Leeds: a city with ambitions for cycling?

We met with Mark Robinson, Leeds City Council Cycling Officer yesterday, to discuss the Cycle City Ambition funding. Mark indicated that Leeds will make a bid to the funding, as Leeds alone, not as part of a joint West Yorkshire bid. They're thinking of bidding for about £10m (the pot will have to be shared between all the successful bidders). Cycle links to Bradford may be considered as part of the bid. They are considering asking York for technical expertise. (We have some concerns about exactly how good the cycle infrastructure is in York and whether they really are 'expert'!)

The design team will look at various corridors, including reviewing the remaining not-yet-built routes from the Core Cycle Network, but moving much more to main corridors instead of off-road and quieter back routes. The Council will be looking for "user groups" of cyclists who know each corridor to comment on their plans. They will then try to identify which routes will benefit most from the investment and what can be afforded as part of the bid.

Apparently there is "some potential" for reduction in vehicle capacity (usually the main stopper for anything decent) - the example given was considering reducing vehicle lanes from 3.65m to 3m to allow cycle lanes to be put in.

Leeds Cycling Campaign are not convinced that a few 1.5m painted cycle lanes will change people's minds about cycling in Leeds. This needs to be an ambitious bid: Leeds must look at where it is now (massively over-vehicled, poor air quality, perceived as dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians) and where it says it wants to be (friendly to cycling and walking). Their approach so far has failed. Bridging the gap will require tough choices from the Council on vehicle capacity and traffic congestion.

We were not reassured by the discussion that followed, about Eastgate and Roundhay Road. Lovely segregated cycle tracks are planned for the Southern stretch of Roundhay Rd, from the roundabout with Roseville Rd/Sheepscar St right down to the bottom of Eastgate (the Headrow). Unfortunately it all falls apart at that roundabout. In the current plans, cycles will be in a lane at the left of three lanes of vehicles entering the roundabout. An ASL will be provided. But what if you approach the roundabout while the signals are green? What if you are in the ASL but not speedy enough to beat the traffic away from the lights? Is this suitable and safe for all? Oh, yes: you can get off your bike and wait for 4 toucan crossings to get over to the Headrow. Does that sound like a solution that prioritises cycling, and tells cyclists they are welcomed by the city? A route that is good quality for 98% of its length, and then fails where the going gets tough - exactly where cyclists need it most - is not a good quality route.

Leeds failed in its bid to get 20m of Local Sustainable Transport Funding because it was not sufficiently ambitious. And the council are wheeling out the same old excuses for why cycling in Leeds can't be direct, convenient and safe: because vehicles must flow and existing volumes of traffic must not maintained and not delayed. This is not ambition. It will not get people cycling in Leeds.