It has been reported in the local news that following the acquisition of a small piece of land from Nuneaton’s George Eliot Hospital, the County Council will press on with developing improvements to a short length of path that will be able to better accommodate walking and cycling. But there’s a catch. According to the report, a Council spokesperson talks about “creating a shared footway cycleway” – not ideal for either user and not demonstrating best standards.
It’s difficult to infer the exact plans from the report which is light on detail. It appears the intention is to create improvements on the B4112 College Street, presumably starting at the footbridge to the south, and linking up with Bull Ring just 160-odd metres north. There is currently a signalised pedestrian crossing on the road; presumably that will be upgraded to a toucan crossing. However, that is speculation. Based on the little information available though, the route is presumably on the following lines:
Improvements to walking and cycling in this area would be welcome – it’s a very busy corridor with currently no cycling provision. There is a signed cycle route, but there’s nothing to enable safe cycling here at all. Even the current signalled crossing is pedestrian-only. So, changes are needed. But I am worried about the comment suggesting shared use space – is this really what is planned, or is it just a misrepresentation of the intention?
Warwickshire County Council have been looking at this corridor for a little while. Slightly further along to the north-west is a notable junction with Heath End Road and Greenmoor Road where the plans were to change it from a roundabout to a signalised junction – though no cycling improvements were planned, something I (and others) strongly objected to during consultation. Since then, we also had the news that the County Council was to revisit plans to better align with up-to-date standards for cycling (LTN 1/20), and that it had also updated its Highways Design Guidance for the creation of new/improved highways infrastructure, referencing the same cycling infrastructure standards. So, the question is, will this improvement meet those standards?
LTN 1/20 does make reference to shared-use spaces and acknowledges that in some cases it may be necessary. However, the wording implies that it is strongly discouraged, observing that shared space results in a sub-standard experience for both people walking/wheeling and people cycling. The two groups move at different speeds and have their own requirements; understandably pedestrians do not want the perception of cyclists “whizzing” past, feeling at risk of collision (even if the actual risk is low), and cyclists do not want to have to meander around people. It certainly shouldn’t be the objective for new or upgraded urban infrastructure.
For the most part, it would seem that this stretch of road in question is sufficient for better than basic shared use space. At the north end of the route marked in orange, the road appears to be 14.1 metres wide at its narrowest; at the south end, 17.5m wide. The former would seem sufficient for:
- 2x 2.9m general lanes
- 1x 2.5m turning lane
- 1x 2.6m bidirectional cycle lane at the narrowest point (widening to 3m+ as space permits)
- 1x 0.2m cycleway to carriageway buffer (widening to 0.5m as space permits)
- 2x 1.5m footpath (widening as space permits)
These aren’t ideal widths of course – footpaths, the cycleway, and a buffer should all be wider than this, but this would be at the constraint of the narrowest point of the corridor. Of course, extra space could be obtained easily enough by removing turning lanes to simplify the road network. This could be achieved by making Bull Ring (the road marked with the red line in the image above) one way, exit only for motor traffic; adding a no-right-turn restriction into Harmony Close (the small residential road opposite Bull Ring).
Until exact plans are obtained from Warwickshire County Council, it is all speculation as to exactly what the intention is here. But if the desire is to provide a basic shared use path, this would appear to go not only against national standards, but the Council’s own advice and local guidance too. Let’s hope that the comment was simply misspoken and that the plan is to provide some reasonable (albeit short) separated infrastructure here.