Longwater – Aldi store opens without promised cycle crossing

The latest twist in the sorry tale of Longwater has been unveiled with the opening of the new Aldi supermarket. Derek Williams takes a look

Although not actually a part of the notorious crossing project, the new store does include a connection to the proposed route for cyclists to access the shop. It gives us a preview of the likely standard of the new route and it’s frankly depressing.

A part of the planning consent for this new supermarket was that Aldi should have built a Toucan crossing across William Frost Way before the shop opened. They have failed to do this and the shop opened with no enforcement of the planning condition, so there is still no crossing.

The cycling infrastructure serving the new Aldi store at Longwater looking north – Photo Derek

The cycling infrastructure serving the new Aldi store at Longwater looking south – Photo Peter

Very little has actually been built but it involves a crossing of the access road, a road that serves more than just the new shop. The crossing is very badly designed and is similar to the crossings of the existing car park entrances serving the main shopping centre and the Next store further up the hill.

Just beyond the junction to the north a short section of cycle track along William Frost Way ends at a random location, and on the south side a very short section of the path has been widened which will eventually connect with the planned Toucan crossing and to the rest of the Longwater crossing route.

The Aldi service road feeds off of William Frost Way, a very busy dual carriageway with a theoretical speed limit of 30 mph which almost no-one observes, traffic moves very quickly here as it leaves the roundabout just to the north. The turn into Aldi has a gentle forgiving radius, which is designed to be driven at speed and of course, traffic has priority over cycles and pedestrians. The crossing point is close to the mouth of the access road so people on the path heading south have to be aware of fast moving vehicles coming from behind. It’s also an uphill gradient. This is almost a text-book example of how not to build a junction crossing and owes nothing to the national design standards that have been in force for three years now.

All cycle traffic heading to the Aldi store from the direction of Dereham Road is supposed to cross this junction, then turn right to follow the access road, which brings us to the next problem – a steep hill.

The cycle track entrance to Aldi – Photo Derek

Looking toward William Frost Way from the top of the slope – Photo Derek

Although fairly short, the slope is really quite steep and would probably prove too much for a bike without hill climbing gears or for anyone on a cargo bike. This hill is steeper than would normally be expected and will also prove difficult for people in wheelchairs. Coming the other way bikes (and wheelchairs) will pick up a fair speed as they come down toward the busy William Frost Way. It will be treacherous in icy weather. It is, simply, not fit for purpose.

This new bit of “cycle infrastructure” is extremely substandard and probably unusable. This is a design which must have been approved in the planning process, probably by South Norfolk District Council but also by Norfolk County Council as the highway authority. How something as bad as this was given the green light is hard to understand, but it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the project.

Most people won’t take this route, but are likely to follow the clearly visible and easier “desire line” route by not crossing the dangerous entrance, but instead following the footpath on the other side of the access road and then bumping down the kerb and riding on the road, mingling with the traffic and simply ignoring the useless cycle track.

It’s hard to see how this passed any kind of safety audit and as stakeholders the cycling campaign were certainly not consulted as we should have been. It should be noted that this was virtually a greenfield site and it would have been easy to have built it properly.

At the time of writing we are trying to arrange an urgent meeting with Norfolk County Council to discuss these important safety issues. This only adds to our concerns about the wider project.

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