A new cycle route has been created from Domum Road to the new Sports and Leisure Centre at Bar End. Unfortunately it does not meet current standards, creates unnecessary conflicts, is potentially dangerous and will be avoided by many cyclists, who will prefer using Chesil Street. The new route is the only cycle facility being provided as part of this major new development. Cycle Winchester will be approaching Winchester City Council and Hampshire County Council about the route and urging them to make improvements to Bridge Street and Chesil Street.
The following article sums up the situation:
From its original conception, the new Leisure Centre at Bar End has always been designed to cater for car users as it seeks to serve the whole of Winchester District. The needs of local pedestrians, cyclists, and other non-car users were largely ignored throughout the consultation, planning and design process. Users such as teenagers and older persons who would have walked to River Park may now need to be driven to the leisure centre or rely on buses. The opportunity to encourage cycling to the centre was largely missed. However the planners did choose to “upgrade” the footpath between Domum Road and Barfield Close as a shared use cycleway.
The planners were told it was neither very useful nor likely to be well executed. But they ploughed ahead and the link is now finished. The outcome was never going to be great and unsurprisingly it is indeed not very useful and of poor quality.
The planners said that they could only consider improvements immediately around the site. This approach leads to isolated schemes that don’t reflect a bigger picture and hence often fail to be useful. The cycleway has all the hallmarks of someone (presumably not a cyclist) determined to provide a scheme in an unsuitable location so that a “cycling access provided” tick-box could be ticked for the new leisure centre development.
This is an example of money being spent, in the name of cyclists, on something that manages to be both badly designed and not particularly useful. It would have been better to have spent the money on a few more shrubs or extra solar panels for all the benefits this scheme really delivers.
The general principles of designing cycle routes are that they should be coherent, direct, safe, comfortable, and attractive. This scheme fails on most of these criteria. In places it barely meets previous minimum standards and certainly would not conform to the latest Government guidelines. In fact the cycleway has a number of textbook examples of how not to design good quality cycle infrastructure.
Particular low points include: short sections of shared pavements (one at barely 3 meters long should get an award for its brevity); a risky and unnecessary road crossing that is both near a junction and on a bend; a 90 degree bend followed by a 180 degree turn (tricky to actually cycle round) finishing by a row of low level posts to catch the unwary. Part of this is a narrow shared walkway which could bring cyclists into conflict with pedestrians who are more likely to use this route.
Access to the Domum Road end of the link is presumed to be via NCN23 and City Bridge. We know that access to NCN23 at City Bridge is difficult. Even if access was improved the number of pedestrians on the Weirs path has become an issue for this section of NCN23. Chesil Street / Bar End road will be the more direct and accessible route for most journeys by bike and this is where improvements are needed.
The design of this scheme is not acceptable and should not set a precedent. People, especially car drivers, seeing this route being rarely used may be annoyed to see cyclists on the nearby roads or conclude there is little demand for such schemes. They would be unaware of the design flaws that discourage its use. In the end schemes like this actually cause problems for cyclists rather than solve them.
We need schemes in Winchester that are useful and well-engineered otherwise they should not be built.