring as a priority for transport must end, and driving must now be given secondary consideration over other modes of transport.
The Council must also avail itself of all available external funding sources such as from Active Travel England to assist with funding a rapid roll-out. This will require a commitment to high quality schemes that comply with the latest design standards.
It is also important that the appearance of a north-south divide is not heightened with the allocation of new projects for walking, wheeling, and cycling. Nuneaton and Bedworth has no “very high” priority non-programmed schemes listed in the tables in the Implementation document and there is therefore a risk of the borough missing out on developments. Locally, there is a perception that the County Council favours the south of Warwickshire over the north, a reputation that will only be further damaged if many schemes south of Coventry are rolled out over the coming decade, but with comparatively few for areas in the north.
Arguably, given the greater urban nature of the Nuneaton and Bedworth borough coupled with its poorer performance in health indicators compared to elsewhere in the county (as noted in the Nuneaton and Bedworth document), there should be an extra push for active and sustainable travel infrastructure in the area. It is not evident that this is the case.
In Nuneaton and Bedworth, 79.3% of residents described their health as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ – below the county average of 82.2%. Similarly, residents were asked to rate the degree to which daily activities are limited by health and/or disability. 9.5% of residents in Nuneaton and Bedworth stated that their activities are ‘limited a lot’ – above the national average of 8.5% and considerably higher than the county average of 7.7%. Other health data shows that Nuneaton and Bedworth generally underperform against a range of health indicators, suggesting a greater need for health improvement and physical activity development in this area.
In the 2017/18 Active Lives Survey (Sport England), 71.9% of adults (aged 18+) in Nuneaton and Bedworth were classified as overweight or obese (where BMI is greater than or equal to 25kg/m2). This is significantly higher than figures for Warwickshire (62.4%) and England (62%). The same survey showed that 26.7% of Nuneaton and Bedworth adults (aged 19+) do not achieve 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week, and are therefore classed as physically inactive. This is higher than the Warwickshire figures (21.6% are physically inactive) and those for England (22.2%)Draft LCWIP, Part 2 – Nuneaton and Bedworth, 1. The current situation, Population and health, paragraphs 3 and 4.
Issues specific to using the Coventry Canal
On occasions the plan references using the Coventry Canal as part of a cycle network, including the potential for upgrades to improve the route. This has been noted throughout this consultation response but it is worth drawing out in more detail the problems inherent with using canal towpaths.
Currently, Coventry Canal forms two parts of the National Cycle Network Route 52 – Coventry Canal Basin to Hawkesbury Junction, and Marston Junction to Nuneaton Midland Road. There is a significant gap between these two sections, through Bedworth, where the towpath is not suitable for everyday riding. It is narrow, rough, unsurfaced in the main part, and brings users close to the water. Towpath upgrades to join the two sections would be welcome – but with the caveat that this still cannot be considered part of a primary network; it is a casual leisure route only.
It is important to look at the recently resurfaced route into Coventry which has a number of problems.
- While the surface is an improvement over dirt or gravel, it remains a poor experience for cycling. The choice of finish feels loose with a loss of grip particularly towards the edge of the path where riders may have to position to pass other users. Any loss of control here is hazardous given proximity to water. When the Canal and River Trust were in the process of resurfacing the route, for a short time it featured a tarmac surface. Whilst that could have been smoother, it was pleasant and comfortable to ride. The final finish has ruined that improvement. The same mistake must not be made in the Warwickshire area. If the towpath is to be upgraded, it must present a smooth tarmac finish.
- Regardless of surface quality, the path is narrow and presents challenges for users needing to pass each other. This can be exacerbated by overgrowth and there are numerous parts of the route into Coventry where encroachment of foliage makes using the towpath awkward. Bridges can also present similar issues where to obtain required headroom, users must move towards the water edge. Forward visibility is also a problem, risking conflict and collision even when travelling at low speeds. These same issues will present themselves on the Warwickshire section unless a) widening of the towpath to minimum shared use width is undertaken, including under bridges (an extremely expensive proposition even assuming it is physically possible to do), and b) there is a commitment to regular ongoing maintenance to ensure the route is clear of overgrowth.
- The route into Coventry is also inaccessible. There are two shallow-stepped bridges which many users will likely have to dismount to cross (not all users can do this, or will be able to push a bike up and over steps). Aside from those, a number of barriers exist on the route. Those in the Coventry area are normally open but there is always a possibility that they might be shut. Those in the Nuneaton and Bedworth area are normally closed and present difficulties especially for users of non-standard cycles who do not have radar keys.
- There is also clear evidence of antisocial and criminal behaviour on the Coventry section of the towpath where it is littered often with drinks cans, there may be apparent drug use, and evidence of potential arson or out of control fires. In Nuneaton there has also been a disturbing report of a serious assault occurring on the towpath. Its isolated nature is extremely unattractive as a result, especially at quiet hours/after dark.
Again, upgrades are welcome in themselves to improve the useability as a leisure route, but this area must not be considered part of the primary network and a substitute for on-road infrastructure. Any upgrades to the towpath would need to adhere to the following in order to maximise usefulness:
- Complete the missing section between Hawkesbury Junction and Marston Junction (through Bedworth),
- Be finished in smooth tarmac to ensure comfort and safety,
- Maximise width as far as physically possible,
- A commitment to regular and frequent maintenance to keep the route clear,
- The removal of all on-route access restrictions,
- Maximise the number of access points/escape routes, avoiding steps and inaccessible restrictions,
- Ensure good quality signage.
The LCWIP is a welcome new document and none of these criticisms should be taken as objecting to the process of creating this plan. Overall, it is a positive step forward for the Council and the broader county, insofar as that once published, the LCWIP is given the prominence and importance within the local authority.
Given the aforementioned cross-cutting benefits, the effectiveness of the plan is reliant on its acceptance throughout the various Council sections that have responsibilities for highways, general transport, road safety, health and wellbeing, education etc. It is important that the Council as a whole is united behind the aims and objectives of this document to ensure that new schemes can be implemented with minimal delay.
This is a complicated document that has been released for public consultation. It requires time and a degree of understanding to digest all of the information contained therein, and then additional time to respond to the consultation. It is important that a broad audience is reached in these matters, and I would be concerned that the scope of this project is perhaps too large for a basic consultation. While drop-in sessions were arranged where members of the public would be able to ask questions, these were scheduled during working hours, limiting opportunities to attend.
Engagement with the general public is vital in order to get a good understanding of the issues encountered when walking, wheeling and cycling, but also to understand what might stop people doing so at the moment. To that end, alternative methods of engagement in addition to the current consultation format may be valuable – for example, focus groups (in person and/or online) and smaller surveys on focused areas of the plan.