Chapeltown abomination: completed, and definitely worse for cycling. Now with measurements!

Update February 2014

One of our campaign team met Cllr Roger Harington, our 'Cycling Champion', at the location of this nonsense, and he could immediately see the problem. Just standing and watching was alarming. Every single vehicle encroached on the cycle lane, and it's pretty much impossible not to. The general traffic lane is well below the absolute minimum width of 3m and consequently a bus simply can't get through without being forced to drive illegally into the lane. There is barely room for a parking bay and a bus and squeezing a cycle lane between the two is insane. The incompetence of the design is quite breathtaking; there will be a serious accident here.

  1. The parking bay is 1.99m wide. The planning service’s parking standards stipulate 2.40m as a recommended minimum width. A Ford Focus is 2.01m wide, which means a typical car does not fit in the bay even if its wheels are touching the kerb.  There is no buffer zone between the parking bay and cycle lane. There is no UK standard for a buffer zone but the guidance of, for example, AASHTO is a buffer zone of 1.2m, which allows an average car door to be opened without ‘dooring’ a cyclist.   ‘Dooring’ kills or seriously injures around 600 UK cyclists a year. 
  2. The cycle lane is 1.09m wide. The DfT’s guidance stipulates that a uni-directional cycle lane should be 2.0m wide, and a minimum of 1.5m wide where space is constrained. ( The dynamic envelope of a bike at <7mph is wider than this lane. A slow cyclist cannot remain upright within the lane as marked.  The absence of any buffer zone and the narrow width of the parking bay means that the door zone, which government training standards say cyclists must avoid, is actually wider than the lane itself.  A typical car door opens to 1.3m wide.  An open car door extends more than the full width of the cycle lane.
  3. There is no buffer zone between the cycle lane and the general traffic lane. The minimum safe passing distance per DfT guidance at 30mph is 1.5m outside the dynamic envelope of the cyclist.  The width of the general traffic lane does not allow a motorcycle to give that clearance, let alone a bus.
  4. The general traffic lane is, quite remarkably, just 2.37m wide. This is slightly wider than a Ford Focus, which would pass within 30cm of a cyclist even if it was almost clipping the kerb of the pedestrian island. The number 2, 3, and 3a buses are usually Volvo Olympians, which are 2.50m wide, excluding wing mirrors. DfT standards stipulate an absolute minimum width for a general traffic lane which carries large vehicles at 3.00m.  Historically, Leeds City Council have cited a wider minimum as a reason to provide cycle facilities.  A bus cannot legally drive along this road as it will be forced into the mandatory cycle lane.  The attached photo, which shows a bus driving as tight as possible to the pedestrian island, demonstrates this. 

In summary, with the parking bay installed, there isn’t room for a cycle lane.  There is barely room for a parking bay and a general traffic lane, even though half the footway has been removed in a location with significant pedestrian traffic.  A cyclist attempting to use the mandatory cycle lane, while a bus uses the adjacent general traffic lane, will, inevitably, be struck by the bus. 

(With many thanks to intrepid campaigners Pauline and Graham who risked their own lives with camera and measuring tape).


Update 28 September 2013

The work is now completed and as many of you suspected, I was over optimistic in what the end product would be. Yes, the widely ignored mandatory cycle lane has been removed. As there was an ongoing problem with parking in that bit of cycle lane, I assumed a change to the infrastructure offered an opportunity to improve the situation for cyclists. However, the old cycle lane is now level with half of the parking bay, so that if there's a vehicle in it, the cycle lane leads directly into the back of the parked vehicle. You can just see the start of a new bit of mandatory lane that starts after the parking bay. Unfortunately the line that vehicles have taken past the bay means that often they aren't far enough over, and drive over the edge of the cycle lane.

At the same time, the stretch of road is narrowed by a pedestrian island at that point. so there isn't room for a vehicle to safely pass a cyclist alongside the parking bays. The layout now encourages conflict between vehicles moving in to avoid the island, and cyclists moving out to avoid the door zone. Many of you have commented that it would be better to have no cycle lane at all. If widening the road or removing the island isn't possible (let's not forget that full-width road crossings are best for pedestrians) then "sharrows" could be provided to show drivers that cyclists will need to "take the lane" at that point.

The Council have chosen to do neither of these things, so we are left with a cycle lane (that indicates to drivers that cyclists should be out of the way at the left of the road), that then disappears into the back of a parked car, at precisely the point drivers will be veering left to avoid the island. And the cycle lane reappears once the road widens again. Just like in Headingley, the Council are keen to help cyclists where there's plenty of space, and then just when you really need it, it's gone.

Unhelpful infrastructure is worse than no infrastucture at all.


Update (10 September 2013)

There have been some changes in Chapeltown! The solid line demarcating the edge of the mandatory cycle lane has been removed, and replaced with the thin white dotted line showing the edge of the (now normal-sized) parking bay. So there now is no northbound cycle lane on that little stretch of road, which is actually an improvement! (How often are you likely to hear cycle campaigners say that?!) However, a bit further along, there is a cycle lane marked in shiny new red-coated tarmac well out from the edge of the road and potentially in line with a new cycle lane which may be about to appear on the problem stretch. It looks as if part of the hatched central area is going to be removed, and a more continuous cycle lane provided. Hurrah!

(If anyone is passing and is able to safely take a photo, please send it in and we will post it here. A picture tells a thousand words, especially when trying to describe infrastructure!)

Original Post (3 September 2013):

This disgrace looks a strong contender for first prize at our 2013 Ugly Awards. We had a cycle lane, and a mandatory one at that, with double yellows and everything. Then someone decided to build a parking bay for, presumably, toy cars. So we now have a mandatory cycle lane that is 'asking' to be parked over.

At first we thought the council couldn't have been responsible. There were suggestions on Social Media that local shopkeepers might have been responsible. A genuinely cycle-friendly council would never do something like this. However, it's been informally confirmed that this is the work of Leeds City Council, although apparently it's not finished. When it is, we're assured there will be a cycle lane you can actually cycle in. Given the complete lack of enforcement on this road, we're not holding our collective breath. Our correspondence with the Council so far, is below.

And to really rub it in, here's what it used to look like (try to ignore the selfish car)...

Our first email to Highways:

"A Leeds Cycling Campaign member has just sent this photo of Chapeltown Road and several other members have also commented. It appears that a half-width car parking bay has been installed,  adjacent to a mandatory cycle lane in order to facilitate parking in the cycle lane. [first photo above]

This was the layout previously (note car parked in the cycle lane, as there often is, with no evident attempts at enforcement): [second photo above]

This follows a discussion a couple of weeks ago about a proposal to install a mandatory cycle lane in the city centre (email attached), in which the Council asserted: [there followed a boring bit, in which the Council told us we can't have a mandatory cycle lane on Cookridge Street because there was a full-width parking space between the cycle lane and the pavement. The Council cited the regulations which prevent vehicles crossing a mandatory cycle lane to park, and pointed out that allowing vehicles to cross the mandatory cycle lane in this instance would encourage drivers to disrespect mandatory cycle lanes in other locations. God forbid! We continued:]

I’d be interested to hear you explanation of this particular piece of ‘design’ and how this fits into your strategy to encourage walking and cycling in Leeds. If, on the other hand, this amendment to the public highway has been carried out by unauthorised individuals, I’d be interested to hear how you deal with this type of situation in order to prevent it recurring (invoicing the perpetrators for the remedial works would seem to be a good start)."


Highways replied:

"Thank you for your email, I have passed the information onto the Traffic Section. Your enquiry needs some investigative work , you will receive either a full or substantive response by 23 September 2013"


Following our campaign meeting on Wednesday, and a load more complaints from cyclists, we emailed again:

"I have now received confirmation that this was carried out by the Council, albeit part of a larger plan which, when finished, will not be to the detriment of cyclists. However I've received further complaints from cyclists regarding this piece of work; in its present condition it is actively dangerous for cyclists. Considering the Council has a duty of care for residents, I respectfully request that you put this half-width parking bay beyond use, and make the cycle lane safe, until the scheme is completed.

Members have made clear they are very angry and sad that this work has been carried out, particularly without appearing on the agenda at Cycle Consultation Forum or local cyclists being notified of any changes. If this situation isn't rectified promptly, it's likely to be brought to the attention of the media."