Comments on Tombland and Palace Street

Cycling north on TomblandAfter several site visits and incorporating comments from the discussion on Facebook, we sent this feedback to Norwich City Council on the completed Tombland and Palace Street scheme. See also: more pictures and our pre-consultation response.

1. Good parts

  • The removal of the roundabout benefits everyone
  • The feed in from Palace Street to the cycle track is well designed. It has a gentle ramp, a flush join with the carriageway and is protected by bollards.
  • The cycle track allows cyclist to bypass the Palace Street/Tombland junction when heading south on Palace Street.
  • Cycle parking has been added, however there are questions over the detailed design.
  • The cycle track is of a good width, generally 3m.
  • A flush kerb has been provided to allow cyclists on Wensum Street heading south to join the cycle track. The entry point is conveniently on the desire line.

2. What could be improved

  • The exit from the cycle track in Tombland heading south is hazardous as it as at the point where vehicles are turning left and where buses are pulling in to the stops. We noticed some cyclist re-joining the carriageway at the Princes Street crossing, where the carriageway is narrow.
  • On a short observation there were several delivery vans parking in the cyclepath near Palace Street and two on the final section southbound, completely blocking it. There were also two incidents of cars pulling up on the corner of Tombland and the ‘triangle’ to pick people up, completely blocking the exit of the cycle path.
  • Suggest adding ‘elephants’ feet’ or advisory cycle lane extending from the cycle track exit along Tombland uphill. This could alert drivers to cycles emerging and position motor vehicles towards the centre of the road so there is space for cycles to merge.
  • The scheme originally had low bollards along the edge of the road. These are needed, to deter parking here, especially at the southern end.
  • The surface under the cycle stands is too loose and gets on to cycles and clothes when it is wet. The surface should be a bound surface under the cycle stands.
  • There seems to be a problem with vehicles turning left out of Princes Street on a green light not realising they will be going across a toucan crossing.

3. Lessons for future schemes

  • The desire line for pedestrians on the south end of the east side of Tombland is along the cycle track, and this is exactly where people walk. The footpath deviates too far from the desire line. This, and the parking across and on this end of the cycle track will encourage more cycles to exit at the crossing. The design has failed to encourage any segregation through layout or paving style.
  • There is too little visual difference between the cycle track and the footway meaning that people walking aren’t clear where they should walk. Similarly the informal zebra crossings are hard to see in good light with good eyesight. At night they are invisible.
  • The advisory cycle lanes on Palace Street are persistently invaded by motor vehicles at peak times when there is queuing traffic. I suspect that the width between the cycle lanes of 4.7m is insufficient and drivers believe there is not enough space to pass and hence invade the cycle lane. There is little point in a cycle lane if it is full of vehicles.
  • There are at least four different paving style along a length of about 20m of the cycle track outside the Erpingham Gate. This is confusing, why are so many styles needed? There should be clear visual priority for pedestrians and cyclist over traffic accessing the gate whereas the current design suggests otherwise.

4. Value for money

Tombland has therefore cost around £10,000 per metre of cycle track whereas The Avenues would have cost around £625 per metre and it was cancelled because it was judged poor value for money. We would like to know why the Tombland scheme was considered value for money given its very high cost.

5 thoughts on “Comments on Tombland and Palace Street

  1. Letter to the Cllr:

    Dear Cllr.
    The works recently completed in Tombland for the Pedalways project have attracted a great deal of comment much of it critical. I feel compelled to make my own contribution which I hope you will find more constructive than some. Please forward my comments on to anyone in the council or involved in the project who might find them useful.

    Most criticism from non cyclists arises from frustration that after months of disruption and the spending of the best part of a million pounds the new cycle path is ignored by nearly all cyclists passing through Tombland. This is seriously eroding any goodwill there ever was towards providing facilities for cyclists, “why are we having to put up with all this cost and disruption when they don’t use the bloody thing” is the understandable sentiment. This is going to make it more difficult to progress further cycling initiatives and other road users less respectful of cycling facilities. The new Tombland path is already being used as a loading bay by vans delivering to Tombland restaurants and is ignored by pedestrians.

    Yet this was foreseeable there has always been a fair number of cyclists passing through Tombland between Upper King Street and Wensum Street and it should have been obvious that most if not all would find the carriage way more convenient than the cycle path. At the moment few if any cyclists find Palace Street and Princes Street convenient routes and it’s difficult to see why they should change their minds. The preferred route from the east into the city centre has always been through the Close and down Queen Street. I know that Tombland forms part of a much larger trans city cycleway but the inevitably fragmented and inconsistent nature of a route made through a very dense existing urban area invariably means that users will never treat it as such and will make their own route as best suits them.

    If there is any one lesson to be learned from this project it must surely be that when designing these projects planners need to take much more notice of the routes cyclists are using and endeavour to include them in the design rather than plotting out a route that makes sense only in terms of the councils grand plan for the area, in the same why that more enlightened planners will use pedestrian desire lines when laying out footpaths and road crossings.

    Michael Collar,

  2. As far as the Pink Pedalway route is concerned, this short section of cycle track works quite well. Heading west from Palace street it’s really very good, heading east it suffers from a total lack of proper signage meaning cyclists end up entering the westbound cycle lane, not realising they have to cross Palace street and join the traffic flow.

    But for bikes – the vast majority for now – traveling from Tombland to Wensum Street as Michael Collar has already said, it’s absolutely and totally useless. For bikes coming from Wensum Street heading toward Tombland it just represents a diversion and includes a dangerous merge with the road after just a few meters, just before the bus stops.

    So the vast majority of cyclists using that part of Tombland are not using the new track, that was surely to be expected?

    The eyewatering cost of this scheme – made far worse by the fancy cut stone pavement surface – has done much to damage the pedalway reputation. It was also probably the reason the essential cycle tracks on The Avenues were scrapped.

    What would have been better? Most obviously segregated tracks half the width of the current track on each side of the road, catering for both flows of cycle traffic, would have made the scheme work far better.

    The running surface should have been a strong colour – red tramac or tiles for example – properly marked as a road for cycles.

    Also cycling grant money should not have been wasted on the vanity paving of cut stone.

  3. My wife and I were recently in Tombland (on foot) and were interested to see how the new cycle lane was working. It appears that it is not working very well at all. Of the cyclists I saw going southwards towards Prince of Wales Road,fewer than half were using the cycle path, most riding on the carriageway. Of those travelling north, not one used the cycle path.

    My impressions are that it is very poorly signposted, with barely visible cycle logos inset into the path. Additionally there is really no incentive to use it in a northerly direction, as cyclists have to cross the carriageway twice for the sake of a relatively short distance. There is no right turn lane or refuge for cyclists turning onto the path, making the whole thing fairly useless.

    All in all, a lot of money spent on a scheme which is poorly thought out and not designed to attract cyclists to use it. I am sure other members will be able to point out further failings.

    Michael Robbins

  4. I ought to add – I would be a lot more impressed with the cycle groups i.e. Norwich Cycling Campaign if they would organize a demonstration to protest against the vast ineffective use of pubic funds on schemes such as Tombland – it would go a long way to bridging the gap between motorist and cyclists and we could then jointly hold to account our errant council. Most opposers to the scheme were not anti-cyclist but saw immediately what was proposed was lunacy.

    1. Norwich Cycling Campaign were not in favour of this cycle track from the start and we were involved in bringing the Pedalways 1 project to the City’s Scrutiny Committee in part because of the way in which the money has been spent.

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