The new multi-million pound CityConnect cycle superhighway is an ambitious scheme to boost connectivity between East Leeds and Bradford.
How will the project transform our commuting habits? How is the impact of work being managed so the impact on local communities is minimal? Why the delays to the scheme?
A couple of weeks ago we asked Dispatch readers to submit their questions to the CityConnect team. Here’s the result:
Q. Are there any future plans for a network of similar initiatives to this across the city? One isn’t enough if you’re to encourage a cycling revolution in Leeds?
Yes. We would like this to be the foundation to enable us to create a safe, segregated cycle network across our region. We are currently working on a strategy to achieve this but this is a long-term goal and is dependent on the continuing support for growth in sustainable travel as well as allocation of funding from central government and local authorities.
Q. What lessons have been learnt to better account for any mistakes made during construction?
This is a hugely ambitious scheme, one that has never been done before in the UK with this level of segregation and continuity.
To this end it has been a huge learning curve for the whole team including the design team and the contractors. We continuously monitor and log the issues and are compiling design standards for future projects.
This is not just being scrutinised in West Yorkshire, we are pioneering in this type of build in the UK and other European cities are coming to us to see the design, how we have developed it and how the infrastructure has been built.
Q. What do you hope the health benefits will be of this new cycle superhighway? How many people are you expecting to use it in its first year and how will more people be encouraged to take up cycling – it’s great having infrastructure but it needs to be backed up if more people are to use?
The health benefits of physical activity are well recognised, and by far the easiest way of getting your prescribed amount of exercise is by building it in to your daily routine through active travel.
People taking up cycling can expect to lose weight, reduce their stress levels and see improvements in their mental well-being, all wrapped up in a quick and convenient way of getting around. However, there are much wider benefits expected for society in general.
We currently have some of the worst air quality in the country and this is a contributing factor in many instances of preventable ill health and premature death. The estimated cost to the region’s health service of these preventable issues is £480 million with a predicted 700 deaths directly contributed to this over the next year in Leeds alone. More people traveling by bike will begin to address this problem.
To begin with, we expect there to be fairly modest uptake, with an increase in the number of one way trips increasing from approximately 900 a day (based on 2011 cordon counts) to 9,000 a day in the next ten years. We have an extensive program of engagement planned that is supported by funding to deliver it, and will address some of the barriers people have when it comes to riding a bike.
This includes working with schools along the route, delivering cycle training, Dr Bike sessions and led rides, and 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.
Q. There were lots of questions about road widths and emergency services, particularly in the stretch from Armley lights towards town and also further up Stanningley Road in Stanningley itself. Where are car drivers supposed to go to allow the emergency services through, particularly as the main ambulance station is on this road and the emergency services constantly use it as a route when on call? How are emergency services going to get through traffic in emergencies as there is no room for cars to get out of the way?
We follow strict guidelines on the consultation with emergency services, they were consulted in advance of the public consultation and we continue to communicate with them regularly with regards to the scheme.
There are lots of situations across the district, and nationally, where space for vehicles is restricted to a carriageway width and this is not flagged up as an issue either by emergency services or by safety audit. We have committed to maintain contact with the emergency services and will speak to them upon completion to get feedback.
If there is any negative feedback from the emergency services we will address it immediately but at this point in time we have had none.
In terms of cars getting out of the way, the kerbs are no higher than standard kerb lines.
Q. The cycle superhighway sign first said completion September 2015, then January 2016, now spring 2016. Why has the timescale changed? When is it due for completion and what the current cost overrun on this project is given that it was supposed to have been completed in September last year?
The timescale has changed due to this being an extremely complex scheme that has never been delivered in the UK before. Various design issues have had to be addressed and altered, along with build issues.
There is no cost overrun; we have and we continue to work within our time and budget constraints as agreed with Department for Transport.
The budget for the overall project is £29.1m, of which £18m is budgeted for the Superhighway element. The funding is from a central Government fund specifically ring-fenced for spending on cycling improvements and if we had not received the funding here it would have gone elsewhere.
This fund has provided much needed jobs to the area along with the associated economic benefits.
Q. What are you planning on doing with the large curbs that just appear straight out into the road at Stanningley? Will these be made reflective? Have a light up bollard? Or simply left how they are? Only a matter of time before some serious damage is done to a vehicle.
We recognise there were one or two issues with these areas that were originally left unmarked by our contractors – the site team has now put temporary protection in place.
Once complete, these areas will be clearly marked and should present no danger to any road user. How these areas are going to be indicated is currently under review by our design team, but it is likely to be a reflective bollard or carriageway lining that will help steer road users away from the curbs.
Please do contact us to flag up any further issues as your continued communication is valued.
Q. There’s been a fair bit of interest on the maintenance of the superhighway. When opened, will it be swept regularly? Will it be cleared of snow and ice or will road snowploughs push the snow onto the cycle superhighway?
Within the budget for the Cycle Superhighway is a sum of money set aside for regular maintenance. This includes cleaning when necessary, although the design is such that most debris should drain away from the cycle track, and there will be regular inspections from the relevant highways teams. The route will also be kept free of snow and ice during the colder months.
The consultation on this scheme has been some of the most targeted and comprehensive ever delivered in West Yorkshire.
We developed an interactive website where people could log in and make comment on the design plans by using an interactive map, we appointed a dedicated consultation team who were thoroughly briefed on the designs and delivered 94 public events along the route.
We engaged with over 22,000 people through these events, the website, social media and mail shots to all the businesses and residential properties along the route.
We also have regular stakeholder group meetings where people with an interest in the scheme come to learn more and contribute to the planning and delivery. We also set up an advisory group, with a paid, independent Chair. This group is made up of representatives from the Local cycle campaign groups, CTC and Sustrans as well as local authority representatives; it also has a voice at the Programme Board.
We have also attended Campaign Group meetings, ward forums and specific cycling events and presented the detailed information for feedback.
Feedback from all this consultation was collated and reported into the design teams, issues were addressed and the designs altered to reflect the solutions agreed.
Whilst I don’t have the specific numbers to answer your questions, we have engaged with a huge number of cyclists, car drivers, pedestrians and other users.
Part of the formal consultation process includes working with emergency services and bus companies. We continue to work with bus companies and are delivering courses to them to promote safer driving round cyclists.
There is lots of evidence both locally and nationally that proves the demand but our consultation reports shows that over 70% of people we surveyed (over 5,000 responses) are in support of the project and will use it when it is built.
Q. Will the cycle superhighway be accessible for trikes/trailers to carry younger children and safe for older children to ride?
If you want to take your children to school, or carry the week’s groceries back from the shops, the route will be suitable for cargo bikes and trailers.
The route will also be appropriate for trikes, depending on their width. Parts of the route will require trikes to navigate with more care than a bicycle –
The canal towpaths are restricted in width, especially under bridges – these are unlikely to be suitable for trikes.
Q. Are you satisfied that city connect have done everything they can to help and support the local businesses on this route that have been affected by the disruption?
CityConnect has done as much as is feasibly possible to limit the disruption caused by the improvements. Works have been scheduled to occur outside of usual working hours to limit disruption to businesses and commuters.
Any improvements will necessarily cause disruption, but these are done with the future rather than the present in mind: there is an overwhelmingly strong business case from cities across the globe that shows that local economy benefits from improving pedestrian and cycling access – in the long term, the businesses affected by current disruption will see the benefit. Think of Briggate in Leeds – would a road, crossings and traffic lights improve the revenue of those businesses?
Q. I’d like to use the cycle lane but can foresee a major issue with cars being parked in the cycle lane, blocking the whole lane. How will this be discouraged and what will be done to enforce a clear cycle route?
Once the route is open, it will be an offence to park in the cycle lane. This will be enforced rigorously once the route is open – CityConnect are in contact with the authorities in Leeds and Bradford to ensure this is the case. We’re lending them bikes so they can patrol the superhighway by bicycle as well – which will allow them more manoeuvrability when it comes to the patrols.
For residents, they’ll be given ample notice – signs will be up at regular intervals on the route and there will be a week’s grace period during the transition where the restrictions will be in place but fines will not be issued – after this, full fines will be given for any infringement.
Q. I’d like to know if all the crossings that they have removed will be replaced. Every time I go down Stanningley Road another crossing has disappeared. I have a pram and risk my baby’s life crossing that busy road!
No crossings will be permanently removed as part of the improvements however, some pedestrian refuges have been removed but these will be replaced with 4 zebra crossings between Dawson’s Corner and the Go Outdoors – which will be safer than the pedestrian refuges they replace.
While the improvements are being made, there will be some disruption to crossing the road. There is a temporary crossing in place at the bottom of Richardshaw Lane to try to alleviate this but we are confident that the replacement
solution is a far better alternative.