Dangerous plans for Longwater that ignore cycling

The narrow path across the A47 intended to remain as a part of these plans

The A47 junction at Longwater in the west of the city was built in the early 90s as a road-only junction, it had no route across for pedestrians and of course, no cycling infrastructure. This has been a long running saga with people from Easton village having no pedestrian access to the Longwater shops. There is also no pedestrian or safe cycle route from the city to the Norfolk Showground or Easton College. Of course people do walk and cycle across the junction and for the past 30 years have created a well-worn muddy trail along for others to follow.

We have a full critique on the whole situation at Longwater here: Cycling through Longwater, a sorry tale of unplanned development.

Norfolk County Council have now announced a totally unsatisfactory plan to shoe-horn a pedestrian path across the junction, making use of the narrow (2m) wide path which has always existed on the bridge crossing the A47.

Plan of proposed footway across the Longwater interchange (click to enlarge)

The Evening News carried a report Safety fears raised over roundabout upgrade near A47 (18th June 2022) where it was reported that “Peter Milliken, Easton Parish Council vice-chairman, said his concerns were around the proposed three-metre width of the roads on the bridge and lack of safety barriers between the new footpath on one side of the crossing and the road”. He’s not wrong.

Outline of scheme

The proposed scheme follows the route of the existing informal mud track across the A47 junction.

Starting at the western side, a proposed shared-use pavement (cycling and walking) will run from somewhere near to Easton village along the south side of Dereham Road to a point opposite the start of this scheme. There will be a central island to aid crossing Dereham Road.

A shared-use path then will then run on the northern side of Dereham Road towards the junction. It will cross the entrance to a hotel with what looks like a priority crossing. It will then lead to a properly designed 4m wide toucan crossing for both cyclists and pedestrians across the westbound slip road to the A47. [edit October 2022] It seems the toucan crossing are to be Puffins, ie no cycling, pedestrian only.

However on the other side of the slip road we have a “Cyclists dismount” sign and the footpath narrows to just 2 metres as it crosses the A47 overbridge.

The path over the actual bridge already exists, indeed there is also one – totally unused and all but inaccessible – on the other side of the bridge. This narrow path is to remain as is with no improvement. It is already clearly dangerous, when events are held at the showground quite large numbers of people cross here and the path can barely cope.

Google street view showing people crossing the A47 (original here)

A 2 metre wide path is totally unfit for this location, this is a very busy bridge with fast-moving heavy traffic and no protection for pedestrians. It’s probably too narrow to safely push a cycle across and would be impossible for a cargo bike. Also the traffic lanes are only 3m wide, the absolute minimum, which will further increase the danger. No barrier between the traffic and this narrow footpath is planned.

After the bridge crossing, there is a vehicle layby which will block the footpath.

It then crosses the eastbound slip road by way of another properly designed toucan crossing after which the shared-use path resumes and joins the existing path on the western side of William Frost Way, with no access to the cycle route heading toward the city along Dereham Road.

This plan doesn’t come close to even paying lip service to the design standard known as LTN 1/20 (PDF dowload) the council is supposed to be following when designing cycle infrastructure.

LTN 1/20 states:

  • Cycle infrastructure should be accessible to everyone from 8 to 80 and beyond: it should be planned and designed for everyone. The opportunity to cycle in our towns and cities should be universal.
  • Cycles must be treated as vehicles and not as pedestrians.
  • Not only must cycle infrastructure be safe, it should also be perceived to be safe so that more people feel able to cycle.
  • Cyclists must be physically separated and protected from high volume motor traffic, both at junctions and on the stretches of road between them.
  • Cycle infrastructure should be designed for significant numbers of cyclists, and for non-standard cycles. Our aim is that thousands of cyclists a day will use many of these schemes.
  • Cycle networks should be planned and designed to allow people to reach their day to day destinations easily, along routes that connect, are simple to navigate and are of a consistently high quality.
  • Networks and routes should be Coherent; Direct; Safe; Comfortable and Attractive.
  • Cycle infrastructure must join together, or join other facilities together by taking a holistic, connected network approach which recognises the importance of nodes, links and areas that are good for cycling.

In summary this plan is dangerous, far below a standard we have a right to expect and utterly unfit for purpose.

What is required

A proper pedestrian and cycling route from Dereham Road on the west of the junction, over the A47 is obviously needed so that people from Easton can get to the Longwater shops without having to drive. But it also needs to do more than just that, it needs to connect to the existing shared-use path along Dereham Road on the east side of the junction toward the city, which means crossing the nightmare that is William Frost Way. This is an important route for commuters, people attending events at the showground and students going to Easton college, not forgetting those who just want to get to the countryside west of the city.

The bridge crossing should provide a safe route for both pedestrians and cyclists and needs to be properly segregated both in terms of the cycleway and pedestrians and also from the road traffic.

Unless the road width over the bridge can be reduced, the only acceptable solution is for a parallel bridge to carry both pedestrians and cyclists next to the existing bridge. There is ample room for this.

It’s worth pointing out that a bridge is planned some way along the A47 to the east as part of the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) to carry the Green Pedalway over the road. Although such a bridge would be welcome, it is not a route anyone is asking for, nether does it serve the demand that already exists.

The situation has existed for 30 years now and represents probably the most important of the “missing links” for cyclists in Norwich.


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