A Pudsey councillor has urged critics of the new cycle superhighway to ‘give it a chance’- and hit out at private landlords who opposed the scheme.
Councillor Richard Lewis (Lab, Pudsey) spoke out at a meeting of the full council, which included a debate on the future of transport in Leeds following the collapse of the proposed Leeds trolleybus scheme and calls to learn from the mistakes during the construction of the cycle superhighway.
Cllr Lewis told the Civic Hall meeting:
“We were bold there. This was difficult stuff, it would have be very easy as a local authority to say this is too difficult and to turn it down … We went for the big one. We knew timescales were difficult. We had opposition …
“Firstly we had the businesses and some private landlords who didn’t like the fact that they couldn’t park on the pavement as they have for many years. Well, I am sorry we cannot, as a citym be driven by a few private landlords.”
Cllr Lewis also said there had been opposition from cyclists who thought they ‘should have had priority at Armley crossroads’.
He also acknowledged concerns from disgruntled motorists, adding:
“They have had to [put up with] disruption. We haven’t got that right, I must admit.”
Cllr Lewis concluded by saying criticism was premature: “You’ve got to give things a chance.”
The council debate came as the first nine miles of the superhighway – from Church Bank in Bradford to Leeds city centre via Barker End Road, Leeds Old Road, Stanningley, Bramley and Armley – officially opened. The new route features segregation from the highway, priority over cars at most side road junctions and increased safety measures along its length.
Conservative councillor Barry Anderson (Adel & Wharfedale Ward) said:
“To try nail some myths: We [Conservative] are not anti-cycling on this side of chamber. We are concerned that some cyclists are in real danger because of the layout of what’s happening on that side of the city.
“Cyclists are contacting us and making the complaints. We hope we will not see anti-car measures introduced to stifle the economic development of the city. Somethimes car owners are seen as a cash cow…”
Farnley and Wortley Green Party councillor David Blackburn disagreed and labelled the Tories ‘anti-cyclists’. He also criticised public transport in Leeds as ‘appalling’ and called for a ‘proper transport system’ for thE city.
But he conceded:
“The superhighway’s not been done in the very best way, there are problems with it.”
His wife, Cllr Ann Blackburn (Green, Farnley and Wortley), said the council needed to listen to people more.
Otley and Yeadon Liberal Democrat Colin Campbell accused some councillors of ‘having a bad attack of hindsight’ before calling for more work on cycLing in Leeds and better links to Leeds Bradford Airport.
Labour councillor Keith Wakefield said:
“We need to embrace cycling as an intergrated transport system and have to make it safe. I agree with some points. Go to Munich, go to Zurich: you will se cycling as a part of their integrated transport system.”
Council approved a Labour motion which called for a comprehensive Leeds Transport Strategy to be developed and delivered as a matter of urgency and welcomed the Government commitment to earmark the £173m NGT money towards transport in Leeds. The motion, which stops short of holding the urgent inquiry called for by the Conservatives, adds:
“Council further notes the concerns from residents and businesses about the development of NGT and cycle superhighway and resolves to consider these issues alongside the development of the Transport Strategy.”
The motion can be read in full here.
You can watch the councillors’ debate in full via a council webcast.
West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s CityConnect team has developed the cycle superhighway, working with Leeds and Bradford councils.
In a press release issued on Friday, Cllr Wakefield, who is also chair of the West Yorkshire Transport Committee, said:
“Cycling is a key element of the integrated ‘Metro-style’ transport network that West Yorkshire Combined Authority and the LEP committed to developing in the recently updated Strategic Economic Plan to support and encourage economic growth and job creation.
“People taking up cycling can expect to lose weight, reduce their levels of stress levels and experience improvements in their mental wellbeing as well as enjoying a quick and convenient way of getting around.
“Through the CityConnect cycle superhighway, the Combined Authority and its partners are providing people with the first step in a network of improved and new routes that enable people to enjoying those benefits safely.
“Also by providing an environment that encourages more people to cycle, the CityConnect cycle superhighway will also help to reduce congestion and counter rising levels of air pollution, which recent data indicates that up to 700 deaths this year in Leeds alone.”
The press release, issued by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, also said:
“Because we have considered the needs of all road users it has not been easy process.
“But the feedback we are getting from many cyclists that they can’t wait to use the route points to the fact that we have got much of it right.
“Providing a fully segregated cycle route between two major cities through some of the most densely populated areas of West Yorkshire was never going to be straightforward. Recognising that and the fact that many people, cyclists and non-cyclists, have strong views on cycling, we have, from the outset of the scheme, carried out widespread consultation.”
CityConnect is the first scheme of its kind outside London and numbers using it are expected to increase five-fold over the next 10 years.
The City Connect Team has an extensive program of engagement planned to support this growth and help people overcome the barriers that can prevent people from cycling. This includes working with schools along the route, delivering cycle training, Dr Bike sessions and led rides. There will also be a Bike Friendly Business accreditation scheme that will advise businesses on what they can do to encourage more of their staff and visitors to travel by bike.
The BBC recently reported that a transport consultant has warned the scheme would not meet its target of getting many more cyclists onto the route because it was “so disjointed”.
Ken Spence, the sustainable transport consultant, said it was a “missed opportunity.”
“Pedestrians will have to share space with cyclists, particularly at bus stops”, he said.