Not just London: Five big UK cycling projects outside the capital

Sick of reading about Superhighways, Boris Bikes and Quietways — cycle infrastructure that only seems to appear in London? Well, never fear, here are five of the big projects happening elsewhere in the UK


What’s the plan? A series of segregated cycle lanes are appearing across the city as part of ongoing plans by mayor George Ferguson to double cycling from 2013 levels by 2020. One recent improvement was the creation of a 200m segregated cycle route along Baldwin Street, which is part of an East-West city centre route which includes one of Bristol’s most popular cycle paths, Castle Park. Separated from the road at pavement level, with priority over side roads, it was built to address the number of cycling collisions occurring at the junction of Baldwin and Queen Charlotte Street.

It’s not all smooth cycling for Bristol, however: slightly to the south, beside the River Avon, a Dutch-style route on Clarence Road faced months of delay following a collapsed river wall. It will be good once it’s finished though, complete with bus stop bypasses — where cyclists ride round the inside of stopped buses and bus stops rather than pulling out into traffic — and Toby bollards, which look like dinosaur teeth, protecting cyclists from passing traffic.

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The good: Both Clarence Road and Baldwin Street are safe and attractive routes suitable for anyone aged eight to 80. As in the Netherlands and Denmark, the Baldwin Street cycle route is separated from traffic with priority over side roads. Alas, all decent cycle tracks in the UK  inevitably come to an end, leaving cyclists once more fending for themselves among motor traffic. Still, it’s a promising start.

The bad: The cycle track finishes abruptly two-thirds of the way along Baldwin Street outside a nightclub, putting cyclists back in the mix with motor traffic and parked cars.

Watch as a cyclist narrowly avoids an opening van door shortly after leaving the Baldwin Street cycle track.

When will it be finished? Extension of the Baldwin Street route is planned towards the city centre but that’s a couple of years away due to an imminent Metrobus development nearby. The Clarence Road route will open around February 2015, once the river wall is repaired.


What’s the plan? Oxford Road, one of Manchester’s important transport routes and one of Europe’s busiest, will be transformed under plans for the city’s first Dutch-style cycle track. It is hoped changes along the approximately 1.3 mile route, paid for out of the city’s £54m bus priority scheme, will help tackle congestion, which currently makes journey times unpredictable for the up to 100 buses using it per hour.

As in some European cities, general motor traffic will be excluded from parts of the route, leaving it free for buses from 6am-9pm, while the wide cycle track will bypass bus stops so people on bikes don’t have to pull out into traffic when a bus stops. It also goes through parkland for a short while. The plans seem popular — of 2,000 comments from 900 respondents during the consultation process 65 per cent were in favour, leading to a strengthening of the original cycling plans. The road will also have a 20mph speed limit.

A computer generated fly-through of the plans

The good: Dedicated space for cycling is just one part of a bold plan to tackle congestion on Oxford Road and help more people feel safe on bikes or on foot. Removing motor traffic along parts of the route during the day and decreasing the speed limit to 20mph are huge steps forward in creating a people-friendly environment.

The bad: In a couple of places the cycle lane is reduced to dotted white lines on the carriageway, which means motor traffic can legally drive in it. Near some junctions the lines disappear altogether. Without priority for cyclists at all side roads there may be conflict with motor traffic, while some less confident cyclists may be put off.

When will it be finished? Work is due to start early this year following final approval of the plans.



Tramways in Edinburgh

What’s the plan? Since 2012, 5 per cent of Edinburgh’s transport budget has been allocated to cycling, rising 1 per cent each year. A trial two-way cycle track was installed on George Street in September, separated from traffic by rubber armadillos and planters.

Part of a future family-friendly network designed to be suitable for an unaccompanied 12-year-old, the George Street designs nonetheless drew criticism for featuring a number of unmarked crossings, and for switching sides halfway along. There are plans to extend the route East and West from George Street in the near future as part of the Roseburn to Leith route. In a bold move to make the city more people friendly, plans to introduce 20mph speed limits on a significant number of streets across the city were approved in January, set to be rolled out at the end of 2015.

When will it be finished? George Street’s year-long trial ends in September, after which the city council will decide its long-term future.

The good: The city’s overall vision and its allocation of a percentage of the transport budget is to be applauded. Edinburgh demonstrates real ambition to become a people-friendly environment, and Scotland’s first 20mph city.

The bad: The city council has drawn criticism for not choosing the most direct routes for cycle tracks, with stop-start cycle lanes where they exist. City councillors have said these missing links will be joined up in future, however.


Leicester Town Hall

Leicester Town Hal,l where the new cycling infrastructure will be planned and discussed

What’s the plan? Leicester’s mayor, Peter Soulsby, wants to double cycling by 2018, and he’s taking aim at the city’s network of 1960s (often one-way) main roads, which are currently a major barrier to getting people walking and cycling. By temporarily blocking off a traffic lane with cones, Soulsby’s transport team is able to gauge the effect on traffic before any cycle infrastructure goes in. A cycle track was introduced on Newarke Road using this method, and Welford Road is midway through its trial lane closure.

Cycle routes are proposed linking South Leicester suburbs Saffron, Eyres, Monsell and Aylestone to the city centre, and the new Richard III exhibition. Unusually cyclists are also permitted on the £8.5m pedestrianised zone in the city centre, due for completion in winter 2015, creating a network of safe, traffic-free cycle routes in the city centre.

When will it be finished? A decision on whether Welford Road will get its cycle track is due on February 16. Work starts after this.

The good: Trial removal of traffic lanes makes it possible to establish the effects of cycle infrastructure before spades go in the ground; Soulsby’s team is insisting on waiting for hard data before making a decision. Proof cycle infrastructure won’t cause Leicester’s traffic to grind to a halt will also help reassure those who drive in the city. Cycle tracks appear to be well-designed, turning Leicester’s many multi-lane one-way streets two way for cycling, improving convenience and safety for more people to get on their bikes.

The bad: No point in picking holes — Leicester seems to be going about things the right way.


Cambridge cyclist

Cambridge has a strong cycling culture, which the schemes will aim to benefit. Credit: Jack Elton-Walters

What’s the plan? Dutch-style segregated cycle tracks on Hills Road and Huntingdon Road are, surprisingly, the first of their kind in the UK’s cycling city. Work on the mile-long Hills Road route, costing £1.2m, and the shorter Huntingdon Road route, costing £700,000, is due to start this month, with work expected to be completed by June 2015.

On Hills Road, which currently has 4,000 cycle trips per day, there will be a cycle track on both sides of the road, segregated by being mid-height between pavement and road. The route will go part way between the city’s railway station and the rapidly growing Addenbrookes Hospital.

Huntingdon Road, which has 2,800 cycle trips per day at present, will get a two-way cycle track on one side of the road. Both will feature bus stop bypasses, and there’s a new type of zebra crossing appearing, which both pedestrians and cyclists can use. Impressively, on both routes, cycle routes will be kept open during the work — a council spokesman said he would consider a “cyclists dismount” sign a failure, discouraging the very cyclists they are hoping to serve. If they can’t separate off a section of road for cyclists, the council will put up signs instructing drivers not to overtake on narrow lanes.

When will it be finished? Both Hills Road and Huntingdon Road routes are expected to be ready by June 2015.

The good: Direct, segregated cycle routes with priority at side roads, bus stop bypasses and a zebra crossing cyclists and pedestrians can both use — these are all the makings of a very decent cycle route. There are a couple of holes but generally this is a huge step forward for Cambridge.

The bad: One section of Hills Road subjects cyclists to a painted cycle lane between two lanes of traffic, one turning left, and one going straight on. It will take a confident and skilled cyclist to manoeuvre this, and it’s not something most people would let their 12-year-old attempt alone.