Blue Boar Lane cycle track (under construction)

Blue Boar Lane, running along the edge of Harrison’s Wood, until recently marked the north-eastern edge of the city’s suburbs. Over recent years new suburbs have been built on the other side of the woodland and cycle tracks are being provided as part of this. Derek Williams takes a look at the new track currently under construction along Blue Boar Lane and isn’t impressed

Blue Boar Lane carries a lot of traffic: it isn’t a pleasant place to cycle – Photo Derek

Blue Boar Lane is situated towards the north-eastern corner of the city’s suburbs, connecting Salhouse Road to Wroxham Road.

It used to be a quiet country lane running through some beautiful woodland on the north-eastern edge of Norwich. However the area has become built-up with car-orientated suburban development and is now a busy road.

Click the map for a larger version

When was the scheme designed?

The Cycling Campaign first heard of plans to build a cycle track along Blue Boar Lane in 2020, but since then it all went quiet. Then suddenly earlier this year we discovered a nearby scheme along Salhouse Road was about to start construction and that it would connect to the Blue Boar Lane route. After requesting information as to what was going on, we eventually saw the plans and then discovered building had actually started. These schemes were approved by Norfolk County Council in 2019 and 2022. It is unusual for there to be such a long delay before starting construction.

Who’s paying?

It’s “developer funded” which means the company building the new housing estate nearby agreed to provide cycling infrastructure in the form of a 3m wide shared-use cycle track/footpath. The responsibility is split between Broadland District Council who are the planning authority and Norfolk County Council as the highway authority.

Is it really needed?

This would be a very useful cycle track indeed, it connects the suburbs to the south of Salhouse Road – including the Heartsease estate – to the large Tesco and Aldi supermarkets at the western end of Blue Boar Lane, as such it would be a very useful route for people shopping using cargo bikes. There is also a sports club and a garden centre along the route, as well as the Harrison’s Wood nature reserve, a destination for many local children and families.

Blue Boar Lane is a nasty road to cycle on, carrying a lot of mostly car traffic. It has a 30mph speed limit but that is regularly exceeded and the road is unlit as it passes through the woodland.

The Blue Boar Lane cycle track scheme – click for a larger version

The scheme is intended to connect to the existing shared-use path from Tescos at the western end of Blue Boar Lane (passing a new cycle track through the woods to the new estate) then crossing over Blue Boar Lane at a Toucan crossing near Linacre Avenue.

It then follows the other side of the road around the bend where it crosses the road for a second time.

Finally it takes a somewhat twisty path through the woodland to arrive at the junction with Salhouse Road.

At least, that’s the idea, it doesn’t quite manage to do all of this however. There is a “cyclist dismount” section, a dangerous road crossing and a section of on-road riding.

The design doesn’t come close to that laid down by government guidelines for cycle infrastructure design known as LTN 1/20.

LTN 1/20 says:
1.5.2 Networks and routes should be Coherent; Direct; Safe; Comfortable and Attractive.

The route in detail

We’ll look at the scheme in three sections.

Section 1 – Existing cycle track to Laundry Lane

Section 1 – Existing cycle track to Laundry Lane

There is an existing shared-use path skirting the big Tesco supermarket which, at first sight, seems to end at the point where the new path starts. In fact, the existing cycle track ends 50 metres before the footpath ends. The footpath narrows and so becomes unsuitable for cycling. The plan is to connect the new route to the end of this narrow path and to do nothing about it other than to erect “Cyclists dismount” signs to cover this short section, shown in red on the map and the photo below.

LTN 1/20 says:
13.4.1 The CYCLISTS DISMOUNT sign … should not normally be used – on a well-designed facility, it is very rarely appropriate and represents a discontinuity in the journey, and it should be borne in mind that some people with mobility impairments will be unable to dismount.

At the start of the yet-to-be-built cycle track looking west, you’re not allowed to ride on the section highlighted in red – Photo Derek

Cyclists will be expected to stop, get off and push along this section for 50 metres. So tough luck if you wanted to go to Tesco with a cargo bike. Nobody is likely to obey the dismount signs. This is an example of a facility which is not fit for the purpose it will be put to.

From the start of the new track we can get back on and ride past a new link through the woods then to a Toucan crossing where we cross to the other side of Blue Boar Lane. The track then follows Blue Boar Lane to the bend opposite Laundry Lane and the sports club.

Laundry Lane provides a walking and cycling route through the woods to the new estate but there is no crossing facility to enable you to reach the new path.

On the way along Blue Boar Lane we pass some mature tress, where the width drops to 1.7m, which is reasonable, they’re nice trees.

Section 2 – Laundry Lane to the woods

Section 2 – Laundry Lane to the woods

As the road bends to go south the cycle track takes a short-cut across the grass verge and meets the road after the bend where it stops and cyclists are expected to re-join the carriageway. What this means for riders heading south is they have to cross the busy Blue Boar Lane just after a bend, where it’s difficult to see oncoming traffic. This would be difficult at any time of the day but would be especially hazardous after dark.

LTN 1/20 says:
Uncomfortable transitions between on-and off carriageway facilities are best avoided, particularly at
locations where conflict with other road users is more likely.

Looking back at the end of the cycle track which stops just after the bend, where you have to cross Blue Boar Lane and join the traffic – Photo Derek

You’re expected to ride on the road for just over 50m, after which the shared-use path starts again on your left. This is extremely dangerous. Expecting children or people riding fully laden cargo bikes to make this crossing is not reasonable. After dark it would be horrendous.

The path then runs past what seems to be a small park in the making. There are two paths across this open land which join the shared-use path roughly half way along. Although probably intended as footpaths, these will clearly be ridden by local kids on bikes who will likely end up on the dangerous cycle track.

If the shared use path could be extended from the bend at least as far as the start of the path on the opposite side of the road there could be a Toucan crossing here. Indeed, a Toucan crossing was deemed necessary for the crossing near Tesco, so surely one is needed here as well? – it’s the same road and the same amount of traffic.

Instead of crossing the road where the cycle path ends many people will be tempted to continue along the extremely narrow footpath (shown in green on the map below) that continues on this side of the road. It widens out a bit as it goes past the garden centre, then runs through the woodland by way of a muddy track. Although too narrow for safe cycling, this will undoubtedly be the preferred route for some, rather than crossing the busy road.

Section 3 – Through the woods

Section 3 – Through the woods

The cycle track leaves Blue Boar Lane and dives into the woodland (Harrison’s Plantation). The surface will also change here from tarmac to gravel. It then winds through the trees to re-join Blue Boar Lane for the approach to Salhouse Road.

The woodland section under construction: not so much fun after dark? – Photo Derek

This section could be really quite nice – during the day. But riding it at night (there’s no lighting) might not be so enjoyable, especially for lone women or children.

LTN 1/20 says:
Routes should be appealing and be perceived as safe and usable. Well used, well maintained, lit, overlooked routes are more attractive and therefore more likely to be used.

Conclusion

This is an important cycle route along a dark, highly trafficked and fast road. It is clearly substandard and fails to even pay lip service to the LTN 1/20 design standards. The gap in the cycle track just after the bend is clearly dangerous and the section through the woods will be off-limits to many potential cyclists. The “Cyclists dismount” section near Tesco is frankly just ridiculous.

Building bad quality infrastructure with gaps like this severely diminishes its usability and puts people at very real risk of harm. Who exactly will be using this route? Has a safety audit even been conducted?

This is only the latest in a string of sub-standard and dangerous projects we’ve been presented with under the guise of developer-funded schemes, Longwater being the most serious. There seems to be an acceptance that developer-funded schemes can be built to a lower standard. It also appears that the oversight of these schemes is not sufficient to ensure that they provide high quality routes as part of a county-wide network.

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One thought on “Blue Boar Lane cycle track (under construction)

  1. This is great, apart from the gaps. I don’t think its safe to cycle the Blue boar at all. Where is the safety and logic behind providing a good scheme, then leaving a big gap in the middle?
    Surely there is a way to avoid cyclists cycling on any part of the Blue boar lane?
    And make the Tesco car aprk easier to access from this end. Why stop the cycle track, dismount and then get back on 50 metres later? Makes no sense

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