A couple of weeks back, I compiled a number of what I considered to be small suggestions on how a small section of road, and in particular the pedestrian and cycling crossing points, could be improved. This I sent through to Warwickshire County Council Highways, and today I received a response. The general message seems pretty positive on the surface. Although, perhaps unsurprisngly, the majority of my suggestions are not necessarily ones that they’ll take forward, the Council has acknowledged that improvements on that corridor (or route) to Nuneaton are needed to improve cycling, and that improvements and new links have been identified with assistance from Sustrans.
To that end, there is already work in progress to install a controlled crossing point across the current uncontrolled two stage crossing that I opened my ‘report’ with. However, there was no comment about installing an improved cycleway running from that crossing, up to the top of the railway bridge, and the suggestion that a new and better crossing point be established to help turning right to join the railway bridge was met with the response that this would require feasibility work due to my suggestions being non-standard. Due to required funding, this would not be something that could be addressed in the short-term.
For my broader suggestions about segregated cycleways across the bridge (and ideally beyond), specifically referencing the bridge and the ring-road surrounding the town, it was noted that there is not likely to be space due to the lack of road width, but they would look at Leicester Road (the bridge) as part of their broader works for the corridor.
In general then, despite the seemingly positive response, I am still concerned as the latter comment about the lack of road width strikes me as being a bit short-sighted and motor-centric. I believe the bridge does just about have appropriate width, as I demonstrated in my Streetmix diagram, if the central reservation were narrowed (admittedly, this is estimated). Further, taking perhaps a slightly more radical view would be to reduce the lanes for motor vehicles for four (two in each direction) to two (one per direction). This would create a significant amount of space for improved footways and wide cycleways. Similarly, the ring-road around Nuneaton is bi-directional, but the circuit is small at just 1.3 miles. If this were made a one-way ring-road, there would be plenty of space left for cycleways all around.
Essentially, this all boils down to nothing more than the will to move away from a car-centric approach, to one where streets are more appropriately allocated. That’s not to say that motor vehicles should not be permitted, just that the space allocated to them is more proportionate. The bridge across the railway is the single direct connection for the north-east of Nuneaton to access the town. Currently, it is dominated by motor vehicles, with a small painted lane cycleway west-bound for town, and a shared-use path (presumably – poor signage always leaves me in some doubt) for east-bound traffic. Another option would be for a new pedestrian-and-cycling-only bridge, however the cost would likely be prohibitive. The only other crossing points are either a small, inaccessible underpass a short diversion away to the south – however it is not suited to cycling and indeed, has a no-cycling restriction placed upon it – or a rough route with a steep climb to the north which is not suitable for day-to-day use and ends up on another busy road with not even a painted cycle lane available.
I’ve responded to the Council’s email with further comments of my own, which I’ll detail below. Whether anything further will come of them, I’m not sure but I have my doubts.
- With regard to that current uncontrolled two-stage crossing, the Council have noted that a toucan crossing will be installed here. I have concerns about the use of such crossings by cycles, where to operate the button, it can require edging the front wheel of a ‘standard’ very close to the road, something that is potentially dangerous for cycles where the wheel is further forward from the seat or saddle. As such, I’ve asked that a control post for cycles be situated further back from the road to allow for easy use by all cycle users, or that the crossing be controlled by sensor, as I believe is the case with some cycle-specific traffic lights in London.
- I’ve asked again about the potential for improved access on the current shared-path leading up to Leicester Road and the railway bridge as no comments were made about this. Even if the idea of a marked segregated cycleway is not feasible at this time, perhaps the removal of the chicane barriers could still occur to make the climb easier.
- Regarding the crossing point for joining the railway bridge that the Council determined to be non-standard and require funding, I’ve asked if any other options are possible to improve this in the shorter term as the current crossing is not fit for purpose if the aim is to encourage more cycling.
- I’ve noted my comments above about Leicester Road bridge and the feasibility of it having protected cycleways, even at the expense of motor vehicle lanes.
- I made a general comment about improvements to the ‘corridor’, noting that cycling is a transport method and as such must be treated as separate from the needs of pedestrians. As such, routes should be direct to/from where people want to go, should not feature shared-use paths and should have priority across side roads. I asked that they look to schemes like the Mini-Hollands in London, or to the Netherlands itself to ensure new facilities are done right.
To sum up then, the surface message is good, that the County Council are aware and agree that cycling improvements are needed along the Weddington Road corridor into Nuneaton. My big concern is that these improvements will be the usual that have been seen time and again, whereby cycling and pedestrians end up sharing space in a situation that is not ideal for either road user, that the car-centric mindset continues, and we’ll end up with a sub-standard route that does little to really encourage cycling across all abilities, age-groups and confidences.
We shall see what happens!