More detail on Nuneaton’s suspended cycle scheme

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Since 2021, Warwickshire has had a scheme in the pipeline to provide a mostly separated cycleway along the A47 Long Shoot in Nuneaton, with a related second scheme to include the A47 Hinckley Road. If this is ever realised, it would provide a safer connection between Hinckley, the A5, and just beyond Nuneaton town centre. However, the scheme was put on indefinite hiatus in December 2023 and there has been no word since on whether, or when, the plans will be revived.

Since that time, and following a protracted request for information that involved an internal review on an initial refusal, some additional information on the scheme is now available.

Funding

With regard to funding, we know that the two schemes had received combined funding of £1.75m from Active Travel England (£0.6m for the first phase; £1.15m for the second phase). What is not known is what the implications are for that money now, where there will have been stipulations from ATE to progress projects to a certain standard and within a certain timeframe.

Warwickshire County Council has confirmed that it will discuss the ramifications with Active Travel England, with the outcome feeding into the County’s decision-making on the A47 project. Potential options for the money include 1) funding remaining allocated to this overall project; 2) the funding is reallocated to another project elsewhere in the county; or 3) that funding is retained but deducted from any future Active Travel Fund award.

While at the time of writing, the actual outcome here is not known, two of these three options look highly concerning. Nuneaton and Bedworth as a borough certainly should not lose out by having this money reallocated to active travel schemes potentially outside of the Borough, and future funding deductions will be damaging to the viability of other schemes.

As for current expenditure to date, the Council is not able to provide a cost specific to the cycle scheme, although it did quote a figure of £850,011 but which includes wider transport elements including the removal of a railway bridge.

Consultation analysis

It took some effort to get a summary of responses to be released by the County Council, but following a review after originally being refused, that information is now available.

The four-week consultation was originally held in 2021, promoted by a mailing to local residents, emails to stakeholders, site notices, a website, press release, and on social media. From that, just 82 people responded – 74 via the Council’s survey, and a further eight via email. Only 19 responses were known to be from people living on the route (out of 215 residents contacted by letter), with 39 responses from people living elsewhere in Nuneaton.

In terms of overall support for the specific scheme, responses were slightly more in favour than against (53% v 47%) when excluding those who expressed a neutral position. For survey results, the split was exactly half, but emailed responses showed six in favour versus one against. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the level of construction and disruption experienced on the Long Shoot in recent years, and the concern expressed by some about property access, the split amongst residents skewed negative with six in support versus 11 against.

However, when looking at the principle of cycle infrastructure, the results were much more conclusive. Most people support a separated cycleway; most people support a speed limit reduction; and most people support pedestrian and cycling priority over side roads. There is still overall support for sections of shared space but with fewer “strongly agreeing” here.

Interestingly though, while the support for separated cycling is clear, there is some reluctance to turn over carriageway space to facilitate it, with a nearly even split only marginally in favour between those who agree to narrowing versus those who disagree. Note that for this scheme, there would be no reduction in “driving” lanes (one each way) with space reclaimed from central hatchings and verges.

Long Shoot Cycling - Engagement Feedback and Analysis - Level of agreement for aspects of the scheme (chart).
Level of agreement for aspects of the Long Shoot Cycling Scheme
Warwickshire County Council: A47 Long Shoot cycle route – Analysis of public/stakeholder engagement

From these results, coupled with the fact that the majority of local residents who were contacted about the scheme were not moved to provide feedback and comments to the contrary, the inference can be drawn that there is public support to provide cycling infrastructure and that this should be through separated provision. Shared use sections are perhaps (rightly) seen as not so attractive, but still better than unprotected on-road riding.

Despite the wording of the Council’s statement back in November, that one of the reasons for pausing the scheme was due to concerns over the level of community support, it would seem evident from this feedback in general that public support is not a clear reason for the scheme’s suspension at this stage – particularly since a further round of consultation was due to be run ahead of the commencement of physical construction.

“The pause is due to a combination of factors including concerns over the level of community support for initial proposals, which to unlock funding had been designed to meet Government infrastructure design guidance and therefore provided dedicated facilities for cyclists wherever feasible.”

Warwickshire County Council, November 2023

Other paused schemes

Another scheme has also been noted to be paused indefinitely, this being a short route through Abbey Green Gardens. However, this one seems very reasonable as it only works in conjunction with broader route improvements that would be realised as part of developments on the Ring Road.

No other schemes were noted to be formally paused, which would imply that the other big (for the area) scheme in the pipeline connecting Nuneaton to Bedworth, and Bedworth to Coventry, is still active – despite this one being even older and no development in progress, at least as far as what is publicly evident.

What happens next

At this point, we don’t know what will happen with the A47 scheme. There are three options that could occur – to resume the project as planned; to continue but with significant changes; or to cancel the project – and no decision has been taken.

When asked whether the proposed speed limit change from 40mph to 30mph could still go ahead, the answer was a resounding no. This reduction was apparantly dependent on the broader scheme, and without it the carriageway layout would not change, and thus the speed limit would remain at 40mph. No reason was given as to why the speed limit could not simply be dropped with no layout changes in the short-term, to at least attempt to provide a fractionally safer environment for on-road cycling in the absense of actual infrastructure.

It would appear that the Warwickshire County Council either has intended, or does intend, to run at least one further round of public consultation on the A47 cycling scheme, but so far there is no indication of if or when this will happen. The Council has said that it hopes to indicate its next steps at some point in 2024 but could not give a more precise estimation. Given how the timeline for this project has continually fallen behind expectations, perhaps don’t expect any significant update in the very short term.


Consultation comments

Alongside the analysis of responses, the report contains a snapshot of anonymised comments. These portray a range of opinions from support to the usual expected anti-cycling tropes.

A complete representative list of comments is available in the consultation report, but let’s look at just some of them:

Consider the scheme a complete waste of public money. Whenever we walk along that road we see few cyclists so that there would appear to be little demand for this cycle way. Other local schemes have also been little used. The idea that people will suddenly rush to use bicycles instead of cars to travel from Hinckley to Nuneaton is idiotic.

This commenter appears to be unaware that money from Active Travel England can only be used on active travel schemes. They don’t appreciate that one reason few cyclists might currently be seen on the Long Shoot is its hostile and intimidating nature; we do not have “other local schemes” in Nuneaton that are in any way comparable to good quality, roadside routes – the best we have are off-road shared use paths which are used by cyclists; and while the scheme better enables journeys between Hinckley and Nuneaton (and why not? It’s not far), it’s not solely about full route journeys but enabling connections all along the scheme.

Doesn’t benefit enough people. Waste of money. Lowering speed limit unnecessary. Half a job as doesn’t go into nuneaton enough.

This comment is actual fairly reasonable when viewed from the perspective of just the Long Shoot section, which is what the consultion related to. That consultation perhaps didn’t promote well enough that a phase two scheme would provide that important connection further towards the town centre. Still though, a 40mph speed limit on a main road through an increasingly busy residential area is too high.

Disagree with the removal of the central hatchway which allows us to filter into it to turn right into our house from the A5 removal of this will cause a build up of traffic for those residents turning right behind them on an already heavily congested road.

This isn’t a big problem on other roads in town – Weddington Road A444, Haunchwood Road, or Lutterworth Road for example. Why should it be here? Cycle schemes work to reduce congestion by giving people another option beyond the car for local journeys.

You’re kidding right? The A5 at the longshoot needs widening and duelling for traffic, its the main snarl up on the A5. You’ll get virtually zero cyclists using this route, and with all the new houses you’ll have more queues more traffic and more air pollution.

Congestion isn’t solved by providing ever more space for driving. It’ll just get snarled up again but with even more traffic. You can’t complain about air pollution on one hand while advocating for a dual carriageway on the other.

Why not move it to some of the fields either north or south of the longshoot, so it is completely separated from the road traffic? It should have been part of the new housing plans from the beginning.

Don’t touch the road and cause delays put the bike lane through the rural land from woolpack drive to Dodwells roundabout.

Good quality infrastructure runs alongside routes that already exist and people know, where journeys are direct and visibility is good. Running off the main route adds journey times, and hides cycling away making it less attractive and less safe.

We also have comments that while supportive in general, question some design aspects of the scheme, or the limits of the scheme (a lot of my own comments would come under this, and indeed some are repeated in the report).

Why not have cycle lanes on both sides of the road. If cycling against the flow of traffic at night it is dangerous as car liights have dazzling effect.

Unidirectional cycle paths on both sides of the road are superior to a bidirectional path on one side of the road, shared use just creates conflict between pedestrians and cyclists.

Why not extend the scheme along eastboro way, and hinckley rd, currently the cycle way provison is poor or inconsistent.

The cycle provision at the new junctions is very poor & slows you down.

Finally, we have important comments that explain why cycle infrastructure is needed given the state of the environment when cycling with heavy mixed-use traffic. These reflect my own experiences riding on this road.

Scary road. Fast traffic, many pinchpoints, many close passes. Hate to think of my son riding to college that way from September.

Cycling is challenging. Motorised traffic resent my presence.

High noise pollution, very fast moving road with aggression from some drivers.

If cycling with my children (5 and 7) we ride on the pavement.

Traffic travelling at speed can be intimidating especially at certain times of day and when the current speed limit is not being adhered to by all types of vehicles and specifically HGVs when be driven fast.


The response to the request for information made in December 2023, and partially received in February 2024, can be viewed here. The delay in publication was due to the document referenced in the response to Q7 (the anonymised consultation responses) not being provided as indicated, and then subsequently refused due to a misunderstanding. This resulted in an internal review, after which the document was provided with the conclusion that the initial refusal was reasonable but due to a change in circumstancs, public interest favoured its release.

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