A visit to the Leeds-Bradford Cycle Superhighway

Last month I took the opportunity to cycle along the Leeds-Bradford cycle superhighway, kindly escorted by Martin Stanley of Leeds Cycling Campaign. While London’s cycling new infrastructure is hitting the headlines, there are other projects taking place elsewhere in the country, of which this is one of the more high profile (albeit for perhaps not all the right reasons).

Indeed, I did go with very low expectations – I’d seen the pictures being shared on social media and on blogs of what can only be described as very poor infrastructure. And it has to be said that the route between the two cities is not of a high quality, certainly nowhere near as high as the routes being built in London. Perhaps a lower level of quality might be expected given the lower level of expertise and investment, along with some ‘higher order’ problems we’ll come to in this post. But what was particularly frustrating for me wasn’t actually the low quality. It was the inconsistency. Some sections have been built and designed reasonably well. But other sections – dealing with identical problems – have been bodged, and bodged badly, which left me wondering why a more consistent level of quality couldn’t have been achieved.

We’ll come to these issues, and others, in the post, but all the same I did come away from the day cycling to Bradford and back feeling a little positive. This was, perhaps, just because the sun had come out in the afternoon, on what had started as a miserable day. But mainly I think it was because, despite all the flaws of this northern ‘superhighway’, I had managed to travel by bike between the two cities in some comfort, and with a reasonable degree of safety. Roads that I wouldn’t even have considered cycling on for pleasure, and would have struggled to justify cycling on for practical purposes – fast, busy roads – now have somewhere that it feels safe and comfortable to cycle, for the most part, and for all the flaws. That means cycling is a possibility, not just for more confident types like me, but for everyone else.

Despite the route only just having opened – and despite the bad weather earlier in the day – we did see people starting to use the cycling infrastructure. Not in huge numbers, admittedly, but enough to indicate that there is potential to shift and change behaviour, and the way people travel about.


Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 02.22.57

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 02.24.07So, the good news is that there is now a long route consisting almost entirely of protected infrastructure, that could open up cycling as a mode of transport for ordinary people.

The bad news, however, is that the quality is patchy, and in places actually quite dangerous. As I’ve mentioned already, the frustrating thing is the inconsistency, in that good design and build quality was interspersed with bad. I’m not sure why this was the case; it might be the inevitable consequence of having to build what amounts to quite a long route from A to B in a short space of time, with a fixed budget, starting essentially from a very low base in terms of experience, knowledge and expertise in building cycling infrastructure – a problem I suspect that is pervasive across Britain, just because there is so little good stuff, and so few people building it. It also seems to stem from what I have heard is a reluctance to impinge on driving in any way along this route, which means that compromises on quality will be inevitable.

The reluctance to give even an inch to cycling from motoring led in many places to quite comical outcomes.

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 02.24.52The photograph shows that, alongside a six-lane road for motor traffic, not only will users have to swerve around traffic light posts right in the middle of the cycleway, they will then have to deal with a ‘door zone’ (indicated by the pale surfacing) created by new parking bays installed on the road – parking bays that didn’t exist before, and that, if in use, will actually block in people parking legitimately off the carriageway. In the context of such an enormous road this is very thin gruel indeed, especially when we consider that on the opposite side we have to put up with just a shared use footway.

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The bus stop bypasses are definitely one of the more serious problems. Some of them are again just comically bad, absurdly narrow for one-way cycling, let alone two-way cycling.

Yes, that is a two-way cycleway

Yes, that is a two-way cycleway

At one of these stops, I heard a couple of men waiting fora bus grumbling about how ‘they hate cyclists – they’re even on the pavement now’ as we rolled past, and it was easy to understand the source of their annoyance, given that we were almost trundling on their toes, by design.

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 02.27.41

In most of these cases, the failure to design a proper bus stop bypass, with adequate space for all users, seems to have flowed either from the aforementioned reluctance to take any space from motor traffic, or to spend any money adjusting kerb lines, or both – with, frankly, very silly results.

That's just one lane of motor traffic on the right, heading away from the camera. The 'bypass' is at most 18 inches wide

That’s just one lane of motor traffic on the right, heading away from the camera. The ‘bypass’ is at most 18 inches wide

The surfacing was also frustratingly bad. While very smooth in many places, other sections had a dreadful surface, that looked like it had been shovelled in and patted down – usually next to a beautifully smooth road surface.

The rain earlier in the day was at least helpful in showing up surface deficiencies

The rain earlier in the day was at least helpful in showing up surface deficiencies

Why could some parts be surfaced well, and others not? Did some contractors just not care?

Another problem with inconsistency – and a more dangerous one – is the design of many of the side road treatments, where the cycleway (either in uni-directional, or bi-directional form) crosses side roads. This was where the inconsistency was particularly stark. Some were designed reasonably well, with at least some degree of visual continuity, and the kerbs only stopping at the junction, ensuring that the geometry for drivers is reasonably tight.

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 02.31.31Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 02.32.07

But far too many junctions appear to have adopted a design technique that involves simply stopping the kerbs some 20 or 30 metres before the junction, dumping you out onto a cycle lane, which felt horribly exposed.

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 02.32.52

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 02.33.39This is, I suspect, the dead hand of LTN 2/08 informing design, with its recommendation that cyclists should be ‘reintroduced to the main road’ before a junction, passing the junction ‘on the carriageway’. Presumably the intention is to ‘reintegrate’ anyone cycling with motor traffic before the junction, but in reality no ‘reintegration’ or ‘reintroduction’ will take place. You are just left at the side of the road with no engineering or design to slow or modify the behaviour of drivers turning across your path. It’s bad, and dangerous, we simply shouldn’t be building junctions like this in 2016. We need continuity, clear priority, and design that slows drivers, and makes them careful. Not this.

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 02.35.20

There are other (admittedly less serious) problems with visual continuity at side roads. Treatments that could work well are undermined by markings that still suggest people cycling should yield, when they shouldn’t.

Double yellows, the green paint and the kerb line all remove any visual continuity and priority for cycling

Double yellows, the green paint and the kerb line all remove any visual continuity and priority for cycling

The same problem again. Note that this is an exit-only side road

The same problem again. Note that this is an exit-only side road

Other mistakes point to a lack of experience in how to design for cycling. One stood out for me, shown in the photograph below.

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Here the cycleway (on the right) could merge into the cul-de-sac, a low traffic environment that could very easily form part of the route. Yet instead the designers have opted to continue the cycleway on a tiny, thin stretch of pavement on the right, sandwiched between parked cars and fast motor traffic only a few feet to the right.

Signs telling you where to go are helpful – but not when they are positioned right in the middle of where you actually want to cycle.

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Again, this points to a lack of experience in considering the specific needs and requirements of cycling as mode of transport, along with designing a cycleway that bumps up and down for every single residential entrance, leaving a corrugated cycleway!

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 02.41.15

One final, major problem is the town centre of Stanningley, about halfway along the route. Here there simply isn’t room for cycling infrastructure, so in brute terms the town has a motor traffic problem. There’s too much motor traffic on the high street, especially given the town has a bypass.

This motor traffic problem hasn’t been resolved. Instead the road through the town has been given a nice new gravel-infused tarmac surface (tellingly, the smoothest tarmac of the entire Leeds-Bradford superhighway!).

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 02.42.11

And the junctions in the town have been replaced with some very superficial hints at ‘shared space’ in roundabout form, a design that offers very little comfort to anyone cycling or walking. We saw an elderly lady hesitantly and very nervously attempting to cross the road here. To my mind a series of zebra crossings on the desire lines at the junction would be much more useful, and more beneficial to cycling too than the current half-hearted markings that are something of a free-for-all.

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 02.43.28

But really the problem is one of an excess of motor traffic – putting down nice, village-ish markings on what remains a very busy road won’t turn your town into a nice village, nor will it actually help people trying to get about within it on foot, or by bike. That motor traffic needs to be diverted onto the bypass, with access retained for residents and people visiting shops and properties.

More broadly, this fudge hints at some of the underlying problems with creating a high profile ‘route’ between two cities in a short space of time, given the inevitable problems of experience and expertise, combined with constraints imposed by councils unwilling to adversely impact drivers to even the slightest degree.

I came away from my visit to Leeds and Bradford with very mixed feelings. Positively, the route demonstrates that things can happen in other towns and cities across Britain, away from London, which attracts so much attention. Infrastructure can be built that will open up cycling as a mode of transport to people who might never have considered it. And there is at least now something established on the ground along these roads, good in places, bad in others, but something that can be improved upon.

On the negative side, the Leeds-Bradford cycleway demonstrates to me the need for clear, strong leadership in design, investment and implementation, to ensure that money being spent on cycling isn’t wasted on poor (and even dangerous) designs that will inevitably have to be fixed at a later date, as I suspect is true for a good deal of the route. It also demonstrates the need for clear political leadership at a national and local level, leadership that makes the case for modal shift, is willing to make tough choices in favour of it, and to face up to objections.

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49 Responses to A visit to the Leeds-Bradford Cycle Superhighway

  1. Andy R says:

    Quote: “…designs that will inevitably have to be fixed at a later date, as I suspect is true for a good deal of the route…”
    And there’s the rub. Now it’s in, unless (god forbid) something goes wrong – and we’re talking fatalities – I can’t see City Connect, LCC or BCC going back and re-modelling this. The track record of all those organisations suggests the scales won’t suddenly drop from their eyes, they won’t have a revelation and decide this route could be so much better. This is as good as this route’s ever going to be even if we somehow saw Embankment levels of cycling overwhelming its capacity.

  2. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head in the last paragraph, as to a degree the problem we have playing out over the country has been happening in London over the last few years whereby TFL & Boris often faced fierce opposition to the various proposals for the Cycle Superhighways from local boroughs but eventually they pushed on through and we are getting some genuinely good (and in some cases I’d almost consider using the word excellent!) cycle infrastructure with the E/W and N/S routes and they have been going back and re-doing junctions on the original CS7 which used to be little more then a bit of paint now has some good segregated sections that remove a lot of the conflicts.

    Over the country as a whole the lack of central government policy on this really shows as effectively they’ve just washed their hands of it and devolve all the decision making to local councils who invariably don’t bother or just plain don’t have a clue!

  3. Just on the point about surfaces, the usual reason some surfaces are bumpier than others is that they have been hand-laid rather than machine-rolled. If they council had any balls they would make the contractors go back and do the job properly.

    • Simon still says:

      We get this in London too. The cycle track across Clapham Common was relaid a few years back (wasn’t clear why as it was not in poor condition and the parallel pedestrian path wasn’t done at the same time). Previously it had a camber on and drained well. It was relaid without a camber and uneven. In the wet it has a layer of water over the whole surface, with larger puddles where it’s lower. In cold weather a surface layer of ice. I brought this up with Lambeth’s cycle officer and it was supposedly examined and declared within spec.

      • MJ Ray says:

        Can you find out what the spec is and then push to get it changed?

        Locally, cycling suffers the Norfolk Transport Asset Management Plan which is a disgraceful document that effectively says small blemishes on carriageways get filled, yet cycle tracks must have 30+% damaged surface before anything is done – and forget about them being built properly as policy. That mainly happens if the contractor takes pride in their work and doesn’t cut costs, or if they’ve got the proper equipment on site for building carriageways (where hand-laid washboard isn’t accepted) anyway.

  4. Anton Flugge says:

    This post nicely highlights an issue I have been thinking about for a while now: Is it necessary to go through a phase of bad infrastructure before we can get to good infrastructure or could we make the jump to good infrastructure directly? I think I am coming down on the opposite side to Andy R in his comment. I am now more or less convinced that there is probably no other way to first build bad infrastructure and then improve, even though it is a collosal waste of money, I believe it’s necessary for councillors to see people start using it, before they approve anything proper. In London we also first got bad super highways, before we now got better ones. In my birth town Frankfurt/Germany I have now seen for the last 25 years how conditions improve very gradually and get a little better every time I visit. It’s not great, because it means progress is so slow, but at least we see progress in more and more places. I would just wish my current home Oxford(shire) would be a little less behind… anyway, they start building bad cycle ways like the one discussed here slowly as well.

    • Jitensha Oni says:

      Not sure about that, I can think of plenty of tolerable UK infrastructure, some going back to the 30s. But I came on here to make the point that maybe we need stronger interventions against motor traffic than you get in the Netherlands and Denmark, where things have ‘bedded down” so to speak and a reasonable equilibrium has been achieved. For example, I would put a stop line on the exit to a side road before the cycle path crosses, and extremely damaging (if hit) bollards at the apex of the cycle path-carriageway divider at entrances to side roads. Funny how, when I put these things in consultations, they never get implemented. You’d think you can’t let the motors be damaged or drivers be culpable even through their own agency. Hey ho.

    • chrisrust says:

      I can’t agree. The Sustrans big push for the National Cycle Network at the Millennium resulted in a huge mileage of inadequate routes (rather than a smaller network of good routes). Much of that network is underused and fading away because it never attracted traffic so had never been improved.

      • Anton Flugge says:

        Of course I did not think about Sustrans “National cycle network” when I talked about bad cycle infrastructure 😉 From what I have seen from the “National cycle network” it’s not cycle infrastructure at all… maybe more seriously, I think one of the main problem with the “national cycle network” is that Sustrans vision for cycling is in the British tradition of seeing cycling as a hobby, recreational or sports activity. We don’t need “bad recreational cycle paths” as a first step, we might well need “bad commuter/utility cycle paths”.

        • chrisrust says:

          I think that’s a bit unfair to Sustrans, they started out with the Bath Bristol cycleway which is a very successful route for utility cyclists, they do a lot of work on active travel and safe routes to school, and cycle training as well as providing consultancy to Local Authorities on urban cycling provision. And the NCN was a good idea that has taken a lot of leisure travellers out of motor vehicles completely, rather than driving to the nearest bit of greenway for a ‘bike ride’. Leisure travel is travel and on the increase.

        • Bmblbzzz says:

          The Bristol–Bath path actually predates Sustrans, having been created by a body called Cyclebag, which then split into a riding group (Cyclebag East, still going) and a path-building organisation, Sustrans. More significantly, the NCN is mostly rural so can’t really be compared with the route in this post or infrastructure in London and other cities. All it does have in common with them is that it varies in standard and character enormously.

    • michael says:

      A good question. But it seems as if your answer requires some people to volunteer to use the bad infrastructure and get themselves whacked by cars for the greater good!

      (I have similar thoughts when faced with councils whose stated policy is only to consider looking at the design of junctions and roads when there have been a minimum number of deaths on them).

  5. Clive Durdle says:

    I would get heavy – contact the council auditors with detailed criticism like http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2011/08/but-we-have-driveways.html

  6. Mike says:

    Thank you, I enjoyed and learned from your article.

  7. HivemindX says:

    Personally I far prefer to be ‘reintroduced’ to the carriageway well before side roads. In my experience being off the road (on the footpath as far as many motorists are concerned) means at best that they expect you to yield and drive accordingly and at worst they literally don’t know you exist.

    This is not to excuse side roads with the sort of open curves designed to keep motorists speed up. Effectively on and off ramps for what I like to call half-assed pseudo motorways.

    • Mark Williams says:

      In my experience, a large proportion of motorists behave in exactly the same way even when you have been `reintroduced’ or never bade farewell. Also, bear in mind that most of the thermoplastic will have worn through once they have motored over it a few hundred thousand times.

  8. Bmblbzzz says:

    “It also demonstrates the need for clear political leadership at a national and local level, leadership that makes the case for modal shift, is willing to make tough choices in favour of it, and to face up to objections.”

    This, for me, is the most important point. And that leadership can be found in – a few – local authorities. What we’re completely lacking is any meaningful commitment at national level. Unfortunately I don’t see that happening while “the economy” (mostly meaning your wallet, including of course petrol/diesel prices) is electoral king.

  9. MJ Ray says:

    I feel the council responsible is being criminally lethal on that dangerous dooring-and-posts section next to the six-lane carriageway at many levels – including the designers who should have refused to produce plans for such deadly obstacles, the executive who should have refused to approve such plans and the contractors who should have refused to build such obvious meat-grinders – but even if anyone is killed, I doubt government will be held to account for its misdeeds.

    • Fee says:

      Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. People are held accountable and convictions do occur.

  10. Jim says:

    Good article. I have a few ‘gripes’ with this project.
    1 – The bus stop slaloms are utterly ridiculous, even more so because people stood waiting for a bus often do in the middle of the cycle path.
    2 – I’m curious to know whether the path will be swept of debris / broken glass & gritted in winter.
    3 – Motorists are now of the opinion that all cyclists MUST use the cycle path and are not allowed on the main carriageway. Given the shortcomings (not yet finished, appalling surface in parts, bus stops, being forced to give way to traffic turning right / into domestic residences / businesses) I’m still using the road. Verbal assaults from motorists are now a daily occurrence. Physical assaults (cars deliberately swerving into your path etc) a weekly one.
    Having visited Copenhagen recently I was struck with how little road furniture they have to ease cycling – it’s purely a state of mind that motorised transport cedes to non-motorised, rather than throwing money at contractors.

    • MJ Ray says:

      1 – the bus shelters seem to be facing the wrong way. This is partly they are so narrow that installing them the usual way round for such bypasses would make it obvious that the island is too narrow, just like everything else in the layout. They’ve squeezed everything into too little width, rather than take anything from the carriageway.
      2 – I suspect it’ll probably be swept and treated like a footway. I don’t know what the councils there currently do and if it’s enough. Norfolk is mostly on-demand and they refuse to de-ice cycle tracks.
      3 – Report them to the police.
      4 – Yes, the lateness of this project makes its design screwups even less excusable.

      I’ve not been to Copenhagen, but what I read suggests there is some substantial road furniture, as well as the sort of mindset you get from more people cycling. How do we get to more people cycling without modernised the roads, though? (Leaving aside that Leeds/Bradford seem to have failed to improve things with this particular project.)

  11. Fee says:

    The Leeds Bradford ‘city connect’ as an example of what not to do when designing infrastructure for NMUs. Its dangerous for all users (drivers, cyclists and pedestrians). I doubt the safety audit will be made public, though it would make interesting reading.

    Sure the idea of the city link was great, but the routing of it along the busiest roads in the area was beyond moronic. The reason why most of these cycle routes do not take space from the carriageway is that they are already over capacity and some are motorway diversion routes. I don’t want to cycle along side that. That the routes take from the pedestrian facility is even more stupid as quite now along several footways, a parent cannot push a pushchair along as it is too narrow.

    I’m a local tax payer and shudder to see bodged schemes like this, you realise that every pot hole costs money to repair and pay for repairs of vehicles damaged by the defect (they cost millions to councils). The cost of repair for each authority is going to make that paltry £30m seem like chump change in a very short while. Didn’t help that they were doing the work in winter.

    It would nice if the future phases of the scheme was programmed more holistically using the same team of workmen and designers to build on skills and experience… not holding my breath

    • Mark Williams says:

      You don’t want to cycle alongside it, but you do want [other people?] to push pushchairs alongside it? Weird! You must have a very strange definition of `over capacity’ given that the pictures show largely empty carriageways. Not sure what potholes you are referring to (spotted one blocked drain, though), but the councils almost certainly won’t be shelling out a single GBP if the vehicles are pedal cycles. The idea that motorways need (or, indeed, even ought to have) diversionary routes which somehow take precedence over cycle routes at any time is the only `beyond moronic’ part.

  12. Hi there, I’m a journalist for Yorkshire-Voice. I’m writing an article about the cycle superhighway and I would like to quote your blog. I couldn’t find any contact details on here to ask permission. I’d appreciate it if you could get back to me, my email is leonie.stanton@hotmail.co.uk


  13. Joe Vorlicky says:

    In short – an unmitigated disaster. Other people, spending other people’s money on what other people tell them are other people’s problems.

    The reason there is a slight trend towards more journeys being undertaken by bicycle is because travelling by car at rush hour is becoming increasingly slow and expensive, not because there is now “better cycling infrastructure”. I just love it how Cycle City Connect are hijacking the situation and using it to “prove” how successful the Cycle Not-So-Super Highway is. Quite cynical.

    If Cycle City Connect wanted to make a piece of “segregated cycling infrastructure”, then why the heck didn’t they do that? They could have used the back streets, the bridleways, the footpaths, the canals… The Cycle Not-So-Super Highway is the antonym of segregation. It forces the cyclist into MORE conflict with other road users. The bus stop design is at best comical and at worse lethal.

    No, Leeds City Council rushed to make a “plan” so they would get the money which was up for grabs (a European Union grant). In their own words to me “if Leeds hadn’t got the money, some other city would have got it instead.” [mouths agape]

    Most “inexperienced cyclists lacking confidence” will not want to cycle along dual carriageways – “segregated” by a kerb or not (those awkward side roads).

    Anyway, kerbs don’t make things any safer. Ask the families of the poor people killed by that bin lorry in Glasgow.

    The latest reason people give for not wanting to cycle is the “fumes”. They don’t any longer feel able to use “danger” as the reason, now that we have a wonderfully signed, safe and segregated super highway… [tongue in cheek]

    Of course, anyone who cycles knows why most people don’t cycle.

    As a cyclist commuting I am peed off by the Cycle Not-So Super Highway.
    As a motorist I am peed off by the Cycle Not-So Super Highway.
    As a walker with my kids I am peed off by the Cycle Not-So Super Highway.

    Correction – I shouldn’t use the word “cyclist” – Cycle City Connect in Leeds don’t like it. It implies that cycling is “elitist” and they think that this “elitism” is putting people off riding bicycles. I should use the phrase “a person who chooses to use a bicycle to get from A to B”.

    • michael says:

      Yup. ‘Cyclist’ implies a different kind of person. Often used in a dehumanising way.

      ‘Someone using a bicycle’ is indeed a better way to describe it, though its a bit cumbesome sometimes. It’s a bit like how ‘Jewish person’ or ‘black person’ is better than ‘Jew’ or ‘Black’ as a noun.

      I know why most people don’t cycle – its because they think its too dangerous. That’s certainly why I didn’t for most of my life. I still think I had a point (I just hadn’t realised the positives).

      As for that lorry in Glasgow (and, for that matter, the terror attacks in Nice and Berlin) – for me that just emphasises we need more, and stronger, restrictions on where motorised vehicles are allowed to go. i.e. more segregation, not less.

    • michael says:

      “They could have used the back streets, the bridleways, the footpaths, the canals”

      All of those are crap for cycling. Backstreets are convoluted and indirect, take a long time and make it easy to get lost, and tend to have a combination of cars parked on both sides and rat-running motorists speeding down the middle.

      Bridleways tend to be unsurfaced and churned up by horses hooves (and don’t even exist in much of the country). Footpaths are for pedestrians, hence useless for cycliing and just likely to create conflict. The Canals are full of water (or if you mean the canal towpaths again full of pedestrians).

      What’s needed is proper segregation, more through-routes blocked off for cars by bollards, and more pedestrianisation. Essentially car traffic needs to be much more restricted.

      • Joe Vorlicky says:

        Michael, my basic view is that trying to build “Cycling Infrastructure” is an exercise in futility. Far too many things would need to change to make British towns and cities (back roads or otherwise) “cycling friendly”. The fact is that the Cycle Superhighway is not “segregated”, as marketed. It solves no problems, and creates new ones.

        I do not wish to be like Don Quixote, wasting his life shouting at forces which were totally beyond his control…

        The forces I am talking about are (this list is by no means exhaustive):

        1. The culture of living in the suburbs.

        2. The culture of earning money at locations miles from home (usually within towns and cities).

        3. The huge forces of marketing, which although not bad in themselves, leave most people salivating for the latest motor vehicle.

        4. The easy availability of expensive credit (often provided by aforementioned automobile industry), meaning that people need to go to work to pay the debt and interest on the money they borrowed to buy the car they use to get to work… ad infinitum.

        These are huge forces, which cannot be countered by a £30m expenditure of public money on an utterly crap piece of “cycling infrastructure” which will not encourage cycling.

        The force of inertia, keeping things the same, is the greatest force of all.

        The only way things change is gradually, through the actions of individuals, as they react to the situation they are in. An example of this is us, taking to our bicycles to commute. The idea of crawling our cars into town, especially to go to work for someone else, fills us with horror. We enjoy driving too much! The more people cycle, out of frustration from using their cars at the wrong times, in the wrong places, for the wrong reasons (and in the wrong manner), the easier cycling life will get, and the easier it will be to justify expenditure on properly designed and built infrastructure. But don’t hold your breath, please. In the meantime, I take my place in the road, whilst assuming nothing, and making sure I see and am seen. I know this approach is not for everyone – they have a choice of routes and methods. One of the choices not available to them is Dutch style infrastructure. And it will not happen here in 100 years.

        Trying to force change from above is almost never successful and usually makes the situation worse… my cycling commute to work has not been made easier or safer as a result of the Cycle Superhighway – my experience is most certainly that the opposite is now the case. As I predicted, and as I told them it would be, before the project was given the green light.

        As for saying that we need to ban trucks to prevent things like the Glasgow bin lorry, or the attacks in Nice and Berlin… are you completely bonkers, or are you saying it tongue-in-cheek?! Should the food be delivered to the shops from the motorways in little baskets, carried by friendly pixies going no faster than 4 mph?!

        All the best,


        • Matthew Phillips says:

          You say “One of the choices not available to them is Dutch style infrastructure. And it will not happen here in 100 years.”.

          But the Dutch did not have Dutch-style infrastructure in the 1970s, and yet by the mid-1980s they had built enough to make a difference. Not sure from your comment whether you didn’t know that, or whether you’re pessimistic it could ever occur in Britain (or Leeds).

          The infrastructure in London is going the right way, and the Highways Agency guidance (IAN 195/16) now requires good provision for cycling along and across the strategic road network, so these changes could happen in the UK. They can be hastened if more of us push for them.

          See http://www.standardsforhighways.co.uk/ha/standards/ians/pdfs/ian195.pdf for the interim advice note and https://cycletraffic-elearning.com/ for a training module for highways engineers.

        • michael says:

          I didn’t say ‘banned’, I said more restrictions on where they are allowed to go. More physical barriers and road designs to make higher speed difficult. There’s no reason why ever-larger lorries need to go everywhere (at any speed), including on roads that are quite obviously unsuitable for them (why are the routed round here on routes that require them to drive over pavements to make turns at junctions, for example?). There has been a growth in the number of large lorries on urban roads and its not a natural or God-decreed development, it’s a choice.

          In Nice, in particular, there seemed to be no reason why trucks should have been allowed to physically access the pedestrian-filled boardwalk.

          While you are absolutely right that changing infrastructure is going to be very difficult and might not happen in our lifetime (though, to he honest, I don’t personally care that greatly what happens outside London, as I hardly ever go there), your alternative suggestion (that individuals just decide to cycle a bit, no matter how unpleasant or dangerous it is) appears to me to be a complete non-starter.

          That’s what’s been tried for not far off a century now, with absolutely no success whatsoever (on the contrary, we’ve gone backwards). I constantly think of giving up myself, and I don’t know any friends or family who would even consider cycling on the roads as they are. Nobody wants to follow your suggestion, that’s the problem.

          If anything is an ‘exercise in futility’, it’s that, surely?

          • Joe Vorlicky says:

            Is there really a problem? Most people seem to love sitting in their nice warm cars listening to their favourite tracks… I don’t. So I cycle.

            • pm says:

              The ‘problem’ is that a city dominated by cars is unpleasant and unhealthy to live in, and that car-culture is an ongoing public health emergency (two more pieces of bad news about that this very week – the dementia study and the news that london is massively breaching air-quality rules).

              We need fewer trips being made by car, and those that are made need to be kept as far away as possible from the rest of us. I felt the same when I was exclusively a pedestrian as I do as a cyclist.

              Cars kill people in substantial numbers, tens of thousands a year in this country alone. I’d say that is a problem.

              The bike is a good way to reduce car use, so I favour encouraging it whether or not I cycle myself.

              • vorlic says:

                Cities are not dominated by cars. Cities (in this country) are dominated by PEOPLE who want to drive their cars – I have detailed on this thread what I believe are four of the biggest reasons for this.

                Regarding the work of “Researchers” justifying their “degrees” and “doctorates” with such studies as “Analysis of Modal Sociological Shifts of Changing Urban Lifestyles Amongst The Bottom 10 Percentile Of The Typical Inner Outer Suburban City Person” (I made that up, it’s good, isn’t it) …. – it’s all tosh. Someone show them a proper day’s work.

                Air quality rules – has it occurred to you that the rules are written by a population in Brussels who are overly-educated, overly-privileged and under-resourced in the common-sense department? I don’t like to turn the folks into bogeymen per se, but this is definitely an example of legislation gone totally berserk. Remember – they were the ones telling us we should all be driving diesel cars! Petrol, on the other hand, burns very cleanly.

                I agree we need fewer trips made by car, but you can’t force change like that from above. You see, people (often wrongly) equate their cars with their freedom.

                Cars do NOT kill people in substantial numbers – no – PEOPLE kill people in substantial numbers – often simply by driving terribly.

                The bike is a good way to reduce MY car use, MY fuel costs, MY wasted time. And so, I do actually cycle myself! Cycling is mostly good fun, too.

        • Mark Williams says:

          It’s sweet that you believe Leeds council’s intentions are so benevolent :-/!

          Cycling fallacy #25: [current] UK highway engineers are extraordinarily bad at designing cycle infrastructure, therefore none should be built.

          But as a matter of interest, why are you `peed off by the Cycle Not-So Super Highway’ as a motorist? Very little needs to be done to make it `cycling friendly’: just get rid of all of the motor vehicles (and disconnect the motor traffic lights, etc.). If you insist on ever more motoring—as most cycle campaign groups (including CEOGB?) do—then at least be clear where the source of any cost and complexity lies…

  14. Joe Vorlicky says:

    Is there really a problem? Most people seem to love sitting in their nice warm cars listening to their favourite tracks… I don’t. So I cycle.

    • Hello Joe

      I’d like to make some remarks relating to several of your earlier comments.

      Suppose I decide that I’d like to travel by train, but I live in a village with no train line. Of course I can’t take the train. My point is that people’s options are shaped by the infrastructure around them. For many people (most I think) cycling on busy main roads is so unpleasant as to be basically impossible. Cycling is not an option available to them, because the infrastructure is not there, just as taking the train is not an option when there is no train line.

      Is the construction of infrastructure not inevitably top-down, at least to some extent? Consider the construction of the railways, or of motorways.

      When you talk about Dutch-style infrastructure not happening here in 100 years, I’m not sure if you are referring to the UK or just Leeds and Bradford? A Dutch friend of mine cycled around London recently and remarked that the cycle path along Embankment is rather good. Dutch-style infrastructure is being built in the UK, albeit in very small amounts.

      From your list of huge forces, do you not think that some or all of these might also apply in countries with lots of cycling? I’d suggest that they might.

      I’m sure we can agree that the implementation of this cycle “superhighway” is poor. It doesn’t necessarily follow that the concept is wrong.


      • vorlic says:

        Hi Stephen,

        If you live in a village miles from anywhere with dependencies on employment/amenities not provided by said village – move closer to the amenities/employment. Simples.

        Cycling is beautiful because it does not need infrastructure. If I wish to piggyback infrastructure which was, let’s face it, built for motor vehicles, then I am free to do so – legally, practically, necessarily and safely.

        Embankment in London is 1 road. VERY small amounts of Dutch style infrastructure, I agree.

        Concepts can be fantastic. However, what really matters is the RESULT.

  15. vorlic says:

    Hi Stephen,

    If you live in a village miles from anywhere with dependencies on employment/amenities not provided by said village – move closer to the amenities/employment. Simples.

    Cycling is beautiful because it does not need infrastructure. If I wish to piggyback infrastructure which was, let’s face it, built for motor vehicles, then I am free to do so – legally, practically, necessarily and safely.

    Embankment in London is 1 road. VERY small amounts of Dutch style infrastructure, I agree.

    Concepts can be fantastic. However, what really matters is the RESULT.

  16. Trevor Jesson says:

    Hi, I am a bus driver who drives daily on the A64 between Seacroft and Leeds City Centre. I am also a keen cyclist.
    I “suffered” the traffic chaos caused by the building of the cycling superhighway along this part of the route. The roadworks took over a year, and over ran as they kept making mistakes at the busy Halton Dial junction. My thoughts are that this is a wasted opportunity. The problems that Stephen refers to on the section around Stanningley apply equally to the section between Seacroft and Leeds.
    Since it opened in October last year, I Have seen very few cyclists using it. Most “serious” cyclists still use the road, as they probably feel safer with the traffic. The cycle lane is good for kids and “leisure” cyclists travelling short distances.
    My view is that this is a missed opportunity. Lets hope that future projects will learn from mistakes made with this one and that we could have some national standards applied. What this takes is political will; sadly this is lacking at the moment, as we have a Transport secretary who thinks that Quote: “cyclists are not road users” !!!!!!!!!
    how very dispiriting

    Trevor Jesson

    • Trevor, I cycle along the a64 from Garforth to Leeds every day.
      I use bits of the new cycle lane where it works and use the road (or bus lanes which are still signed as cycle routes) where the cycle path is too narrow / too congested / has too many points where it gives way to motorists.
      One interesting point I have been discussing with city connect – the Seacroft section is not yet officially open, has not been fully signed or had all the coloured tarmac completed and has not yet had its safety audit. There are also remedial works yet to complete. As a result there is no maintenance schedule in place (no sweeping or gritting).
      All this puts the cyclist in a no man’s land – expected to use the cycle path by motorists purely because of the taxation cost, but essentially using an unsafe route.
      The whole thing to me is an exercise in doing things half-heartedly.

    • MJ Ray says:

      The cycle lane isn’t good for kids and “leisure” cyclists travelling short distances – they don’t like obstacle courses either, you know! I agree it’s a missed opportunity.

  17. Pingback: Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network – Junctions (1) | As Easy As Riding A Bike

  18. Benjamin says:

    I must have cycled along here almost 100 times now from Thornbury. And i’d rather cycle into Leeds city centre than drive my car, especially during rush hours. And I never knew ‘door opening zones’ were indicated by the pale surfacing until I read this article, I thought it was just a bad job at laying the surface.
    What are my impressions of using this cycle lane?… Well, first off it does the job getting me into Leeds by bike and I’ve never had a problem with the bus stops. But then I respect the fact that Im commuting, by cycling with care, I have another bike and other routes that I use for quote “serious” hard workouts. This was never meant to be the Manchester Velodrome. Cyclists need to remember there is a difference between commuting and chasing Strava segments.
    The cycle superhighway is much safer than cycling on the 6 lane road where some cars drive at dangerous speeds.
    The 2nd point is who ever designed the utter atrocious road layout at Stanningley needs to be sacked, here the cycle lane and any road markings simply disappear, whoever thought that was a good idea is a naive idiot. The road here isn’t narrow! I’ve also found the cycle lane oddly disappears at Wellington St when cycling into Leeds city centre.
    Point 3, I get the impression that different contractors did different stretches of cycle lane. As the quality is inconsistent. On Stanningley road heading into Leeds, once past the fire station, the cycle lane is well made. Going down hill on Armley Rd is also a good stretch. While sections at Thornbury on Bradford Rd (where the ‘door zone’ photograph was taken) are quite poor quality. I agree with another comment that the Councils should get the contractors to do it again, as surely the work hasn’t been done to a decent standard in the specification.
    Point 4, is this cycle superhighway swept? As I’m always getting punctures due to the broken glass and debris.

  19. Redders says:

    Having read your post on the subject, I decided to cycle the Rawden to Leeds cycle highway and the Leeds to Bradford City Connect in one go. I thought a Saturday would be an ideal test for the journey. The route from Rawden to Leeds was easy enough, its practically all downhill. I got a little bit lost terminating the cycle highway in Leeds to join the City Connect route but I found it after a minute or two without much bother.

    The City Connect route requires more thought from the rider to ensure they get on the correct side of the main road to be on the right cycle path to Bradford as it has some branches off that can be a bit confusing. It was a surprise for me that the route vanished through Stanningley but given the width of the road its understandable.

    My issues only really began once I got nearer to the Bradford end. I experienced cars parked in the bike lane, pedestrians standing and walking in the bike lane and drivers crossing the bike lane without paying any attention to the give way signs on the road prioritizing the cyclists.

    Once I got to Bradford, I followed the cycle route out to Shipley and then back home to Rawden.

    I think if I were the ride the route again I would be able to follow it easily enough now that I know when to cross from one side of the carriageway to the other.

    I found the traffic light system for the cyclists very helpful. Although the road surfaces aren’t ideal in parts it wasn’t an issue.

    I would say that if, as a cyclist, you consider that car drivers will run you over and cannot be trusted to do the right thing by the highway code, then you shouldn’t suffer any nasty surprises when exploring this route.

    All in all, I found the route to be safe enough and it was great improvement on having to ride along the roads, even if it is a bit steep for some cyclists coming out of Bradford, and yes, I practiced the Bradford to Woodhall bit on the day before.

  20. David Miller says:

    So three years have passed since the original post and two since the last comment, so I thought I’d throw in my thoughts and limited experience of the route and perhaps re-open the discussion with a devil’s advocated, ‘what’s the point’ of this cycle path? Admittedly, money has been spent on a mostly safer cycling corridor between Leeds and Bradford, but it is currently much underused and already falling into disrepair in places. Why? Because of the number of toucan crossings and other speed retarding obstacles they are expected to negotiate, most commuting cyclists who need to get into Leeds or Bradford relatively quickly along the Seacroft (into Leeds) or Stanningley (into Bradford) sections don’t use it as intended. The more casual user also has the sheer terror of the access roads leading to and from the route itself. A far better use of the money in my opinion would have been to improve existing unsafe cycling routes within our cities and upgrade our suburban trains and stations to better accommodate our bikes. After all, the majority of cycle journeys are relatively short (between 3 and 8 km) and for commuting, they are usually between home and work. The number of people living in one city and working in the other is probably very small indeed. Are local people living nearby likely to be better off if access to and from the route remains poor and unlikely to improve in the near future? Without reducing traffic congestion overall, lack of safe access will definitely deter most people from even trying to use these superhighways. But I’m afraid that it will require much more than just money being thrown at the problem. A major shift in policy all the way from planning to delivering better, cheaper and safer integrated transport options is needed if we are ever to persuade more people to seriously consider cycling, particularly electrically assisted cycling rather than motoring to work. How that is going to be achieved is for another discussion, but the opening of poorly designed, inaccessible and so generally ignored cycle links between our cities is not the solution. And don’t get me started on the lack of secure parking for our bikes wherever we leave them in our cities these days!

    • Mark Williams says:

      Where is the promised ‘devil’s advocate’ part? The only controversial part of your comment is the naive belief that there was any intention to invest significant money for cycling infrastructure in a spades in the ground sense. In reality the game being played is what proportion of the money can we get away with purloining whether by consultants or highwaymen (rarely women!) in the permanent civil service. About 99 % seems to be the going rate…

      To get substantial and sustained modal shift to cycling given the continuing mess created by the motoring lobby; real protected cycleways—and not merely further crap token footway rebodging—are going to have to be everywhere. Within urban areas, within [busy-ish] rural areas and between them all. I bet nobody ever baulked at the idea of bulldozing multiple massive redundant carriageways for motoring between Leeds and Bradford, regardless of the already endemic grotesque levels of waste?

      • David Bamford says:

        I’ve just moved to Farsley temporarily and therefore have started using this regularly to get into Leeds. I do appreciate the route as it means I can cycle to Leeds and don’t have to drive and think it can be used on to build a network in Leeds. I think the easy wins for this involve a proper link (not shared space) between Armley Road and Wellington Street and some conversion of neighbourhoods at the Armley end from high traffic neighbourhoods to low traffic neighbourhoods.

  21. Peter Richard Haughton says:

    Excellent comments I’ve used part of the superhighway cycling from Bradford to Leeds (fromBradford Moor through Stanningley diverting to continue via Bromley to head into Kirkstall and the use the towpath) and what you say is really relevant. I think I am a confident cyclist but would it wish anyone less confident using the part I was on – there were so many times that I felt vulnerable for the reasons you mentioned.

    You’re right though that it’s something of a start having this continuous link. But hasn’t got sufficient safety to take families with youngsters by bike yet – it’s just too dangerous and, for the section I cycled there’s no way it could be considered ‘super’,

    Let’s hope that’s rectified as soon as possible.

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