To get more people out of cars, it is important that all efforts are taken to ensure that sustainable forms of transport can be completed safely and at a rapid pace. Although segregated Infrastructure is highly desirable, it is also important that cycling can take place safely on the road where it is legal (non-motorised vehicles are banned on motorways). One of the reasons that cycling can be dangerous is that a person on a cycle has been presented as an unexpected activity for some road users when they are using the road. Removing cyclists from the road to place them on a shared footpath increases the risk of this view becoming further established and can move the risk of conflict to pedestrians.
Noting the introductory statement, there are situations where it can desirable for people cycling to be encouraged to use a shared footpath particularly if the road situation is more dangerous than normal.
The section of road between Horsforth and Rodley is a busy section of the Leeds Outer Ring Road. It provides connectivity to Leeds Bradford Airport and large parts of north Leeds. It is a national speed limit road with a sustained incline towards Horsforth as it climbs out of the bottom of the Aire Valley. On the inclined section it currently has a three lane section of road, which currently allows vehicles travelling uphill to overtake slower moving road users safely, including cyclists. Vehicles travelling downhill are able to use the same lane if no vehicles are using it up hill. This creates a very dangerous road layout where vehicles with a closing speed of up to 120 mph can share the same road space. The layout was created when vehicles on the road had poorer performance on steep gradients and is common throughout the UK.
To increase the capacity of the flow off Horsforth roundabout towards Rodley, it has been proposed on a temporary basis (for six weeks) to revert the two lanes to traffic heading downhill with a longer merge to meet the pinch point at the bottom of the hill. To ensure that traffic heading uphill does not stray into incorrect lane, it has been proposed that physical traffic management measures such as orange traffic cylinders are put in place. The effect of physical measures is that it prevents motor vehicles from safely overtaking slower traffic on the road. This puts cyclists at substantial risk of a close pass on a steep hill. To mitigate this, it has been proposed that cyclists should be encouraged to use the existing footpath whilst moving northbound/uphill.
Although it increases the risk of a pedestrian/cycle collision, it substantially decreases the risk for cyclists whilst these temporary measures are in place. If Leeds City Council confirm that this measure should be made permanent, the space and momentum is there to widen the path and create a key piece of infrastructure across the valley with effective junctions at either end.
I am aware that it can feel like the thin end of the wedge, particularly when viewed against the backdrop of other measures such as the proposal to ban cyclists off the A63. This is a poor piece of road with new measures that will increase the risk for road users without appropriate mitigations. This nudge for temporary works should be viewed as a positive that can be used to improve the existing footpath if the proposed measures are made permanent.
Source: Leeds City Council
Source: West Leeds Dispatch