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Letchworth Cyclists Feedback on The Heritage Foundation Cycle Strategy Consultation

In June 2017 Letchworth cyclists produced a plan for a cycle network for the town. This plan was provided to the Heritage Foundation and their consultants who they tasked with producing a cycle strategy for Letchworth. Three members of the team who produced the cycle network plan participated in one cycle ride with the Heritage Foundation consultants but the Letchworth cyclists have not been asked to provide any other input during the development of the Heritage Foundation Letchworth Cycling Strategy. The team of cyclists who produced the cycle network plan have reconvened to review and respond to the Heritage Foundation Letchworth Cycling Strategy consultation. The teams response is shared below.

We are pleased to see the Heritage Foundation are keen to improve conditions for cyclists in the town.

The report contains some interesting ideas but the strategy that underpinned the choice of schemes is not explained. The report begins with a review of local and national policy, which all seem very energetic regarding cycling promotion (HCC’s “step change in cycling”), but then the recommendations for Letchworth seem limited and unlikely to deliver a modal shift to sustainable transport as promoted by the local and national policy documents. The recommendations only seem to try to address the following, much less ambitious, objectives:

  1. Reviewing the adequacy of existing cycle infrastructure;

  2. Restating some of the schemes that are in the Letchworth and Baldock Urban Transport Plan (2012) which was also produced by Steer, Davies and Gleave consultants.

  3. Identifying cycle network and road improvement that would allow residents of the proposed new estate north of the Grange to reach services in the existing town by bicycle;

  4. Identifying improvements to the Heritage Foundation Greenway;

  5. Providing ideas for increasing the number of residents cycling.

The report recommendations would bring some improvements to the town but clearly to provide a modal shift to sustainable transport a more comprehensive strategy is required as Letchworth Cyclists proposed in their Cycle Network Plan, a ‘Mini-Holland’ vision for the town.

Some of the recommendations in the report are no more than a series of ideas which require testing for their viability and impact. Any recommendations need to be informed by a clear understanding of cyclist behaviour and preferences and take account of busy school run and peak work journey times. More analysis and research into usage patterns and typologies would have helped to inform specific tactical efforts for improvements.

It’s surprising that the report does not make recommendations for meaningful interlock with key groups, for example, existing cycle groups, schools, rail commuters, major employers. Wider engagement would bring much needed local knowledge into this ‘strategy’. After the consultation ends, what work are the Heritage Foundation planning to move from the list of ideas to some evidence based recommendations?

Specific comments on the report are:

Para 3.13 – No priority is given to improving the Stevenage link because of the distance and some difficult junctions. However, with electric bikes, significant commuting between North Herts towns and Stevenage and plenty of off-road tracks to utilise, developing this route may be ignoring an important opportunity to move people to sustainable transport modes. Even if a scheme is not proposed as part of this report we would suggest that the report should be more neutral in its conclusions on the potential for developing this route.

Paras 3.11 & 3.14 – The report suggests there is scope to encourage more cycling by commuters to Hitchin and to the station. It would be interesting to see more research conducted on these groups to understand the barriers to cycling which would allow more targeted recommendations to be offered.

Figure 3.12 – Should the Broadway gyratory be classified as Level 3 rather than 2? There is evidence of accidents, and local cyclist experience is that it is one of the most risky places to cycle in Letchworth.

Para 3.34 – The report ignores primary schools but a significant number of children ride to primary schools and with suitable provision more could be encouraged. Consideration of schemes around the entrance roads to each school in the town should have been addressed in the strategy.

Para 3.34 – NCN12 passes the private schools of St Christopher and St Francis, many of whose pupils are not local and it would be interesting to explore with these schools the extent and the potential for children cycling to school. NCN12 does not pass the state secondary schools so improvements to NCN12 will not address the key challenges of cycling to these schools.

Para 3.42 – The report identifies that pavement cycling is common but because pavements are often quiet this is not an issue. However, the busyness of pavements is time of day and location dependent. Children often cycle on the pavement, and they will converge to the paths around school entrances where there are plenty of pedestrians (including those walking from their parked cars). Parked and turning cars can make cycling on the road near schools particularly hazardous at school start and end times, even if these roads are quiet at most other times. So around schools cyclists and pedestrians are in conflict and segregated cycle lanes on the access paths to schools would be beneficial. What the report also does not recognise is that on many roads high vegetation exists at the front of properties which restrict visibility for cars leaving driveways so cycling on pavements has its own hazards.

Para 4.8 – The report could have emphasised that Gernon Road is one-way in the same direction as Leys Avenue which elongates cycle journeys where cyclists need to go from Norton Way South to Broadway / Eastcheap.

The conclusion is that the retail and industrial area is not conducive to encouraging cycling, yet this seems to go against the aims of the various national and local policies to encourage cycling. Considering this is possibly a major destination for local commuters, as well as a route to Baldock, should more research be done to ascertain the value of finding a solution or at least be more neutral about possibilities for improvement. Letchworth Cyclists network plan proposed a number of options for this area of the town and opportunity needs to be taken in new developments, such as the recent development of the site between Dunham’s Lane, Sixth Avenue and Avenue One to incorporate cycling infrastructure.

Para 5.6 – With wide verges, segregated cycle lanes are an option that Letchworth could adopt. It would be helpful if the report could address surfacing options that could blend with the garden city environment.

Scheme 1.1

We would agree that improvements can be made to NCN12 across Norton Common, we would not however, consider this to be a high priority improvement, there are other areas of NCN12 that should take priority for funding. Path widening is a “nice to have” but not a prohibition to current usage (everyone simply cycles on the grass). More beneficial changes to NCN12 that should have been considered are:

  1. A crossing from Norton Common to the Quadrant.

  2. Adding an off road detour / junction improvements to avoid the hazardous junction in Willian village.

  3. Providing a segregated cycle route from the central path along Broadway by Barclays’ bank across the two zebra crossings, over Bridge Road to the junction with Nevells Road.

  4. A safer path through Southfields on the Grange Estate.

  5. A safer path through Danescroft on the Grange Estate.

  6. An off road solution to Sparkhawke which is suitable for school children.

The report doesn’t offer any evidence to confirm that this scheme would really achieve the proposed objectives 1 and 2. This path is already extremely popular and the proposed improvements may have extremely limited incremental benefit. An analysis of who is, or could be, cycling at what times would be helpful before coming up with solutions. Given we don’t have a 24 hour train service is 24 hour lighting necessary? Would “Extended hours” lighting, say 3.30pm to 9.30/10pm and from 6am, in winter help some cyclists? The report doesn’t investigate potential lighting systems except a standard street lighting one, which the report already suggests would be dismissed on wildlife grounds, we don’t really have an assessment here of realistic cost versus realistic improvement.

The report also didn’t discuss how the lighting system might be managed to avoid wasted electricity in summer and the costs, ownership and management implications. This path is isolated so how comfortable would people be using it in the late evening? This route may be an alternative when Cowslip Hill (the most popular alternative to Norton Common) is parked up with commuters but would usage patterns show that Cowslip Hill becomes more usable later in the evening? It would be interesting to know when the serious accident occurred on Cowslip Hill.

As well as addressing the North-South Route through Norton Common could this scheme be extended to include an East-West route from the outdoor pool, tennis courts, skateboard park and play area. This link would also provide more safe options for children to cycle to the secondary schools if it links through to Cowslip Hill (Scheme 1.6).

Scheme 1.2

The report would have benefited from a full description and status of this scheme which is to be implemented by Herts County Council. The bridge on this route has steep steps, and we understand the low cost proposal to resolve this is “to install cycle ramps on the footbridge so that cycles can be wheeled rather than carried up and down the stairs”. With increasing retail outlets on the industrial estate this route could provide access to shops as well as the leisure centre and a ramp solution that works for bikes, adapted bikes for moving young children, disabled access and pushchairs will provide a better solution for opening up this route and should be recommended in this strategy. Our understanding is that a Toucan Crossing is proposed across the B656. To maximise the cycle network opportunities opened up by the scheme consideration should be given to ensuring this crossing links to paths which have the potential to be shared pedestrian / cycle paths linking to Radburn Way, Lowe Drive and Pixmore Avenue and to routing the cycle path at the top of Dunham’s Lane off road through Baldock Recreational Ground.

Scheme 1.3

Option 1 is the ideal solution as it would provide a safe direct route and it would have been helpful if the report had come to a view on whether there is sufficient land along the route for this to be viable. Option 3 sends cyclists a long way from Baldock Road if that is their destination. This Option suggests passing along Cloisters Road. Cloisters Road is often heavily parked at the top, causing access issues, and has coaches parked and reversing at the start and end of each school day which makes it hazardous to cycle. Crossing the A505 is also hazardous so a new crossing would be required to meet Cloisters Road. Additionally Option 3 utilises Radburn Way but there are off-road options that would avoid Radburn Way and its mini-roundabout. The options for this scheme clearly need some additional work and need to incorporate local knowledge. Whichever, scheme is chosen improvements at St Paul’s roundabout should be kept as this is a difficult but important junction into town from both the Lordship and Jackman’s estates and is difficult for both cyclists and pedestrians to navigate.

Scheme 1.4

The scheme proposed passes along Bursland to Icknield Way. Monklands appears a much quieter road and connects to the zebra crossing outside Fearnhill School and should be considered for inclusion in this scheme. This scheme should be high priority not medium.

Scheme 1.5

The suggestions for improvement are not high priority. Higher priority improvements for the Greenway would be:

  1. Upgrading the Rosehill Hospital to Willian Road section so it is suitable for cycling.

  2. Adding a Baldock bypass which allows cyclists to avoid passing under the A1M, providing a link to the Leisure Centre and utilising the Jubilee Road crossing of the B656 to reconnect with the existing Greenway.

  3. Adding safe crossings on Norton Road, the A505 (by Rosehill hospital), Wymondly Road and Willian Road.

  4. Changing the bridge on Chiltern View to a shared cycle / pedestrian path.

  5. Providing an improved entry route to the Greenway off Hillbrow which is not blocked by parked cars.

  6. Adding a connection from the Greenway to Briar Patch and Highfield School.

  7. Improving the path that links the A505 through to Radburn Way and to Pryor Way (cyclists are cutting their own path).

Scheme 1.6

Extending the cycle path through to the outside pool, skateboard park, tennis courts and play area, beyond NCN12, would be an important link to leisure resources (cyclists and walkers are cutting their own path).

LED ground lighting should be considered for this route as is being considered for the route in Scheme 1.1.

Add Scheme 1.7: Linking Jackman’s and Lordship Farm Cycle Tracks / Footpaths to the Town Centre

Paths which are suitable for making shared pedestrian and cycle footpaths from Jackman’s and Lordship estates meet at St Paul’s roundabout but there are no safe crossings for pedestrians and cyclists to then reach Pixmore Way which is the main access road from this point to the Town Centre. The roundabout changes suggested in Scheme 1.3 should be implemented and then a cycle track introduced on Pixmore Way.

A two way segregated cycle lane should be introduced along the grass verge on the north side of Pixmore Way from the A505 down past Rushby Mead to the pedestrian crossing. The cycle lane should have priority over traffic from joining roads.

Add Scheme 1.8 – Norton Way Improvements and Cycle Bypass

Introduce a 20 Mph speed limit along Norton Way and give consideration to more parking restrictions. On Norton Way South from the A505 to Pixmore Way, the existing grass verge between the mature trees and the kerb on the east side should be used for a cycle path. A pedestrian/ cycle lane should be introduced between Rushby Mead and Norton Way South on the south side of Pixmore Way. The existing pelican crossing on Pixmore Way should be converted to a toucan crossing. Introduce a 10 Mph speed limit on all three sections of Rushby Mead. Place bollards in the mid-point between the two Pixmore school entrances to deter parents from driving to the school and through traffic. Bollards should also be placed to prevent cars going right after exiting Mrs Howard Hall car park.

A toucan crossing or zebra crossing for cyclists and pedestrians should be introduced opposite Rushby Mead to cross Bird’s Hill. The north pavement of Birds Hill should then be converted into a pedestrian/ cycle lane which turns onto Norton Way North and meets an ongoing cycle lane and a toucan crossing across Norton Way North (linking to Station Road). The cycle lane should have priority over joining roads.

Place a shared pedestrian / cycle lane along the west side of Norton Way North from Station Road to the pedestrian / cycle crossing. Place a shared pedestrian / cycle lane on the east side of Norton Way North from the crossing to Icknield Way widening the path as required. Introduce a segregated cycle lane on the verge on the east side between Icknield Way and Norton Road. A suitable pedestrian / cycle crossing should be introduced just north of Icknield Way which will provide access to a cycle lane to the open air swimming pool. A suitable crossing should be introduced across Norton Road to Eastholm. In the longer term consideration should be given to redesigning the mini-roundabouts in this area, if Icknield Way could be realigned (on one or both sides of Norton Way North) to meet, thus forming a cross-roads with Norton Way North there would be the option of using traffic lights rather than roundabouts which may improve a difficult set of junctions for motor vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.

Scheme 2.1

We agree that improved wayfinding, including on street painting would be beneficial. Muddy Lane is a good example of where improvements are required.

Scheme 2.2

We agree that cycle track priority over junctions is a high priority improvement.

Scheme 2.3

Whilst this concept is a good idea we feel that the particular roads chosen may be better be suited to having a separate cycle track rather than a junction change. Would not most of the cycle users be turning left into the The Quadrant from Nevells Road anyway? If so, this change would be of limited benefit. This should be a low priority scheme.

Scheme 2.4

This could be high priority as it something that can bring benefit and be implemented relatively quickly. The Letchworth Garden City Cycle Network Plan contains recommendations on which Jackman’s paths to convert to shared pedestrian / cycle paths and this additional detail could be incorporated into this strategy.

Extending this scheme to include other paths across the town, which are identified in the Letchworth Garden City Cycle Network Plan, to shared pedestrian / cycle paths would make this document more strategic. For example:

  1. The path through Lordship linking Rookes Lane to the A505 longabout underpass and the link path through to Bell Acre.

  2. Gernon Walk

  3. The path from Pixmore Avenue through to Dunham’s Lane

  4. Paths linking Cromwell Road through to Cashio Lane.

  5. The path from Cashio Lane / Croft Lane to Eastern Way.

  6. Paths linking Southern Way to Jay Close, Kite Way and Wilbury Road.

  7. A path around or through the Spirella to avoid the busy mini-roundabouts, blind corners and slim paths at the top of Cowslip Hill and Bedford Road.

  8. The path linking Letchworth Gate bus stop through Kestral Walk to Penn Lane.

  9. The path past Dents Close entrance to Baldock Lane.

  10. The path on the east side of Letchworth Gate from Baldock Lane to the A505 longabout.

  11. The path from Howards Drive to St Paul’s roundabout.

Add Scheme 2.5

There should be an additional scheme in this section to add forward stop boxes to traffic lights along the A505 / B656.

Scheme 3.1 For this scheme to bring maximum benefit the cycle routes through the town (including NCN12) need to be made safer.

Scheme 3.2

The description could be improved to clarify how the cycle path will avoid parking cars and pedestrians. We support the suggestions to improve access to the crossing on Norton Way and to the station. Consideration should also be given to extending the contraflow cycle lane to include Eastcheap.

Gernon Road may prove a more cost effective solution giving cyclists a link from Norton Way to the Broadway (accessing the library, cinema, council offices) and could be explored as an alternative or additional option. See the Letchworth Garden City Cycle Network Plan for suggestions on how to introduce a linked contraflow cycle lane on this road.

Scheme 3.3

NCN12 currently passes by St Francis College. If it was on the other side of Broadway it would link better with Spring Road and avoid cyclists having to negotiate crossing the Broadway at Sollershott Circus which can be hazardous. This would also deconflict cyclists from children being delivered and collected from St Francis College.

Scheme 3.3 should probably be considered high priority rather than medium, since it is a popular route and an intersectional point for many routes, and we note from the report that there have been cycling collisions.

Scheme 3.4

We are looking forward to the Heritage Foundation and HCC starting to engage with NHDC on this additional parking.

Scheme 3.6

This scheme should be extended to include primary schools, especially those where there are issues relating to children being taken to school by car. This should be high priority. Some clarity is required on which roads will be included, for example Highfield School should include Sollershott West as well as Highfield.

Scheme 4.3

This should be medium priority.

Concluding Comments

The schemes chosen seem limited and mainly addressing issues on the North side of town or improving the limited existing cycle network. To be considered a Letchworth strategy it ought to tackle issues across the town and a number of suggestions have been made to improve this strategy which we hope will be helpful. To have a modal shift in cycling Letchworth needs its own plan for a ‘Mini-Holland’.

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