Construction starts on dangerous and sub-standard Longwater cycle route

For much of last year (2023) we were trying to get a meeting with Norfolk County Council to discuss our safety concerns with the plans for a cycling and walking route from Easton village across the A47 Longwater junction and William Frost Way. We had what we thought was a very productive meeting in August, but since then we have heard nothing, despite numerous requests for an update.

We now see that constructions started in late May 2024 and it looks like our concerns about safety have been totally ignored as Derek Williams explains

The new cycle track from Easton is under construction – Photo Derek

Work has started at the Easton end of the project on the section running past the Festival Park estate. What’s being built is a 3m wide shared-use path for cycling and walking, which raises capacity issues which we’ll return to later. For the sake of this article we’ll refer to it as a “cycle track”, but it is intended to be for pedestrians as well.

This project has two main aims: one is to provide a safe route to school for children attending the Ormiston Victory Academy school in New Costessey on the other side of the Longwater junction, and the other is to allow people living on the estate to use bicycles to reach the Longwater shops and to connect with the wider city cycle routes.

The first obstacle – Bluebell Way

Here a cycle track from the estate which runs along the side of Bluebell Way joins the main route towards the city.

The first section to be built: The route from the estate (right) joins the main route toward the city – Photo Derek

The crossing of Bluebell Way is almost a textbook example of how not to build a side road crossing. It crosses the road right at the mouth of the junction where the road is widest. The junction itself has a very gentle flare, meaning traffic will enter from the main road at high speeds.

Cyclists and pedestrians crossing here have to look ahead and also behind them for traffic turning into the estate. They also have to navigate traffic leaving the estate.

Because the feeder cycle route from the estate joins the main route here, people coming this way also have to cross the junction on this crossing.

What should the crossing have looked like?

This crossing is far below the standard for building cycle infrastructure published by the government in 2020 known as LTN 1/20. The crossing point should be placed away from the actual junction and the radius of the mouth should be tighter, which would reduce the speed of the traffic entering the junction. This design gives priority to cycles making them highly visible as they cross the road on a raised table.

LTN 1/20 design for side road crossings
Side road crossing with set-back cycle track – LTN 1/20 (p 108)

The type of crossing shown above would have been easy to build here, there is plenty of land and it would not have cost a significantly greater amount. There is, in short, no logical reason to have built such a sub-standard, dangerous design.

We had strongly requested these crossing were built to the LTN 1/20 standard and were under the impression Norfolk County Council had agreed to do this, but it appears not to be the case. It’s as if there were a deliberate decision taken not to do the job right.

The next crossing – the college entrance

The crossing at the entrance to Easton College – Photo Derek

At the time of writing, the next crossing, of the nearby Easton College entrance, a short distance to the east, is being built in a similar and equally dangerous style. However, this crossing adds another concern: one of capacity.

Easton College is an further education college with around 5000 students, mostly aged 17-20 or so. A large number of these are very likely to want to cycle or walk to the college once this supposedly safe route comes into use. It’s reasonable to expect this junction to be especially busy, dealing as it already does with large amounts of college-bound motor traffic. The impact the college pedestrian and cycle traffic would have on the scheme wasn’t considered at all in the planning process.

Now this crossing would have been a bit more expensive to build correctly, land to the east of the junction would have needed to be purchased, or alternatively the roadway could have been moved a few metres to the west onto ground owned by the developers. But why wouldn’t they want to build something safe and fit for purpose?

As it is, seemingly no thought has been given to the dangers and this junction will be especially hazardous.

What about the other direction, towards Easton village?

The section of cycle track on the other side of the road ends with no crossing link – Photo Derek

Heading west from Bluebell Way the cycle track continues alongside the new estate for a short distance and then simply stops as it joins the existing narrow path towards the village. Cyclists are expected to join the road here via a short section of dropped kerb.

Interestingly, another estate (Avalon Place) is being built on the opposite side of the road and this has a short section of cycle track heading further west and which also finishes at the limit of the new build. Although part of a different scheme it does have potential room to be extended all the way towards the village. However, no thought has been give to how people are supposed to cross from one cycle track to the other. This is a very busy road, surely a crossing would have been a good idea? Is there a coherent plan to connect these two sections of cycle track? It doesn’t look like it.

General points

This route was only ever intended to serve the Festival Park estate, no other demands on the route were considered, such as the 5000 student Easton College.

Of course a safe route to the school is likely to also appeal to kids from the existing village of Easton as well as those from Festival Park, these were not considered either. Neither were people who commute by cycle from the west of Norwich or people from Easton wanting to reach the shops at Longwater.

And of course, there’s the Norfolk Showground which hosts events pulling in thousands. This wasn’t considered either.

Because of all this, the scheme from here to the other side of William Frost Way – even if built as a 3m wide shared-use path all the way through – is likely to be unable to cope with the demand. With school kids heading in one direction and older teenagers heading in the other, it will not be a nice place for pedestrians.

The question we have is will it be built to even this inadequate standard?

Longwater crossing concerns

Fly-through of the total scheme as it is probably being built

As we’ve reported over the past two years, Norfolk County Council consider that providing capacity for motor traffic across the junction is more important than providing a safe walking and cycling route. Because of this they are only planning a narrow 2m wide footpath with no protection from the traffic over the A47 junction. We have been trying really hard to draw the council’s attention to the fact that this would be extremely dangerous and not fit for the purpose it will be put to. We had thought they had taken our concerns on board, but given the evidence so far, we doubt they have.

You can read more about the problems of the Longwater cycle route here.

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