Late call for ‘urgent review’ of Leeds to Bradford cycle route from £29million scheme

The Leeds city centre to Bradford section of the route will open tomorrow. Picture by James Hardisty.
The Leeds city centre to Bradford section of the route will open tomorrow. Picture by James Hardisty.
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An “urgent review” of the multi-million pound Leeds to Bradford cycle superhighway is being called for – just hours before it is scheduled to open.

Conservative group leader Coun Andrew Carter claims residents’ complaints over the flagship route from Seacroft to Bradford mean Leeds City Council should review the project and state how it fits in with the city’s transport aims.

His comments, to be made as part of a White Paper Motion to full council today, come before the Leeds city centre to Bradford section of the cycleway is declared open tomorrow.

Initially billed as a “highway to health”, the route is a major part of the £29million City Connect scheme that was approved as Leeds hosted the Tour de France Grand Depart in 2014.

The City Connect project also includes an upgrade of the Kirkstall to Shipley canal towpath, more cycle parking and a community cycle hub.

In his address to full council, Coun Carter will call for “an urgent review of this project and how it fits with wider transport aims such as road safety and the overall ambitions of the city”.

The City Connect route in Stanningley Road, Leeds. Picture by James Hardisty.

The City Connect route in Stanningley Road, Leeds. Picture by James Hardisty.

The Leeds city centre to Bradford section of the 23km route, which was originally due to open in the spring, has already attracted criticism. The remaining Seacroft to Leeds city centre section is scheduled to open around July 18.

Ken Spence, a consultant at planning firm Transport Initiatives, cycled sections of the unfinished route in April and said the design could “set cycling back rather than forward”.

He found areas where paths around bus stops were 75cm wide and put riders in conflict with pedestrians as well as sections where riders were expected to negotiate sharp, angled corners.

“If any cyclists do use it, which is debatable, they will be a real hazard to pedestrians, in particular to bus users,” he said.

The real test is how it works when it is open, which neither Coun Carter nor I have seen yet.

Coun Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for transport.

“Everywhere where there is a conflict point, like a junction, bus stop or crossing, they have pretty much bottled it in providing the real space that’s needed.”

Roger Geffen MBE, of the Cycling UK charity, described the design as a “compelling case for national design standards to ensure that funds earmarked for cycling are not wasted”.

Coun Richard Lewis, the council’s executive member for transport, said all parties will look to learn lessons from the superhighway – as with any major project.

Stating that the project would move forward the council’s ambition to get people travelling in a healthy and sustainable way, he said: “The real test is how it works when it is open, which neither Coun Carter nor I have seen yet.”

City Connect, a scheme by Leeds and Bradford councils and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, claims the route will give cyclists “good visual priority” at 166 of 168 junctions. A spokeswoman said: “It will provide a genuine alternative for people travelling into Leeds and Bradford – a safe and direct segregated route where before there was a heavily congested main road with no provision for cycling.”

Phase two of City Connect has already been awarded £22m from the Department for Transport, and that figure has been added to by £8m of contributions from West Yorkshire and York.

The improvements will include a 7km superhighway to the north and south of Leeds city centre and improved links in Wakefield, Bradford, Huddersfield and York over the next two years.

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