North Herts Local Cycling & Walking Infrastructure Plan
Letchworth Cyclists are pleased to see that the LCWIP has set out to produce a plan for connected cycle networks within towns and where towns are in close proximity between towns. As you are aware we are keen to see the cycle network reach out into the housing estates but recognise that the main focus of this version of the plan is on the central area of Letchworth and the main artery roads.
Extending the network into housing estates Letchworth Cyclists would like to see a commitment as to when the next phase of the plan, encompassing links into existing housing estates, will be developed. The reason why we believe this to be important are threefold:
Planned new housing is going to put pressure on existing transport networks. Given that many of these developments are not well-located for sustainable transport it seems unrealistic to expect transport pressures to be relieved by primarily focusing on the occupants of these new homes opting for sustainable transport. Much of the existing housing stock is in sustainable locations, and if the sustainable transport infrastructure serving these homes can be significantly improved the overall impact on traffic pressures of the new homes seems more likely to be mitigated.
Improvements to support sustainable transport can be delivered during routine maintenance of road and path networks at a lower cost than if delivered as stand-alone projects. Once a comprehensive LCWIP is produced it will be easier to verify that any transport infrastructure maintenance or improvements at a location are maximising their benefit by incorporating sustainable transport improvements at the same time.
A modal shift in cycling will not happen with a smaller subset of cycle routes just in one part of the town. To really gain momentum we need to create routes through residential areas where people live and will then see them on their doorstep.
The proposals for Letchworth
Letchworth Cyclists are pleased to see a number of the comments that we made in the second round of the consultation have been addressed in the latest version of the plan. Proposals for Letchworth that we are particularly pleased to see are:
The introduction of parallel crossings at the entrances to each of the Highfield, Fearnhill, Icknield, Pixmore and Hillshott schools, with traffic lights to help children cross into Norton St Nicholas school.
Recognition that many of the junctions with mini-roundabouts need improvement - local cyclists have identified many of these junctions as the places they feel least safe on the roads and have had accidents on.
A one way system on Station Road and Bridge Road to allow a two-way segregated cycleway to be introduced. Due to the bridge width and the heavy pedestrian usage we perceive that this is the only solution to providing a cycle route on Bridge Road and links in well with the Station Road proposed solution.
Improvements at the junction of Spring Road and Station Way.
An east-west walking and cycle route through Norton Common.
Modal filters to provide quiet roads to cycle along.
The Letchworth map in Appendix G indicates that cycling will be enabled along a number of routes in the words, but the colour of the route shows as footway improvements. Could the planning 2 diagrams be updated to fully reflect the proposed changes. In particular could the following routes be shown as both cycle and walking routes:
the footpath between Dunhams Lane and Pixmore Avenue
the two workers’ paths running north-south from Norton Road to Icknield Way
the linking path from Croft lane to Eastern Way
the bridge across the railway on Highover Road
The addition of a short section of cycle track linking Kite Way to the off-road track from Wilbury Road that links through to Cowslip Hill would be a sensible improvement to combine with the toucan lights on Wilbury Road by Standalone Farm. This small scheme would support students cycling to Secondary schools.
The existing cycle route from Hitchin to Letchworth passes down Highfield and along Sollershott West were it connects to NCR12 at the Sollershott Roundabout. Sollershott West is heavily utilised by students walking and cycling to Highfield school. Letchworth Cyclists would like Sollershott West to be included in the cycle network in preference to the section of Broadway between the A505 and Sollershott Roundabout. Sollershott West could be improved either by introducing a segregated cycleway along the wide grass verge or by converting the road to one-way and freeing up carriageway for a cycleway. A continuation along Sollershott East can then be used as an alternative to the proposed A505 route which appears to have several gaps in the proposed cycle lane with, presumably, the cyclist being pushed onto the road due to insufficient space. After Sollershott East the cycle route can then re-join the A505
There are a number of important routes where traffic calming has been proposed, where Letchworth Cyclists are concerned that this will be insufficient to tackle the challenge of cycling the route and a different solution is required. These routes are:
Icknield Way (between Spring Lane and Bridge Road) / Station Way
Norton Way South and North
Grange Road and Southfields
The plan recognises that the western end of Icknield Way is a challenging road to improve. It is heavily parked, which means cars have to wait to get along the road and tend to move at speed when they get a chance to pass parked cars. The pavements are not particularly wide. If it is possible to place a segregated cycleway on this road we would be supportive, but if that it is not realistic then it would seem sensible to explore some alternative quieter routes to include on this initial plan. Station Way, which runs parallel to the western end of Icknield Way has a wide verge by the railway, with a woodland track, so off-road cycling provision may be a better alternative solution.
We would encourage a meeting between HCC and Letchworth Heritage Foundation to explore whether there are opportunities to put in walking and cycling links between distinct sections of Letchworth’s industrial estate. For example, if the workers’ path linking into Dunhams lane could be extended to link through to Avenue One (past the Postal Delivery Office) and a connection made from Fourth Avenue to Jubilee Road. This would provide a more direct and quieter sustainable transport route through the industrial estate.
We also suggest that this initial plan should explore making a quiet route via Ridge Road and Hillshott to Rushby Mead.
The proposed link from Norton Road to Works Road over an improved railway bridge appears attractive and has appeared in many historic plans. However, it has proved challenging to deliver 3 because of land restrictions. Given that a segregated cycle track is planned for the eastern end of Icknield Way, a more deliverable and cost effective solution would be to move the connecting link between Icknield Way and Norton Road to align with Cashio Way, utilising Cromwell Road.
This latest version of the plan has included a methodology for prioritisation. We have concerns that the chosen methodology may be overly weighting large, expensive projects at the expense of quick wins. Previous high level plans have focused on ‘big projects’ and history tells us that few are delivered. Our expectation is that a modal shift in cycling is more likely to come from people starting with small, in town, journeys with the distance that people cycle increasing with their confidence. Tackling challenging crossings and junctions which are connected to quiet routes may deliver a large modal shift for a smaller level of funding than some of the big infrastructure projects.
The particular concerns we have on the chosen prioritisation methodology are:
The “LTN compliant score” and “Infrastructure Impact score” seem likely to be highly correlated, and these are the two criteria whose scoring range are most skewed towards a high score. This would lead to ‘gold standard’ solutions being selected over quick wins.
It appears that schemes that have been around for a while may not be being judged on an equal footing with all the other schemes. In particular, we would like confirmation that schemes are not being given additional weighting because they are listed in the current HCC Highways Delivery Plan or the Letchworth Garden City Cycling Strategy. (The Letchworth Garden City Cycling Strategy is a plan produced by a private organisation, with its own agenda, and appears to focus primarily on supporting a new estate North of the Grange.)
As funding is going to be a constraint any prioritisation should take into account the benefit per pound spent, but cost is not factored into the prioritisation method.
Safety is not explicitly considered as a criteria and is given insufficient weight as a result.
Building in Community Knowledge
Solutions seem to focus around existing cycle tracks or the road network. However, sometimes the path networks provide a more optimal or safer cycle route and we would encourage gathering local insight into these alternatives. For example, locals cycling between Hitchin and Letchworth avoid challenging parts of the A505 by opting for a route that includes Grove Road.
Letchworth Cyclists appreciate the opportunities that have been given to feed ideas into the LCWIP development. We are keen that local communities are involved in finding the best solutions for their areas. We would like to encourage both NHC and HCC to test out solutions wherever possible before significant investment, for example, by investing in equipment like Sustrans Street Kit (https://www.transportxtra.com/publications/local-transport-today/news/46591/sustrans-unveilsflexible-kit-for-trialling-people-friendly-streets/).