Queens Road plans – no room for cycling

The Norwich inner ring road is already hostile to cycling. Proposals recently put forward for the area around the bus station will make it worse. Derek Williams takes a look

The proposal

Queens Road approaching the bus station where the short bus lane will start – Photo Derek

The idea is to improve access to the bus station for buses approaching from the south and west. The section of road affected is immediately east of the St Stephens roundabout.

The planned changes to the inner ring road near St Stephens Street – Norfolk County Council

The numbers in brackets refer to the key in the image above.

The roundabout stays as two lane, although the way cars are directed to use it will change slightly by way of the road markings on the approach from the west (3), this is designed to allow more traffic to use the roundabout. So it will remain a dangerous hazard for cyclists and indeed made more dangerous because of the increased capacity for traffic.

The bus station entrance

The entrance to the bus station from Queens Road – Photo Derek

The section that concerns us and which really impacts cycling is from the end of the preserved city wall to the entrance to the bus station, shown in more detail below:

The changes proposed for Queens Road towards the bus station – Norfolk County Council

At present the road has three traffic lanes, with lane three being for traffic turning right at the Sainsburys junction at Brazengate.

There is a layby outside the hotel with a separator island between it and the road. A narrow mandatory cycle lane runs along the edge of the separator island as far as the traffic lights. At the traffic lights there is an Advanced Stop Line (ASL) to enable cyclists to get ahead of the traffic.

This will be changed with the nearside lane taken away from general traffic and labelled as “Bus and load bay (sic) only”. The existing loading bay (8) will remain, but the present separator island will be removed, along with the cycle lane. The kerb line will be moved closer to the pavement and a painted lane divider added between this lane and the two remaining traffic lanes.

Just beyond the loading bay there will be a short section of bus lane (1) which – uniquely in Norwich – will not be available for cyclists to use, traffic using the loading bay will have to join the two main traffic lanes which will now be carrying the traffic currently carried by three lanes.

The Advanced Stop Line (ASL) for cycles at the lights is to be removed.

After the pedestrian crossing (13) the bus lane stops and becomes a left-turn for buses only entering the bus station.

Once past the bus station entrance the road reverts to three lanes with the outside lane becoming the right turn lane into Brazengate. This will mean the bulk of the traffic will be moving left as it passes the bus station entrance at the point taxis will be entering the new taxi rank.

Bikes are not considered

This is already an especially dangerous section of road for cyclists, and this plan will see the removal of the cycle lane and the ASL.

How are cyclists supposed to use this section of road? There is no indication on the road as to where they are supposed to go. We assume cycles will be expected to move into lane two and ride with the general traffic, but there is nothing to suggest that. If they ride in the bus lane they will find themselves in an area reserved for buses and where they will be mixed up with buses entering and leaving the bus station with no obvious or safe way to go.

So not only is cycle infrastructure to be removed, it’s clear that absolutely no thought has been given to cyclists on this busy, dangerous road whatsoever.

Finally, after the bus station, taxis will be pulling into the taxi rank (9), posing a further risk to cyclists.

But the good news is there are to be new bicycle racks (10), not that there’s any way to actually get to them!

There is to be no cycle provision anywhere along Queens Road, despite there being a large enough space to build a segregated cycle track at least from outside the hotel (past the proposed bike racks).

This plan will remove that possibility.

Cyclists have been totally ignored in this scheme and as a result the already difficult conditions along this 1960s road will be made even worse and more dangerous.

Cycling on the ring road

A cyclist heading for Queen Street – Photo Derek

The inner ring road was designed in the 1960s, a time when the car was king and cycling was seen as an irrelevance, it was a large irrelevance back then and it remains one to this day.

As Peter observed when he cycled the inner ring road in 2022 it takes a very useful path, and so it might, the road replaced the the long established street pattern of Norwich. It was intended as a bypass for the old city centre, but it also forms a useful part of the street pattern of the city and so actually goes where people want to go. So it’s no surprise that quite a few cyclists need to use it.

Riding on the inner ring road – a busy dual carriageway – is dangerous, and it’s not shown as a cycling route on maps, but a lot of people have to go that way, including the section along Queens Road.

The roundabout elephant in the room

The dangers are very real and nowhere is this more obvious that at the St Stephens roundabout, immediately west of Queens Road.

This plan includes re-signing the traffic lanes on Chapelfield Road (3) with the aim of improving traffic flow around the roundabout, that will be good for traffic capacity, but it will make cycling more difficult.

Cycling along this section of the ring road is a tale of two halves.

Along Chapelfield Road from Grapes Hill is quite good to the west of St Stephens Street, with a reasonable quality off-road route through Chapelfield Gardens and alongside the old city wall on Coburg Street. But then we meet the roundabout.

From the end of Coburg Street, having to navigate the roundabout means cycling becomes very dangerous, yet if you stand there for any length of time, you will see lots of people on bikes making their way around it.

A cyclist riding on the roundabout – Photo Derek

The roundabout was actually the first section of the inner ring road to be built. It’s typical of the era, the cars on top with pedestrians forced into dark, depressing subways underneath and of course, no provision for cycling. The subways have long been considered something of an eyesore for pedestrians.

Over the years various plans have been put forward to remove the roundabout, or at least to do something to improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists, but funding couldn’t be obtained for any of the plans.

However, according to the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (the LCWIP), which sets out the plans for walking and cycling up to 2030, it’s proposed to re-route the Blue Pedalway from Wymondham into the city via Newmarket Road, directly across the roundabout and then down St Stephens Street.

So although they don’t have a plan how to do it, the council does understand the need to make the roundabout area cycle-friendly, but for now the roundabout remains a dangerous obstacle. The plans for Queens Road only make this difficult situation worse.

Imminent changes

Another issue is the now imminent demolition of Victoria House, the large concrete office block on the south side of Queens Road next to the roundabout. Its replacement will likely contain flats or student accommodation and will therefore need access by bicycle across the roundabout.

Conclusion

It’s clear the planners do not consider this major road to be one open to cycling, even though it is an essential route for some cyclists. Not only has there never been any provision for bikes but these plans seem designed to make things more dangerous. This is an example of 1960s car-centric thinking, we should have moved on from this sort of road thinking by now.

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2 thoughts on “Queens Road plans – no room for cycling

  1. Does the city not have a cycling officer now, like it did in the past? It’s clear the current city road planners have no cycling experience at all. They should all be out there trying it out on their bikes, as other cities used to do. Whether they still do now is questionable.

    1. It’s not the city anymore, it’s the county council. They do have a sustainable transport manager and an “LCWIP” – a local cycling and walking infrastructure plan.

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