Draft BCC response to Bradford Shipley Route Improvement Scheme (refs etc to be added!)
Bradford Cycling Campaign (BCC) is a member-led organisation whose objectives include campaigning for better cycling infrastructure and, more generally, to make Bradford District a better place to to be an active traveller. We are therefore pleased that the proposed Bradford to Shipley scheme seeks to incorporate improvements for cycling and walking. The health benefits of physical activity and reduced traffic congestion and pollution are by-products of these quick, cheap and convenient means of transport. The Aire Valley corridor is relatively flat and many journeys undertaken in the vicinity are just a few miles long, making cycling an ideal mode.
We wish to comment in particular on the stated objective of providing a ‘high quality bus route with improvements for pedestrians and cyclists’ on the A650. We also comment briefly on some of the assumptions made in the description of the scheme as well as offering suggestions for improved connectivity to the under construction Canal Road Greenway cycle and walking route.
For Bradford, where air pollution has been noted by Defra as requiring attention and where numerous health indicators – life expectancy, death from cardiovascular disease and so on – are in the worst quartile according to Public Health England, we note that cycling can not be considered a merely optional or agreeable ‘add-on’ to transport provision, but must be given highest priority. [ref]
The aim of the UK Government’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is encapsulated in the expectation that we should create ‘a world in which a 12 year old can cycle and walk safely’ and where cycling should become a ‘natural’ transport choice for shorter journeys. [ref x 2] The UK Government accepts that a shift to more sustainable transport modes is necessary. It recognises that this requires a change in attitudes in both professionals and members of the public. This requires local authorities to ‘give priority to pedestrian and cycle movements’ in drawing up plans for development [ref].
Locally, this is reflected in WYCA’s Transport Strategy, which seeks to exceed national government targets for growth in cycling through greater provision of cycling routes, together with facilities to enhance safety. [p.39]. The Strategy also refers to improving residential centres by giving more space to people than vehicles. Similarly, the 2017 Bradford MDC Shipley and Canal Road Corridor Area Action Plan lists a number of objectives for improving cycling facilities in the area.
General approach to the Scheme
BCC welcomes the objectives that emphasise planning for cycling as a preferred transport mode through infrastructure changes rather than just through warm words like ‘encouragement’. Cycling infrastructure is relatively cheap and investment typically yields economic returns far greater than those in major highway schemes [ref].
We would question, therefore, whether some of the stated objectives of the proposed Scheme such as ‘relieving congestion’ and ‘improving journey times’, which are expected to result from road widening or dualling of the Aire Valley Road/Canal Road, are likely to be achieved in the longer-term or represent best value for money. Evidence suggests that any improvement may well be short-term and in fact promote a longer-term increase in traffic resulting once again in a build-up of congestion (induced demand). We similarly dispute that two lanes of traffic rather than one can improve air quality in anything but a short term way. A planned reduction in the overall volume of traffic would be a more reliable way to do this.
We are particularly concerned that the bulk of the infrastructure spend will in fact go on bridge widening and dualling of Canal Road – with a potential to go over budget should changes be needed to railway viaducts of construction/extensions of road bridges be included. The active travel infrastructure that we and other locally concerned groups are arguing for may wind up being reduced as the need for ‘value engineering’ kicks in and pressure from more reactionary motorists to ‘do something’ about congestion forces expensive widening, which makes the situation worse in the long run.
The focus of funding should be to encourage modal shift i.e. to focus on persuading car drivers to switch to cycling, walking and public transport instead of driving. This is what will ease congestion but we accept it is a harder sell politically. This scheme seems to want to do both, to essentially ‘have its cake and eat it’. Road widening schemes discourage modal shift, as the driving experience is perceived to have improved, albeit temporarily.
The worst outcome would be for road widening to be the core deliverable and for the other hinted at but not clearly specified green and blue infrastructure changes to be left out of the final scheme. In essence we think the implied order of priority ought to be reversed with increased capacity for car movement (thinly guised as improving traffic flow) to be at the bottom of the list, and with environmental concerns such as air quality and active travel routes priority to be placed at the top.
BCC thinks that the Scheme should be more ambitious in planning for cycling (not just ‘encouraging’), alongside walking and public transport, as the ‘normal’ and most direct means of transport. It should be easier and quicker to cycle from A to B than to drive (in many cases that is already true); but it should also be perceived as easier. This could require journeys made by car, in fact, to become more inconvenient than at present rather than easier through road widening, at the same time as visibly improving facilities for other, sustainable modes.
A precedent for this thinking already exists: the bus lanes from Saltaire/Shipley to and from Bradford currently operate during the rush-hour, commuting period. Thus, at precisely the times when traffic is heaviest, this policy – rightly – makes car journeys more difficult, in order to confer advantage on bus (and cycle) journeys. This logic should extend to wider planning of the Scheme. A fully segregated cycle route all along Manningham lane, that takes capacity away from private vehicles if necessary, would therefore be the standard to meet if the UK Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is to be applied, for a 12 year old to cycle safely.
Detailed responses to the Scheme
Focusing specifically on the A650 Keighley Rd/Manningham Lane section, BCC would like to see the following approaches taken to the route:
- Priority of cycle lanes across junctions to afford continuity of routes, reinforced by physical infrastructure
- To enable children and others to cycle with the perception of safety, a fully segregated cycleway along the entire route or measures with a similar effect would be necessary.
- Removal/restriction of car traffic as far as possible e.g. inclusion of one-way sections, bus & cycle only sections, so that Keighley Rd/Manningham Ln cannot be used as a through route in either direction;
- A full-time 20mph limit where car traffic is to be permitted, reinforced with calming as appropriate;
- Blocking off of some side streets to reduce the number of junctions where traffic would be turning across active travel routes.
In addition, in order to link this corridor to a wider network, we would like the completion of the Canal Road Greenway to be more extensively integrated in this proposed Scheme including:
- Provision of an off-road or segregated link to Shipley rail station and
- the Airedale Greenway (canal) and
- Shipley Town Centre
- Additional shared use pedestrian cycle crossings across Canal Road to enable access to the cycle path from the Norwoods, Otley Road and Manningham areas.
- Integrated plan for access to the greenway including signage from surrounding neighbourhoods
- Adoption of the cycle path to enable gritting in winter when it becomes unusable
- Street lighting for the greenway route to enable it to be cycled in winter. A number of our members (especially females) have commented that they won’t cycle it in the dark, meaning it is not an effective commuting alternative for several months of the year.
- Bus lanes through Saltaire/Shipley from Cottingley roundabout to and from Bradford should be operate full-time and cycle lanes should become mandatory rather than advisory.
By implementing a wider, visible and prominent network that advantages cycling, at times to the disadvantage of motorists, not only will real benefits be conferred upon sustainable transport modes but, in addition, car drivers will be encouraged to reconsider their choices of means of transport when making relatively short journeys.