In August 2021 Transport for Norwich (TfN) announced plans for mandatory cycle lanes along Ipswich Road from near the junction with the outer ring road (Daniels Road) almost to the junction with Newmarket Road. Norwich Cycling Campaign gave a guarded welcome to the scheme which you can read here.
Ipswich Road is a major transport route into Norwich from the south of the city which at the moment contains minimal cycling infrastructure. From the Harford park and ride via a proposed employment area at the junction of the B1113 opposite the Tesco supermarket, it connects with the Yellow and Purple Pedalways. The road then passes between the housing estates of Tuckswood and Eaton Rise (where the large City of Norwich School is located) before crossing over the outer ring road. On the city side of the outer ring road it serves the large Hewett Academy school and City College before meeting the Orange Pedalway at the junction with Newmarket Road and routes into the city.
All this means Ipswich Road, which is the only direct option, has an important role to play in providing a safe route toward the city for people from age 11 and older wanting to get to school, students at the City College and commuters into the city. While the proposed scheme only covered the section within the ring road it laid the foundation for a bigger scheme on the southern side, which would be a route of true significance.
All this is in line with the stated aims of the government to increase cycling and walking as an alternative to using the motor car. Another acronym to be aware of is “LCWIP”, the “Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan“, which is at the heart of the council’s plans for enabling active transport. which of course the campaign supports. Because this first phase laid the foundation for the larger scheme with all the benefits it was something we supported, albeit with reservations about some shortcomings with the design.
The scheme as proposed was not ideal however. The whole thing was proposed as “light segregation”, ie a painted white line on the road with wands to denote the cycle lane, similar to the arrangement on Earlham Road. The proposed cycle lanes are narrow, just 1.5 metres wide which is the absolute minimum defined in the design standards know as LTN 1/20. The suggestion of properly constructed off road cycle tracks was rejected on cost grounds. Worse, the lanes do not connect with the current advance stop lines at the outer ring road at the south and they just stop where the road narrows at the northern end with nothing proposed to aid cycling through that section. All this is counter to principles laid out in the design standards. There was also a proposal to retain some on-road some parking spaces opposite City College which would place cyclists in danger of door strikes.
However, on January 13th, TfN met to discuss the feedback on the proposals, which included an objection from the Town Close House Preparatory school (opposite City College) about the loss of on-street car parking used by parents driving their children to school. A proposal was put forward to entirely drop the cycle lane from the outer ring road as far as Cecil Road and following a tied vote this was passed with the casting vote of the chairman, cllr Martin Wilby. In essence, this decision places a higher value on providing on-street car parking than on the safety of cyclists.
Cecil Road is the location of the Hewett Academy and is also close to the entrance to City College. Cutting this section of cycle lane means the scheme would be of no use to pupils of the Hewett Academy or students at City College, which almost certainly represents the majority of cyclists on that section of road and so totally removes any hope of encouraging more cycle commuting from the south to these institutions. Cyclists heading into the city will still have to ride in heavy traffic and have to negotiate parked cars, riding far enough out to avoid door strikes. No parent in their right mind would be happy allowing their child to ride to school on a road like that.
Worse still, this cut-back scheme kills off the potential to create the link through to Tuckswood, Eaton Rise and beyond. It would mean providing a cycle route north that only serves to bypass City College, useful to a few perhaps, but in truth of little use to most people who need to cycle along this route.
This decision is totally counter to the design standards of LTN 1/20 for several reasons and in effect neuters the whole scheme, making it pretty much worthless. All of this would seem to be incompatible with the aims of the LCWIP and the conditions imposed by Active Travel England and could result in Norwich losing funding for this and other major projects.
It is, therefore, not something Norwich Cycling Campaign can support. Because of this we have written to the manager for TfN, our letter is below.
Ipswich Road Active Travel Fund scheme
Norwich Cycling Campaign supported the original proposals for Ipswich Road which went out to consultation in August 2021, despite having some reservations with certain aspects of the scheme. By providing protected cycle lanes on both sides of the carriageway from the ring road and almost up to the St Stephens Road junction the scheme offered tangible benefits for existing cyclists and fulfilled the scheme objective of enabling more people to cycle.
Making Ipswich Road a safe route for cycling would also be a first step in creating a cycle link to the Tuckswood and Eaton Rise housing estates.
However, the decision to approve an amended scheme which removes almost half the length of the inbound cycle lane means we can no longer support this scheme, which now fails to match what was originally proposed in the bid.
The bid submitted by Norfolk County Council to the Active Travel Fund was for the “provision of a new mandatory cycle lane facility with wands on both sides of the carriageway” from the Daniels Road junction to the St Stephens Road junction.
As I’m sure you are aware, the Active Travel England inspectorate is now up and running and has the power to inspect finished schemes and ask for funds to be returned for any schemes which have not been completed as promised. Active Travel England’s assessment of an authority’s performance on active travel will also influence the funding it receives for other local transport schemes.
We would be disappointed were this to happen and we do not want to see Norwich lose out on future funding allocations.
Our objections to the amended scheme can be summarised under three headings: Safety, failure to comply with LTN 1/20 and a lack of vision.
Ipswich Road is an important cycle route from the south of the city for large numbers of commuters, college students and school children. It connects the large housing areas of Eaton Rise and Tuckswood to the Hewett Academy, City College and into the city centre. It provides the most direct route so Ipswich Road needs to be a safe, accessible route for everyone, including potentially hundreds of children and students who may wish to cycle to the Hewett Academy and City College.
The explicit reason given for removing the inbound cycle lane (to provide car parking) goes against both the government policy outlined in “Gear Change” as well as the stated main objective of the scheme which is “to improve the environment for walking and cycling along this busy route”.
Under the amended plan, cyclists from the south of the city will need to ride on the unprotected southern section of Ipswich Road, having to negotiate past parked cars along a stretch of road which will remain a 30mph limit.
Failure to comply with LTN 1/20
The government policy document “Gear Change” states the following requirements for funded cycle routes:
“The routes must be direct. They must be continuous, not giving up at the difficult places. They must serve the places people actually want to go – often major public transport corridors – and the journeys they actually want to make. If it is necessary to reallocate roadspace from parking or motoring to achieve this, it should be done.” p16
The decision to remove a protected section of cycle lane so as to prioritise car parking would appear to run counter to this requirement.
LTN 1/20 has several summary principles which define the quality of cycle infrastructure necessary to meet the funding criteria. By failing to provide a continuous, safe cycle route on both sides of the road we believe the following principles have not been followed;
Principle 1: Cycle infrastructure should be accessible to everyone from 8 to 80 and beyond.
Principle 3: Cyclists must be physically separated and protected from high volume motor traffic, both at junctions and on the stretches of road between them.
Principle 5: Cycle infrastructure should be designed for significant numbers of cyclists, and for non-standard cycles.
Principle 8: 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.
Principle 21: Schemes must be consistent.
Car parking bays
If it is felt necessary to keep some on-street parking on Ipswich Road, for the short sections of car parking deemed necessary cycle bypasses should be provided, of the type described in section 6.2.40 of LTN 1/20. This would enable a continuous inbound cycle lane to be delivered, as promised in the original scheme and as required by LTN 1/20.
Lack of vision
The provision of protected cycle lanes along this section of Ipswich Road also forms part of the larger aspiration to provide a cycle link south of the ring road and would link up with the planned extension of the Yellow Pedalway out to Harford Park & Ride, as outlined in the draft Norwich Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP). It could also potentially link up with the Purple Pedalway, as well as providing a safe route to school and college for the Tuckswood and Eaton Rise estates.
By not providing continuous protected cycle lanes the full benefits of the scheme will not be realised and we won’t see the change in behaviour (switching from cars to walking and cycling) that the Active Travel Fund is designed to deliver.
Norwich Cycling Campaign