Cycling through Longwater

There is a developing cycle route to Longwater from the city and from Longwater to the Queen’s Hills estate which in places is surprisingly good. But there are problems,such as missing sections and dangerous road crossings.

From Bowthorpe via Longwater to Queen’s Hills

Map of the cycle infrastructure from the city to Queen’s Hills via Longwater. Click the image for a larger version (opens in a new tab)

From the city

From the city follow the Green or Pink Pedalways to the Bowthorpe centre, we’ll pick the journey up from there.

It should be noted that a better route from the city will soon exist (shown dotted on the map). For now this isn’t quite possible, but watch this space.

Ride-through from the Bowthorpe Centre via Longwater to Queen’s Hills

Video – Bowthorpe to Queen’s Hills (ridden by Derek February 2022)

From the Bowthorpe Centre and the end of the Green Pedalway it’s possible to ride on off-road (shared-use) cycle paths almost all the way to Longwater, with the exception of a short distance where the cycle track just finishes in New Costessey. However, there is an easy, although unsigned, route along a parallel residential street (also called Dereham Road) which involves riding over a couple of muddy tracks to reach. This gap will be closed over the next year or so as a part of the Dereham Road cycle way improvements past Bowthorpe.

Although the ride along Dereham Road is a bit boring, it’s dead straight for a little over a Km (3/4 mile) and dominated by heavy traffic, but the off-road cycle track is surprisingly good. A nice, wide (shared-use) path with very little pedestrian traffic and a silk-smooth surface. If all the cycle tracks in Norwich were like this we would be very happy.

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The surprisingly good cycle track along Dereham Road towards Longwater – Photo Derek

The Longwater shops

Once at Longwater the cycle track turns right to follow William Frost Way, following the line of the junction bypass. Ahead is the A47 junction, but it’s not easy to get there.

The first obstacle is the entrance to the Next department store. Traffic moves fast here and drivers are unlikely to pay much attention to a cyclist trying to cross as they come off or join the busy William Frost Way. Once over however, the cycle track just stops and you then have to take your life in your hands to get across William Frost Way.

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Crossing William Frost Way – Photo Derek

This is the sort of place where you might expect a proper light-controlled crossing and one was planned as a part of the council’s plans, but that has now been dropped and in its place a new Toucan crossing is proposed for further down the hill.

For now there is just a badly designed and unmarked crossing point directly opposite the vehicle entrance to and from the shops. It’s little more than a dropped kerb, way below an acceptable standard. Being a dual carriageway you have to cross the first side, then the second, having waited on the narrow central reservation. You’re then expected to head for the small triangle of land in the middle of the side road leading to the shops, finally crossing that road to get to the cycle track on the other side. It is truly amazing that such a dangerous crossing was ever created, let alone having been allowed to exist for so long. This is par for the course around William Frost Way.

See Frustrations grow over funding stalemate for pedestrian crossing EDP October 2021

There are a lot of very useful shops at Longwater, but they don’t make it easy way to get to them if you’re not in a car. If you survive the crossing of William Frost Way, you then have to cross a huge and very busy car park by a circuitous route which isn’t signed or even a proper cycle track.

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The citybound bus stop on William Frost Way, not even a shelter and no crossing to get to it – Photo Derek

There is one sad looking bus stop which is where a new crossing is proposed to go and it’s certainly needed, as is one close to the junction to serve the route across the junction.

The whole place is a depressing example of what you get if you build urban places based on travel by car – vast, windswept car parks, huge distances between places and wide, dangerous roads. It doesn’t have to be this bad, but with other forms of transport barely catered for and certainly not encouraged. Longwater is a good example of how not to build anything.

Out to Queen’s Hills

The cycle track continues down the hill along the west side of William Frost Way, around the side of the roundabout at the bottom and across a busy entrance and exit from the Sainsbury’s superstore with a very sub-standard crossing, then along Alex Moorhouse Way, a depressing road which goes along the back of the shops.

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The depressing Alex Moorhouse Way, around the back of the shops – Photo Derek

The lack of imagination really shows here, why doesn’t the cycle route run along the front of the shops? It could do this quite easily by building a cycle track through the car park to reach the shops. That is, of course, where most cyclists would want to be going.

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Surely this is where people want to cycle to, instead of the road around the back? – Photo Derek

Eventually the cycle track gives out and you have to ride on the road for a while before it randomly starts again on the other side. There were probably plans to fill the gap, but after 25 years it hasn’t happened.

After a roundabout where you have to cross the road again there is then the pretty good off-road cycle track picks up again and heads down a steep hill, over the River Tud and up the other side all the way to and through Queen’s Hills.

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The excellent cycle track to Queen’s Hills – Photo Derek

The ride through Queen’s Hills is on a pretty good shared-use pavement, but it suffers from badly designed side road junctions which require cyclists to give way to emerging traffic.

Following the route of the never-used bus lane (and that’s a another story of failed planning) you finally reach Ringland Lane and the beautiful Wensum valley.

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The never-used bus lane at Queen’s Hills, leading down to Ringland Lane – Photo Derek


The cycling infrastructure which has been built is tantalisingly close to being quite good, but with some obvious and very easy to rectify missing links, several dangerous road crossings, instances of terrible design and an overall lack of imagination.

Why this route isn’t a part of the city’s Pedalways network and seemingly isn’t even considered to be a major cycling route is a mystery.

The cycle track should take riders to the shops, rather than following the traffic route it presently takes round the back of them.

With very little expense, this could all be a lot better, or at the very least, nowhere near as bad as it is.


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