Junction “Improvements” in Whitestone, Nuneaton

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Recently, Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council approved plans to build a large new housing development of 621 dwellings in the Whitestone area of Nuneaton – a ward at the south of the town. One major concern about this development is the impact it will have on an already congested local road network, and to that end, a junction redesign is proposed – a scheme that is (perhaps unsurprisingly) entirely motor-centric.

Unfortunately the consultation on this scheme has long since closed, but I only became aware of the junction scheme in May 2021 and therefore missed the opportunity to formally comment. However, it’s still worth taking a look at what is planned and where, once again, Warwickshire County Council Highways is missing the mark by omitting to provide for walking and cycling. First, let’s look at the area.

About the Whitestone area

Whitestone is a district to the south of Nuneaton, located to the east of the mainline railway. It is bisected from the north-west to the south-east by Lutterworth Road, a 30mph single carriageway forming a lesser main route to Nuneaton from villages to the south-west, and connecting indirectly with the A5 approximately 4-5 miles away. It’s a major residential area spanning both sides of Lutterworth Road. There is a golf club to the east, two schools to the south west – an infant school, and a primary school – and a small parade of shops near the central junction which will be the subject of this article.

There is extremely limited cycling infrastructure of note in Whitestone. Most of the main roads have nothing at all, with only Crowhill Road (between Lutterworth Road and Eastboro Way to the north) having some patchy painted lanes to bypass speed bumps. Lutterworth Road itself may have a 30mph limit but it is common to find vehicles exceeding that speed where there are no cameras and no physical speed restrictions. There is a connection to the Wembrook Trail which runs through the western green space known as Paul’s Land and can be used as an indirect shared-use route for the town centre, but the connection is to the west of Whitestone and there is no further infrastructure to get people there.

In addition to Lutterworth Road cutting through the area, a further lesser main road – Bulkington Lane – runs from the centre of Whitestone south to connect with Bulkington. Continuing north from the centre of Whitestone is Golf Drive, a very wide residential road. It’s at this centre point where all three roads meet where the junction in question is set for a redesign.

The Junction Now

The junction is currently comprised of two mini-roundabouts and is a particular source of congestion. At busy times it can be difficult to navigate, and is particularly hazardous for cyclists. Given the likely expansion of traffic generated by the new housing estate, it is no surprise that a new layout is planned here – it is needed. But taking a look at the plans, what is proposed here misses a key opportunity to prioritise active travel, to safely connect the two halves of Whitestone crossing Lutterworth Road, to create a safe route to schools, leisure, and the town centre.

Lutterworth Rd, Golf Dr, Bulkington Ln Junction (November 2020)
Lutterworth Rd, Golf Dr, Bulkington Ln Junction (November 2020)
Crossing the junction from all four angles (2021)

The Proposal

This plan (which you can see in more detail here) dated 11 September 2020 and published on the NBBC Planning Portal on 04 November 2020 is the only version I can find. However, it’s important to note that this design is marked as “preliminary”. That suggests it is not finalised at this stage. But assuming there are no changes, there are a few elements to note here.

  1. First is the expansion of the roads to create multiple lanes depending on the journey direction, with the exception of the eastern arm of Lutterworth Road which maintains a single lane per direction. Bulkington Lane (south arm of the junction) gets three lanes (left, ahead and right, opposite direction) and two pedestrian refuges; the western arm of Lutterworth Road gets three lanes and a pedestrian refuge; Golf Drive (northern arm) gets three lanes and no pedestrian refuge.
  2. It looks like pedestrian crossings are present on three arms, only excluding the eastern arm of Lutterworth Road. Whether these would in reality be toucan crossings is not indicated on this design, but based on the existing road layout, I would assume not unless any other information comes to light to suggest otherwise.
  3. Traffic lights do not appear to be marked on this design, but given the layout shows what looks like stop lines (as opposed to give-way lines) and there is no roundabout, I am assuming that this will become a traffic-light controlled junction. With that, presumably all pedestrian crossings will become controlled (where currently only crossing the western arm of Lutterworth Road is controlled). If that’s the case, how it works remains to be seen – single stage crossings across the entire road, or multi-stage crossings? The latter is a worse pedestrian experience where people are essentially trapped on a limited space refuge taking longer to cross than a single stage crossing. There is even a risk of a three-stage crossing of Bulkington Lane (south arm) given the presence of two islands.
  4. No cycle infrastructure exists on these plans – not even advanced stop lines. I’m not a big fan of ASLs, but at least they would indicate some level of consideration has been given to cycling through the area. Instead, what we have here is a bit of a land-grab for the supposed benefit of motor traffic.

This plan was published after the release of the latest cycle infrastructure guidance from the Department of Transport (LTN 1/20, released July 2020) which clearly states that “[the] guidance should be applied to all changes associated with highway improvements, new highway construction and new or improved cycle facilities” (paragraph 1.3.1). It does not appear that this is the case, despite there being a clear benefit for cycle infrastructure in the area.

What Should Happen

Ideally, a junction redesign here would accommodate cycling on all four arms of the junction, separated and safe from motor traffic. At a minimum, separated cycling should be provided between Golf Drive and Bulkington Lane (i.e., the north and south arms), with separated lanes continuing on both roads beyond the junction.

Golf Drive is a wide road. Measuring at the junction from the inside edge of the pavements on both sides of the road, there is a clear 19m+ of space. This is sufficient for 3x motor traffic lanes (9m total), 2x pavements (3.6m total), and two separated cycleways (4m + 1m separation total) – overall needing 17.6m of space. That leaves room for wider pavements and/or grass verges. The ample space continues north along Golf Drive where only 2x motor traffic lanes are required. Space is not an issue here for separated cycle infrastructure.

Streetmix - Golf Drive, Nuneaton (CC BY-SA 4.0)‎
Streetmix – Golf Drive, Nuneaton (CC BY-SA 4.0)‎

Similarly, Bulkington Lane has generous width available at the junction ranging from approximately 29m at the mouth down to about 17m moving south towards the petrol station access. Given slightly narrower cycleways at the pinch point, it would still seem feasible to fit everything in here, assuming motor traffic lanes do not exceed 3m of width each. Again, while the road does narrow to about 14m heading south, sufficient space still exists on Bulkington Lane for separated cycleway provision using narrower cyclelanes of 1.7m each.

Streetmix - Bulkington Lane, Nuneaton (CC BY-SA 4.0)‎
Streetmix – Bulkington Lane, Nuneaton (CC BY-SA 4.0)‎

In terms of the availability of space then, there is no excuse for not having a cycle link across Lutterworth Road, connecting the two halves of Whitestone and providing a safe cycle route for people of all ages and abilities. Lutterworth Road itself is a bit trickier when looking at the road in its entirety as it does narrow significantly towards the west. However, where the proposal suggests widening the road to accommodate a new traffic lane at the eastern arm of the junction, there is still sufficient space for cycle infrastructure to enable safer crossing of the junction – and the road to the east has significant amounts of space available for separated cycling.

Given that it is such an important junction, Warwickshire County Council must insist on incorporating cycle facilities to up-to-date standards here, even if a broader network takes more time to arrive. Junctions can be some of the most hazardous areas for cycling and it would be most unfortunate if this was ignored – perhaps even a deriliction of duty – especially given that space exists for an improved motor experience too.

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