Wild West: Can Stanningley Road cycle lane be the new New York?


The new £29 million Cycle Superhighway has already had more than it’s fair share of bashers.

Here at the Dispatch we’ve rightly highlighted the adverse impact its construction has had on businesses at Stanningley Town Street and Stanningley Road. The scheme, running late and rumoured to be over budget, has had communication issues with traders and has undoubtedly damaged trade, perhaps irrevocably for some. I’ve lost count of the number of comments I’ve seen posted by readers or by folk on Facebook labelling it a ‘white elephant’.

I’ve also had one Leeds councillor recently tell me that it wasn’t the answer to the city’s transport problems – and some have spoken publicly of their scepticism of the scheme.

I’m minded to agree with them. By itself, it probably isn’t the answer.
It’s not currently going to win many popularity contests with some people in West Leeds.

I’m also conscious of the number of times we’ve spent highlighting the fact that much of Leeds at peak times is constantly gridlocked. In the last Wild West column I argued that it was time for a city-wide discussion on this issue. I stand by that – it is.

But I’m going to make myself unpopular here by saying the cycle superhighway at least deserves a chance.

Why? Well, a bit of basic research shows similar schemes have worked elsewhere, for starters. I stumbled across this article about similar schemes in New York.

The article, posted on sustainable design Fastcoexist.com, says:

“When New York City first started adding new protected bike lanes in 2007, some drivers made the usual argument against them: Taking street space away from cars would slow down traffic. After years of collecting data, a new report from the city shows that the opposite is true. On some streets redesigned with protected bike lanes, travel times are actually faster. And it turns out the new lanes have a range of other benefits as well.”

The article adds pedestrian injuries have dropped an average of 22% on streets with bike lanes. Cyclist injuries have also decreased; on 9th Avenue, for example, even though far more bikes are on the street, cyclist injuries have gone down by 65%. Travel times have apparently decreased for cars, according to stats.

Over the past seven years, New York has installed over 30 miles of protected bike lanes, but that’s just the beginning and it’s the city’s plan to do five miles of protected bike lanes every year in future.

Perhaps we could also learn something from the Spanish city of Seville, where cycling has increased 11-fold in recent years. Proof that any city can get lots of people riding by building an ambitious network of connected, segregated bike lanes?

Heck, cycle lanes in Amsterdam have proven so popular that they’re now facing, yep, you’ve guessed it, congestion on the lanes themselves

Now, I know Stanningley Bottom isn’t New York or Seville and Stanningley Road isn’t Amsterdam. But if other cities can reduce their traffic congestion via this method, why can’t we? Why are we so different here in Leeds? Are we really that dependent on the car? Why are we so against even trying?

These are questions we all need to start thinking about.

Something simply MUST be done to alleviate our city traffic congestion.

Maybe the cycle lane by itself isn’t the answer.

But we’re are the stage now where it’s too late to say “on yer bike” to it. It needs to be given a chance. If Leeds is to ever break its gridlock hell, maybe there’s more riding on this cycle lane than just a few cyclists.

Wild West is a weekly comment column. Views are those of the author, not those of West Leeds Dispatch.


  1. All the cities quoted above are pretty level unlike Leeds which is one of the HILLIEST cities in England. Leeds City Council appears to be hell bent on spending OUR money on a variety of schemes for cyclists (look at the proposition for the ex Middleton Golf Club) which only make up a small percentage of the population of Leeds. Leeds is not, and never has been, an ideal city for cyclists.

    What would be much better is a whole NEW approach to transport within the precincts of the city. I have some ideas which are as follows:

    1 – Stop all traffic, other than public service vehicles, taxis and bicycles from entering the centre of Leeds between the hours of 7.00am to 9.30am and 4.00pm to 6.00pm. Outside of these times all vehicles would be allowed in. This would have various benefits such as freeing up more parking spaces for shoppers, making it easier for shoppers to get in and out of the centre etc.

    2 – In conjunction with the above build a variety of Multi Storey Car Parks on the outskirts of Leeds City centre (these could be partly below ground to avoid them becoming eyesores) where all the commuters can park their cars. The parking ticket that they would buy would then give them FREE access to a variety of shuttle buses traversing through the centre of Leeds between the various Car Parks. This would speed up both these commuters travel time as well as the many people who still use the ordinary buses as there would be very little traffic on the roads.

    3 – Institute a completely NEW ONE WAY system around Leeds city centre. This would be done by making Park Lane/The Headrow/Eastgate ALL one way with two lanes for buses and two lanes for cars etc. Going the opposite way make New York Street/Duncan Street/Boar Lane/Wellington Street ONE WAY also with two lanes for the buses and two for the cars. Allied to this make St Peters Street, Vicar Lane/New Market Street, Park Lane and King Street/East Parade all one way as connecting routes between them.

    4 – Allied to this you could make certain roads leading from and to the Multi Storey Car Parks all one way during the traffic exemption periods reversing the flow each morning and evening.

    In my view this would make Leeds an innovative city as well as providing a better service for all the shoppers we are attracting. This will also allow freer movement of traffic during the peak periods thus saving money and pollution.

    • Hills are a complete Red Herring.

      Hills do not stop most people cycling, cycling with dangerous motor traffic on hills does however.

      Fear of traffic is the number one reason why people do not cycle. If the cycle superhighway goes some way to addressing that problem, it will be a success.

      Yes a complete rethink of transport is needed, this should focus on public transport and sustainable means, not the private car.

      • Martin I completely disagree with you that hills are a red herring. Even when I was much younger and fitter the fact that most of the landscape of Leeds was hilly put me, and many of my friends off riding our bicycles. We did ride them but generally speaking only on the flat or for short distances. We never considered riding a long distance away from our homes simply because of the strain of having to negotiate the many hills. I lived in Armley and we rarely road our bikes to school in Farnley due to the hill to get there (it was actually easier to walk), nor would we go to Pudsey because of the hills and, of course, Burley, Stanningley, Beeston, Hunslet, Kirkstall etc were out of the picture.

        The same can be said today. How many people do you see riding anywhere that there are hills? Not many.

        However go to York and there is a much greater percentage of the population (young and old) riding bikes because the land is flatter! Compare this to Bradford, Wakefield, Dewsbury and Huddersfield which all have the same hilly roads that Leeds do. Very few cyclists in any of these cities so it isn’t just the citizens of Leeds but the topography.

  2. Millions of £s (probably Billions if you adjust for inflation) have been spent on roads in Leeds since the M1 first arrived. To what effect? Near gridlock. So bad that the once proud title Motorway City seems like a poor joke.

    You could continue pouring good money after bad but more roads lead to more traffic. You can’t build your way out of congestion

    So perhaps it’s time we shifted resources from more roads to other solutions

  3. This is a total farce ! I hope someone is going to monitor the actual amount of cyclists that use this road. I saw an oldish man the other day riding up the slip road (off Stanningly Road) to Bramley Town End and he had totally by-passed the cycle lane (which he could have used !), this is just one of many incidents that I have witnessed. Another gripe that I have is that in some places the pavement juts out into the road for no apparent reason ! When it’s wet especially you cannot see the edge of the kerb ! What’s all that about ? ? ? Are these ‘supposed’ cyclists going to contribute towards all this work and the time and disruption that people (who have to pay their road tax’s & insurances) have had to endure for months and months ? Not only the road users but the poor people who live near the construction areas, they must have been living a life of pure hell during all this disruption.

    • Two things.

      1) The cycleway isn’t open yet. People aren’t using it as it’s full of construction debris/signs and in some places isn’t even surfaced yet.

      2) Most of the money has come from a central government fund, paid for via income tax. Even if it was paid for by ‘road tax’ (which doesn’t exist by the way), most cyclists also own cars and so do in fact pay this.

      As a car driver you should be encouraging schemes like this. Each person cycling is one less car stuck in that traffic jam with you.

  4. Yes. It also was done following the EU ideas not NEW YORK. Its an easier job to cycle into work as Leeds is all down hill from most of the local areas. Getting home after work will be harder. From the bus to Leeds there and back. I have never seen more than 2 cyclists on any journey on the A647. It was a waste in my opinion.


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