Longwater junction update

Plans for east-west access across the Longwater junction for non-motorised users have been in gestation for some time. Derek Williams takes a look at the latest developments

The dangerous A47 junction at Longwater, about to be made slightly less bad

The Longwater junction with the A47, together with the access road to the adjacent shopping centre/industrial park/route to the Queens Hills housing estate known as William Frost Way on the western edge of Norwich, is a well-documented barrier to cyclists and pedestrians heading toward events at the Norfolk Showground, Easton College and all points west.

For a description of this whole unplanned mess see our article “Cycling through Longwater, a sorry tale of unplanned development” published in April 2022.

Since we published that article things have changed, with Norfolk County Council (NCC) announcing a third rate and frankly dangerous scheme primarily intended to increase the traffic flow through this badly overloaded junction while shoehorning in a narrow footpath over the bridge which they expect cyclists to dismount and push their bikes across. We outlined our concerns with the scheme here. There is now an update which shows a truly concerning attitude within the local authority.

The important issue is that although the bridge is connected to (shared-use) cycle tracks on both sides of the junction, on the path across the A47 bridge (between two light-controlled crossings on the slip roads) cyclists will be expected to get off and push. NCC are hoping to cover their backs with advisory “Cyclists dismount” signs. It’s no secret of course that this won’t happen: in the real world people will ride across the bridge. We now have proof that NCC are aware of this and are taking an important measure to accommodate cycling over the bridge.

We have obtained two documents relating to this scheme, both of which are in the public domain. One is the Stage 1 Safety Audit and the other is the Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA). The purpose of an EqIA is to consider the potential impact of a proposed change or issue on people with protected characteristics. If the assessment identifies any detrimental impact, this enables mitigating actions to be developed.

Neither of these documents consider the issues with Williams Frost Way, which is considered to be outside the scheme area.

The safety audit has this to say about the proposal:

4.1 Problem – Cyclist falls
Location – Footway on west side of the bridge deck

The footway across the bridge is abutted by shared use on both sides. It is accepted that the bridge deck footway has not been designated as shared use due to its substandard width. Nevertheless, use of the footway by cyclists cannot be discounted and the designer has acknowledged this by providing a higher 1.4m parapet. The higher pedestrian parapet is welcome but does not conform to current height
standards for cyclists as prescribed in Table 8.6 in CD377 Requirements for road restraint systems.
Recommendation –
It is recommended that a 1.5m (corrected to 1.4 m) high cyclist standard parapet is provided in accordance with CD377.

Network Management Decision: Response accepted.

To be clear, this recommendation has been accepted by the designer. This implies that they are designing a substandard path across the bridge that they accept will be ridden across by cyclists, and because of this they have to erect a higher fence to prevent people falling onto the A47 below. Therefore, NCC are knowingly proposing to build something they know and acknowledge to be substandard and therefore dangerous for the use it will be put to.

They are, in short, proposing to knowingly build something not fit for purpose.

If an incident occurs on that bridge and a cyclist gets killed or injured in a crash, they have arguably accepted responsibility, not that it would be of much use to the person concerned or their family.

The EqIA outlines the problems this section of the route will cause. However, the report seems to be unaware of Easton College, a large further education college with something like 5000 students and in addition pays scant regard to the crowds of people attending events at the Norfolk showground. These are serious omissions.

However, it does identify the problems for children and young people attending the local school, the Ormiston Victor Academy, the catchment area of which includes Costessey, the other side of William Frost Way and the A47 junction.

The EqIA has this to say:

4.2 … the shared cycle / pedestrian pathway will facilitate journeys to and from Ormiston Victory Academy, it is anticipated that there will be a larger proportion of young people (aged 11/12 to 17/18 years) positively impacted than other age groups, as it is being designed to facilitate their journey to and from school. It is likely, given the age group involved, that young people may be travelling unsupervised and therefore the inclusion of the shared facility should provide reassurance to parents of safe passage for their child…

4.3 … the pedestrian / cycle path may also be used by people commuting to and from work, providing an alternative to car or public transport. This may include parents using the facility to take both older and younger children to education / nursery / day care prior to work and older people wishing to access facilities such as shopping.

4.8 (The crossing of the slip roads) Cyclists will be required to dismount to use the crossing which may lead to a negative impact on some users with protected characteristics. For example, as the restriction will be self-governing, there may be individuals that disregard the need, despite signage, this may reduce the positive impact of having a signal-controlled crossing for some people with sensory loss. The potential for individuals to continue to ride
their bicycle through the crossing could lead to conflict between users, especially as
the cyclist may be travelling faster than other crossing users. If the cyclist lacks
stability and / or decides to move between pedestrians there is the danger of
collision. This has the potential to have a negative impact not only because of the
potential accident but also due to the citing (SIC) of the crossings between the A47 and the
interchange meaning potentially high volumes of traffic.

4.11 Due to the physical constraints of the National Highways owned bridge deck over the
A47 which links the localities contained in this proposal, it is not possible to provide a
continuous 3m wide shared use pathway over the bridge. Instead, it is only possible
to provide a 2m wide pedestrian pathway, requiring cyclists to dismount at the
crossing points detailed in 4.11. Within the 2m pathway, there may also be points
where infrastructure such as streetlights, brackets and fixings for guard rails / fences
may reduce this provision further thereby impacting negatively on people with
restricted mobility such as wheelchair and mobility scooter users and parents with
pushchairs. It may also impact upon cyclists using adapted bicycles who do not wish
to transfer on to the road. People with sensory loss, such as Blind and Visually
Impaired people may also experience a negative impact due to the reduced space if
other pedestrians do not provide the space needed to navigate the pathway safely,
especially if the individual uses a mobility aid such as a cane and if the infrastructure
causes pinch points.

4.12 The pathway, at this point is also subject to traffic noise from the A47 which may be
considerable, potentially leading to sensory overload for people who are
neurodiverse. For example, people with autism may find the combination of a
crowded space, coupled with high volumes of noise and the unpredictability of other
users difficult to cope with. This includes the potential for cyclists not following the
requirement to dismount prior to crossing.

It’s worth pointing out that there are many other issues with this hopelessly inadequate scheme, but we have only concentrated here on the most serious and dangerous elements.

There has also been no consideration of the issue of crossing William Frost Way, beyond a plan to install a toucan crossing near the bus stops, which although welcome isn’t of much use to people travelling along Dereham Road and across the junction.

There will be further developments.

Download the safety audit here and the EqIA document here.


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2 thoughts on “Longwater junction update

  1. They are actually planning 2+1 lanes – two westbound and one east. But yes, two lanes across the bridge is the answer. Or build a cycle/pedestrian bridge next to the road bridge.

  2. “Due to the physical constraints of the National Highways owned bridge deck over the
    A47 which links the localities contained in this proposal, it is not possible to provide a
    continuous 3m wide shared use pathway over the bridge.”

    What physical constraints? It clearly would be possible if the carriageway was reduced from 2+2 lanes to 2+1. It may be possible if the 2+2 was shifted south and the path only on the north side.

    They mean policy constraints prevent it, really, don’t they? There is insufficient political will to provide the current minimum active travel space.

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