Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Coventry Gateway - Cycle Route Detailed Response

Below is my more detailed response to Warwick District Council, in respect of cycling provision to and around the Gateway project:

FAO: Rob Young
Planning Department, Warwick District Council

Dear Mr Young,

As I am sure you are aware, a list of potential cycle routes to be provided as part of the section 106 agreement for the Coventry Gateway project was released at a very late stage just before the meeting at Coventry City Council on Thursday evening. I hope therefore that you will excuse me for making this late submission, which supplements the comments I have already made in my email of 3rd December.

Whilst I understand that Coventry City Council has already granted outline planning permission to this proposal, it was minuted that cycling provision needed further attention, and it was also noted that as the development evolved, it should follow best practice.

Whilst I remain firmly in support of the opportunities this new project can bring, I still feel there is plenty of room for improvement with regards to non motorised access.

Yours Sincerely,

James Avery MA


Additional comments on 13th December cycling provision

The outline commitment to spend £2.5 million on cycling provision as part of the Coventry Gateway scheme should be warmly welcomed, with a number of general provisos:

General comments:

1.      Design - Cycling infrastructure is only as good as the designers make it. At present, most proposed cycle routes have either been bolted on to road plans or have been provided as stand-alone routes within parkland, with little integration between them. Good design need not necessarily cost more, but it is essential that it is done right from the start, as retrofitting mistakes later is a very costly process.
2.      Modal Share - Cycling currently has a modal share of around 4% in the business parks around the airport, yet the target is only to raise this to 5%. This represents a mere 25% growth, whilst other cities in the UK have far more ambitious cycling growth targets, even if starting from low baselines. For example, Transport for London have a target to increase cycling fourfold by 2025. Meanwhile, Dutch new towns such as Houten have both set and met cycling targets as high as 60% of journeys. The Dutch average is around 27% of commuter journeys by bike, with Cambridge in the UK also having reached this level.
3.      Raised targets - Given the proposed Cycle Coventry investment, Coventry as a whole could be aiming for as much as 15% of journeys to be by bike within the next decade, whilst newly master-planned developments could even be above this rate.
4.      Bus comparison - With a target of 15% of journeys by bike, supplemented by another 5% of journeys on foot, pedestrian and cycling infrastructure could deliver more people to the Gateway site than the 15% being proposed for bus infrastructure.
The proposed capital investment in high quality bus routes is £5 million, combined with a 10 year route subsidy of up to £1.25m per year, giving a total of as much as £17.5 million. Hence, the effective funding provision for bus services could be around SEVEN times the provision for cycling and walking, even though cycling and walking routes provide a far more flexible network than buses ever can, whilst also providing far greater environmental benefits, together with huge benefits for physical and mental health. Would it therefore be entirely unreasonable to ask for £5 million for cycling and walking?
5.     Bus alternatives - the proposed 21 "extended" route takes a very long (approx 11 miles, 50 mins) route to reach the Gateway site from Wood End via the city centre. It would be quicker to cycle a more direct route via Wyken and Willenhall (approx 7 miles, 30-40 mins), and modal targets should reflect this. Additionally, as many jobs in the warehousing units will involve night shifts, cycling provision can provide access buses can't, whilst being far more affordable than driving, especially for younger staff who face exorbitant insurance premiums.
6.      Motivations - There are a wide range of motivations for cycling and walking, and these include recreational reasons as well as for transport. In order to appeal to the recreational user in particular, routes should avoid busy road corridors as much is possible, and in particular, any route alongside the A45 is significantly less desirable than a route which is either away from traffic or which is at least on a quieter road.
7.      Segregation - most cycle routes around the site are "shared use" between pedestrians and cyclists. This does not provide the best quality option for either, and is rarely used in Dutch cities, where cycling rates are much higher. If developers are serious about encouraging cycling, cyclists and pedestrians should be kept apart.
8.      Staggered crossings are very difficult to use for cyclists as they create a space conflict in the refuge area. Crossings should ideally use sensors to detect the approach of pedestrians and cyclists, and they should have very fast response times.
9.      Timing - No details have been provided about when the cycling infrastructure would be put in place. Ideally, this should be done at the earliest possible opportunity, as unlike bus infrastructure, cycling improvements are not dependent upon building up a certain critical mass of passengers in order for them to be viable.

I have included comments for areas in both Coventry and Warwick District, as cycling provision from both affects the ability of the whole project to meet traffic reduction targets.
It is also worth pointing out that there is often a symbiotic relationship between the two areas, with Coventry providing employment opportunities for Warwickshire residents, whilst many green spaces enjoyed by Coventry residents are in Warwickshire.

Specific comments about proposed routes

Within Coventry:

1.      The Sowe Valley route, which would incorporate a continuous path from London road to the Alan Higgs centre and then alongside Allard Way (exactly where is not clear, a map is needed), before continuing across Binley Road and Clifford bridge road to Walsgrave Hospital, is extremely welcome. This route becomes even more useful as a recreational corridor when it is combined with the proposed Cycle Coventry route which would continue to Henley College and beyond along the Sowe Valley.
However, a number of concerns remain. Firstly, why did this route start at London Road? Early site drawings showed a potential route starting from the Jaguar site at Whitley. Surely, it is in the best interests of the developer to have a route which integrates fully with the units they are developing?
Secondly, it is unclear whether the route on Allard Way would be new, or whether it would use the existing paths?
Finally, whilst this route creates an outstanding opportunity as a leisure route, many cyclists might well still prefer to use routes such as Clifford Bridge Road, as they are more direct. Additionally, these roads provide access to a number of housing areas in the east of the city. Upgrading these roads with measures such as speed restrictions, junction improvements and on carriageway cycle lanes should additionally be considered, especially as this could be done at a much lower cost per mile than the Sowe route.
2.      The Humber Road already has some cycle paths on it, but they are poorly designed, especially at junctions. Would these be upgraded, or would they just be incorporated as part of a longer route, but kept as they are? What is the main intended destination of this route? Quieter roads might be provided to the west of the former railway line which then becomes the A444, in a way which links up with the proposed Cycle Coventry paths heading towards both Foleshill and Stoke Heath. Far more importantly, this route should provide a connection through to the city centre. The suggestion that this route would terminate on Binley Road, which then uses the bus lane on Sky Blue Way to reach the city centre does not create a particularly safe or pleasant route, especially for novice cyclists. There are a number of much quieter roads, such as Humber Avenue, which could provide a more amenable route into the city centre.
3.      Tollbar to Chace Avenue - this is welcome, but yet again, a map is needed.
Whitley Island to Riverside close – again, a map is needed.
Whitley Island toucan crossing – as per comments above, this would be a poor substitute for an existing subway, if that is the intention. Considering that the path is already below grade, and that subways do not require waiting on the part of either non-motorised users or the traffic above.
As with so many infrastructure types, subways are not inherently a bad idea, but they need to be well lit and easy to use. For example, the city of Plymouth has an expansive subway network, which feels safe at night, due to the usage of whitewashing and bright lighting.
4.      Howes Lane – again, it is unclear just where a 200 m cycle route would go here? On quieter roads, junction modifications are far more important than the provision of off carriageway lanes. Why is there no mention of using the existing road through Baginton?
5.      Toucan Saint James' Road & London Road – it is unclear why this would be needed, when cycle signals should be integrated within the existing junction structure.
6.      City Centre – the major omission from these proposed routes is a protected corridor from the Gateway site through Cheylesmore into the city centre. This might not require segregation from motorised traffic, but it does require designation, signage and quality junctions.
Given the size of this development,  a route through Cheylesmore would be in addition to a route through Willenhall.
For example, in the Dutch city of Utrecht, there are 3 routes between the University complex and the city centre.

Warwick District / Warwickshire County:

Note: 15 routes are proposed within the boundaries of Coventry, but just four in Warwickshire, two of which are within the Gateway area, and one which is a continuation of a route in Coventry.

1.      Rowley Road – this route would be particularly welcome as it is a much more pleasant alternative to using the A45 corridor.
2.      Siskin Drive to Zone A connection – this could be a prime example filtered permeability, which revolves around providing more direct routes for cyclists and pedestrians.
Again, a map is still needed – how will this integrate between the two business park sites, and will it integrate with the proposed park?
3.      A45 Toll Bar to Ryton – Whilst this might provide the start of a relatively straight route from Ryton towards the centre of Coventry, it is of little use to the Gateway site itself.
As per my earlier submission, would it not be far more beneficial to upgrade existing footpaths running through Ryton Lodge and accessing the Gateway site via Rock Spinney? Mention is made of a "possible" bridge at this point. This bridge should be essential, in order to provide the traffic free connectivity that is needed.
4.      ProLogis  - Any direct cycleway provision from Toll Bar to Ryton could use the A423 instead, thus also providing access to the ProLogis Park.
5.      Bubbenhall - As per earlier submission, no direct connection is provided between Bubbenhall and the southern part of the Gateway site. This could also be provided by upgrading footpaths via Rock Spinney.
6.      Stoneleigh - Is there an opportunity to provide a more direct link with Stoneleigh, using a direct link between Black Spinney and the southern part of the Gateway site?
7.      Warwick, Leamington, and in particular Lillington and Cubbington are all within cycling commuting distance of the Gateway site. A relatively low traffic route already exists using Coventry Road out of Cubbington and then turning right at Tantara Lodge and then either continuing through Bubbenhall or through to Baginton using the Bubbenhall Road, which will by then be free of motorised traffic. The major intervention that would be beneficial for this route is a safe crossing of the A445.
8.      Kenilworth is also comfortably within cycle commuting distance of the Gateway project, but proposed changes to the Stoneleigh junction on the A46 do not favour cyclists (they don't even have advance stop lines). Would the ideal route use Dalehouse Lane as far as this junction, and then run alongside Finham Brook before joining Kings Hill Lane and then running through Finham, as per above?
9.      Kenilworth to Gateway South - Cyclists accessing the southern part of the Gateway project might prefer to use the B4115 and then to continue through Stoneleigh, as per above.

The proposal to include more than 1 km² of parkland as part of the Gateway development should of course be very welcome. However, in its current form, the proposed park only has very limited use.

Whatever understandable objections many local residents have made about the loss of green belt, there is a utilitarian argument which would say that the Gateway could still provide a net gain in amenity if it provides new parkland to offset the land taken, and also if land that is currently inaccessible is opened up for leisure purposes.

Consider the flaws with the current park proposal:

1.      Only directly accessible from Baginton – no direct pathway provision to either Bubbenhall or Ryton.
2.      No parking provision to the largest areas of parkland to the south of the airport runway.
3.      Toll Bar - Park is only  accessible from Willenhall via unpleasant crossing of Toll Bar junction.
4.      Doubling Back - walking, jogging and cycling trails only available with doubling back – no continuity provided with otherrecreational sites.
5.      No links to park from Middlemarch Business Park or proposed southern edge of Gateway. Surely some staff will want to use this valuable space during their lunch breaks?

Making parkland more useful:

·                     Provide a bridge across the River Avon to facilitate a recreational (and transport) trail to Bubbenhall and to Ryton, as mentioned above.
·                     Provide car parking space, and/or negotiate ability to use office car parks during weekends, when park will be at its busiest.
·                     Provide more detail about the sort of leisure activities which this parkland could support, such as children's play areas, adventure parks, and boating lakes.
·                     Provide a (below grade) crossing of the A45 at Ryton Bridge and a route across Brandon Lane through to Willenhall Wood (subject to land ownership issues).
·                     Provide a pedestrian pathway between the Holiday Inn hotel and the business parks. Potentially seek funding from hotel towards this.
·                     Provide a crossing of the A445 in Bubbenhall to create continuously linked access between the Gateway Park and Ryton Pools Country Park. This will also link into the off-road trail which runs to Nunswood Farm, and then provides a low traffic route through to Stretton on Dunsmore and even Draycote Water. However the crossing of the A423 is a hazard here.

"Super Park"

The Gateway project could provide an even bigger opportunity to create a network of some 20 linked parks in eastern Coventry and the neighbouring countryside areas.

This proposal might well be outside the current remit of the Gateway project, but there is no reason why the Gateway couldn't be a catalyst for something like this to start happening.

Loop - the park would start in the Sowe Valley in Baginton, and would run in a loop, taking in the Lunt Fort, Whitley Grove, the area around the Alan Higgs Centre and Allard Way, with a link provided to Coombe Abbey, Brandon Wood, Ryton Pools, Brandon Marsh nature reserve and then running through the proposed parkland to the south of the Gateway site. A great deal of this loop is either already existing, or would be created by routes already proposed as part of the project (largely existing or planned).

Sowe Valley North - to the north, the Sowe Valley corridor could be used to run past Walsgrave Hospital, then Wyken Croft, Bell Green, Wyken Pools nature reserve and then provide a link through to Alderman's Green to the west and to the Oxford Canal to the North. The canal then provides an existing continuous linked park between Coventry, Bedworth Nuneaton and beyond and also east to Rugby and beyond. (existing as far as M6)

Whitley Common  - to the west, access could be provided to Whitley Common, and then through to the Charterhouse, using the River Sherborne.

Railway Park - Ultimately, a link could be provided to Gosford Green using the former railway line. Cities such as Paris (Promenade Plantee) and New York (High Line) have opened linear parks on old railways with great success. However, it should be noted that such measures are expensive, so other trails should be developed first.

Southern Railway Link - Below Ryton would, bridleways could be upgraded to provide a trail running to Eathorpe and then down to the former railway route, thus providing links back to Leamington and also towards Rugby and Daventry in the east.

Appendix 1 - Maps

1.      Festival - forcing pedestrians and cyclists to take such a long way round is completely inadequate. Routes around the island MUST cover full rotation, not just a "U" shape.
As the existing 4 crossings are already above or below grade, the new one should be too.
Angles on existing paths also need to be smoothed and barriers removed on southwest side.
2.      Flaws - sample map showing flaws in Zone B, from a cycling and walking persective.
3.      Jaguar - at the moment, cyclists approaching from Whitley Common heading towards Virgin Active or London Road have to cross traffic once. Now they will cross FOUR times.
4.      South - despite some landscaping features also being provided within warehousing sites, and despite clear transport  opportunities parkland can also offer, thick red line clearly shows no permeability of fence around site.
5.      Stoneleigh - no advance stop lines, not continuation of footpath from A46 junction to Dalehouse Lane. Potential opportunity to provide cycle route heading northeast along Sowe Valley from Westley Bridge.
6.      Toll Bar - opportunities exist to create below or above grade crossings to west and east of this busy junction.
No pathway is provided to southeast of this island. This is needed to provide access to Brandon Road, an important link towards Rugby that has relatively low traffic levels.
No link to the eastern edge of the Gateway park. This may be resolved with proposed link to Ryton, but more details are needed.
7.      Zone B - The lack of crossings on three sides, lack of direct pedestrian / cyclist access in to offices and poor design of staggered crossing will make many cyclists stay on the carriageway. They then have to deal with up to three lanes of traffic on the roundabout, whilst the Zone B link road on which the crossing is provided has six lanes in total.

Appendix 2 - Sample Images from The Netherlands


1.      Bridge - Typical small bridge over canal - note separation of pedestrian and cyclist, and that pedestrians give way to cyclists. Note also that lighting is provided.
2.      Park - Cycle route through park area at back of offices in Hoofddorp, showing gentle curves, together with lighting and segregation as per above.
3.      Permeability - a classic demonstration of the "filtered permeability" concept (from Google street view). Cycle routes across adjacent street are continuous and have priority. Nearby access road does not conflict with junction. Cycle and walking routes run throughout.
4.      Priority - cyclists have the same level of priority as the road they are running alongside. Also note quality of urban design.
5.      Roundabout - typical roundabout layout from above, showing continuity of cycling routes, which maintain priority. Motorised vehicles yield to pedestrians and cyclists without needing beacons or any other special junction design features.
6.      Tunnel - a cycle route runs through a tunnel underneath a busy road way. The route is well lit, providing ample space for cyclists and pedestrians, whilst being kept apart from the adjacent canal.

Appendix 3 - Policy Relevance

Providing a better quality of cycling, walking and general parkland provision meets a very large number of policy objectives. I have highlighted just a few of the most relevant:

DP6 - Access
DP7 - Traffic Generation
DP8 - Parking
DP9 - Pollution Control

SC4 - Supporting Cycle and Pedestrian Facilities
SC15 - Public Art
RAP6 - Directing New Employment
RAP13 – Directing New Outdoor Sport and Recreation Development

OS4 – Creating A More Sustainable City
OS5 – Achieving A High Quality City
OS6 – Change Of Land Use
OS9 – Access By Disabled People (includes mental health)
EM2 – Air Quality
EM8 – Light Pollution
E1 – Overall Economy And Employment Strategy

AM12 – Cycling In New Developments

BE1 – Overall Built Environment Strategy
BE2 – The Principles of Urban Design

CC1 – Climate Change

UR1 – Implementing urban renaissance – the MUA’s
QE3 – Creating a high quality built environment for all
QE4 – Greenery, urban green space and public spaces

T2 – Reducing the need to travel
T3 – Walking and cycling

Appendix 4 - Comments

In particular I note, and concur with, the following comments:

CCC Landscape Architect:

Made comments regarding the integration between the landscape / green infrastructure and pedestrian / cycle movement networks ; landscape principles for the development zones; landscaping for the highways, cycleways and footpaths; and connections between existing and proposed green spaces.

CCC Climate Change Officer:

It is disappointing that a more strategic, site wide approach to energy efficiency and the sustainability of energy sources has not been taken.

CCC Urban Design:

No major comments at this stage due to it being an
outline application. The Design and Access Statement is very generic. A
Design Code for the entire site would be beneficial.

Policy details:

1.      CDP Policy AM12 states that convenient cycle routes, made safer by design, must generally be incorporated in the design of new developments and highway schemes.
2.      Coventry City Council emerging Core Strategy Policy ACC4 advises:
o   that all development must incorporate safe and convenient access to appropriate walking and cycling routes.
o   Where these links do not exist, new routes will be required within new developments and these must link into existing established networks to ensure that routes are convenient and continuous.

1 comment:

  1. Hi James, I've just found out about the Manifietso Campaign and blog via CT. Very apt and timely. Last year I started a campaign to celebrate JK Starley & the rover safety bicycle - It's met its fair share of obstacles! I will be in Cov for a few days over Christmas - let me know if you're in town & would like to meet up to exchange ideas/ info. Regards, Steve Caudwell