Cut-back Ipswich Road cycle lanes installed

The new cycle lanes on Ipswich Road have finally appeared. Derek Williams takes a look

Ipswich Road

The original scheme

Ipswich Road is a very important radial route into the city. It’s also the location of the City College and nearby is the Hewett Academy, one of the city’s major secondary schools. To the south of the ring road it passes both the Tuckswood and Eaton Rise estates.

Just over two years ago, in August 2021, we announced what we hoped was the first stage of a really important bit of cycling infrastructure for the city: mandatory cycle lanes protected with wands along Ipswich Road running almost from the outer ring road to the junction with Newmarket Road.

Although we had reservations, we were generally very supportive of the proposals. We were assured it would be the first part of a bigger scheme, linking up with a route around the ring road and, perhaps more importantly, with cycle tracks south of the outer ring road along Ipswich Road.

The full project would have been a massively useful scheme, not least because it would have provided a safe route to school for kids from the Tuckswood and Eaton Rise estates attending the Hewett Academy on Cecil Road. It’s difficult to understate how important this safe route to school would have been, it would have enabled hundreds of school kids to get themselves to school using active travel.

But as if that wasn’t enough, it would also have provided a safe route to the City College, the largest further education college in the county located on Ipswich Road, just north of Cecil Road.

In addition of course, Ipswich Road is a major commuting route for people heading to the city.

In short, the Ipswich Road cycle lanes would be the first stage in a vitally important infrastructure plan which would have benefited thousands of people every day, many of them children or teenagers. So for all its shortcomings, it was a project of such great value we were happy to give it our full backing.

The scheme gets neutered

Martin Wilby, the then head of Transport for Norwich – Photo Great Yarmouth Mercury

During the consultation, objections to the loss of on-street car parking were raised, specifically in relation to an objection from the Town Close Preparatory School (opposite City College) about the loss of on-street car parking used by parents driving their children to school. In addition to the full scheme which went out to consultation a cut-back option was presented to the Transport for Norwich committee whereby the section of cycle lane from the ring road to Cecil Road would be scrapped and replaced by on-street parking bays.

These objections were considered by the committee, which consisted of two councillors from the city, two from the county and the chairman, Martin Wilby (also a county councillor). The impact of removing the on-street parking spaces was discussed at some length, but the impact on the young people who would have made great use of the route was seemingly not considered.

The vote was split 2-2, the city councillors wanting the full scheme and the two councillors from the county wanting the parking spaces retained. Mr Wilby had the casting vote and decided to keep the on-street parking over continuous cycle lanes.

So the scheme we now have has no cycle lane inbound from the ring road to Cecil Road and it is no longer providing the safe route to the school or the college.

In place of the mandatory cycle lane we now have marked parking bays. The northbound cycle lane which starts at Cecil Road only runs past the City College, no doubt a few cyclists will find it useful, but the vast majority won’t.

The outbound cycle lane is still there, but how much use is that if you can’t cycle on the return trip inbound on a protected lane? Because of this, we withdrew our support for the scheme in January 2022.

We concluded: “In essence, this decision places a higher value on providing on-street car parking than on the safety of cyclists.”

The scheme as built

The scheme as built, showing cycle lanes (green) and on-street car parking (red)

At the time of writing the wands have yet to be put in place but the resurfacing of the road and the white-lining has been completed.

The side roads

An important part of the scheme was the changes to the pavements at the side roads. The proposals were for continuous pavements across the side roads, giving priority to pedestrians. This has not been done properly. At Cecil Road, very little seems to have changed beyond a tightening of the radius of the kerb line, which will slow traffic down somewhat.

The Cecil Road junction, where the radius of the turns has been tightened, but is otherwise unchanged

At Town Close Road a slightly raised table has been introduced but the give way markings are ambiguous and do not give priority to pedestrians crossing. The sharks teeth indicate drivers should give way but the other road markings indicate otherwise.

The ambiguous road markings at the Town Close Road junction

The cycle lane past the junctions seems to be well marked however.

The junction of Grove Avenue and Ipswich Road

The cycle lanes

The section of Ipswich Road from the ring road to Cecil Road now has two narrow traffic lanes, one cycle lane (outbound) and parking bays on the inbound side.

The Ipswich Road parking bays

The parking bays run virtually all the way along this section, which means any cyclists will have to ride in the traffic, which is confined to narrow lanes at this point. Because of the danger of getting “doored” we would advise (as does the Highway Code) to ride well away from the parked cars in the centre of the lane, which will also prevent the very heavy traffic from overtaking. How anyone could think this is a safe arrangement is a mystery.

The parking bay north of Cecil Road, creating a serious hazard

The actual cycle lanes, where they exist, aren’t too bad. There is one dangerous section just north of Cecil Road (right at the start of the in-bound cycle lane) where even more on-street parking for the Town Close Preparatory School has been retained. Where it passes the parking bay it draws cyclists close into the parked vehicles exposing them to the risk of door strikes and side swipes as cars emerge.

The lay-by starts quite wide, but narrows toward the northern end, as does the cycle lane. This was one of the objections we raised to the original scheme.

A dangerous, sub-standard scheme

In removing the section of cycle lane from the ring road to Cecil Road and replacing it with on-street parking Norfolk County Council have clearly placed the interests of a few parents driving their children to a fee-paying school above provision for the hundreds of children attending the Hewitt Academy and the hundreds of students attending City College. In so doing, they are forcing cyclists to ride in (and, frankly, delay) the heavy traffic which uses Ipswich Road.

This sub-standard scheme should be looked at again with a view to removing those parking bays and providing a cycle lane that would not just be useful, but would form a part of a much-needed bigger project.

Will it cause an accident? Of course we hope not. What it will probably do is ensure a lot of people simply won’t cycle, which is what sub-standard infrastructure like this usually does.

Photos by Derek Williams unless otherwise stated.

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