I took the opportunity of a bright day to try out the cycle paths along the open sections of the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NDR). Once upon a time I seem to recall being promised a path along its full length, but clearly this isn’t going to happen.
I joined the path at Buxton Road heading east. The path is obvious and signed, but only accessible from the road – there is no dropped kerb on the existing cycle path on the opposite side of the road from which to cross to the new path. The path to the east is currently shut even though the NDR is open this way. Heading west the surface is initially excellent but then deteriorates. There are some good views of parked aircraft at the airport before emerging through a fence that suggests the path is not open at a junction where there is no obvious route to the cycle path opposite – again no dropped kerb in sight. Following a nice crossing of the NDR the link section to an existing lane leaves something to be desired
The path leaves the NDR and goes through St Faiths (no signs indicating that it is any sort of longer route than just to the village), and if you know where you’re going you can find a way out past the road closed signs to the old cycle lane heading for the Cromer Road junction. The crossing here towards Horsford is OK, at least outside of peak hours and its a bit odd cycling the old Holt road with no traffic on it. Until… reaching the new roundabout just south of Horsford. There is a cycle lane on the southbound side of the road bypassing the roundabout, but going North it was so busy it was easier to use the roundabout.
The road into Horsford is busy, but only 30mph. Turning left into Dog Lane I was concerned about the section through the woods (only actually shown on the NDR plans as an existing restricted byway, but the nearest cycleable link). As it turned out it was followable, but certainly not rideable.
The signed route from the end of Dog Lane to Drayton is a good surface, but doesn’t really allow you to track the NDR route.
It was a relief to come out at the Reepham Road junction and back to excellent paved surfaces. The route continues by the Marriot Way green bridge – if you wish to visit Taverham, cross the bridge and use the path on the other side of the road to avoid having to deal with a three lane roundabout at the end. I stopped at the Garden centre so haven’t checked out the far west end of the route.
Overall I would say the variety of quality of surfaces is surprising, some key details to properly integrate and make the route useful have been missed and the lack of a usable Horsford-Taverham section is a crying shame. I realise that some bits might not be totally finished, if so perhaps this might help to get them finish appropriately. With a few improvements this could make a nice circular, mainly traffic free, ride from the City.
Norfolk County Council have responded:
The new cycle paths and bridleways along the NDR connect with existing routes, and by using these it will be possible to cycle from end to end without riding on the dual carriageway itself. But there is no particular virtue in being able to do this. A far higher priority is to serve local communities, where existing routes may be much more useful, and are often more interesting and attractive.
For example Horsford will be served by better routes along Dog Lane to Marriotts Way (albeit with improvement in Drewray Woods still to happen later this year), over Bell Farm track to Thorpe Marriott and Taverham, along old Drayton Lane to Drayton, and along old Holt Road towards Norwich and St Faiths. In addition, the section of Reepham Road parallel with the NDR is now carrying much less traffic, so provides another option.
Further east, there is no particular virtue in providing a path alongside the NDR from the A140 to Bullock Hill when what are really needed are paths that serve St Faiths. New Home Lane already exists to reach the A140/NDR junction, with onward options there, and Bullock Hill provides a link to the onward paths beside the NDR east of the Airport.
Similarly, road closures such as Rackheath Lane, and Green Lane East/Broad Lane at Plumstead Road remove through-traffic from routes, making them much more attractive for cycling while being in the right place to serve local communities.
There is still a lot of work to do on the paths.