Cycling on the A660 – an ambitious proposal for the Otley Road.

You may have seen the news that West Yorkshire Police are going to trial a close pass initiave on the A660 in Headingley. While this is invariably good news, we can only see it as a short term solution to a long term problem. Enter our member Chris Foren who has thought up some detailed proposals for the route that would protect and attract cyclists in the long term. Thanks Chris for your efforts, if anyone else would like to contribute a guest post, please contact us.

Guest post by our member Chris Foren

The demise of the trolleybus plan has once more called the future of the A660 into question. One answer was to redesign many of the junctions with the intention of speeding up bus travel. Unfortunately, that proposal said almost nothing about cycling. That’s a serious drawback, given that the A660 is the most cycled route in Leeds. It’s also the road with the highest accident rate for cyclists.

I will argue that the A660 should be equipped with segregated cycle lanes in both directions from the Lawnswood roundabout in Far Headingley all the way into the city centre.

Advisory cycle lanes already exist along most of the stretch from Lawnswood down to the Arndale Centre in Headingley. Cars parked on the highway pose a significant problem at present. One possibility would be the designation of a “red route” prohibiting any stationary traffic on this section.

Getting through central Headingley is difficult: the road narrows and is congested for large parts of the day. One possibility would be to use the route of the late, unlamented trolleybus – go round the back of the Arndale Centre, behind the Original Oak pub and across the fields at the rear of St Columba’s church. Cyclists would then emerge back onto the main carriageway at the top of Headingley Lane.

The advantages are that this would constitute a section of about 1 kilometre of cycle route totally segregated from motor traffic and the associated air pollution. It is, however, questionable whether women would feel comfortable using the route at night.

Alternatively (and more cheaply) road space could simply be re-assigned from motor traffic to bikes by putting the cycle lanes on the main carriageway through Headingley centre. This would increase the congestion in Headingley, at least in the short term.

Headingley Lane (i.e. the stretch from the junction with Buckingham Drive to Hyde Park corner) is similarly constrained. But again, there are already advisory cycle lanes along most of its length. The cycle lanes disappear at the junction itself (where they are most needed!). One option would be to ban the right turn into Hyde Park Road. This would have the additional benefit of easing congestion.

From Hyde Park corner the picture is easier: there is enough space across Woodhouse Moor to install segregated lanes for cyclists. Space is in short supply south of the junction with Clarendon Road, although once again, advisory cycle lanes already exist.

One attractive feature of the trolleybus scheme was the proposal for a car- free plaza along the front of the University's Parkinson Building. This space would be used for buses, pedestrians and cyclists only. It would continue down past the Beckett University Rose Bowl and use the existing bridge over the inner ring road. Cars and lorries would use the eastern branch of the A660, which would be converted to two-way traffic.

Finally, the cycle route would turn down Cookridge Street into Millennium Square. This was also a feature of the trolleybus proposal.

This is a bold proposal: it won’t be cheap to build (though still a lot cheaper than building a new road). It will involve taking some road space from car drivers, and that’s not politically popular. But something has to be done: Leeds is the third worst city in the UK for air quality. There are several thousand students living in and around Headingley: many want to use a bike but are too frightened to do so. And a reduction in motor traffic will also make life more pleasant for pedestrians. The city council must make cycling feel safe for ordinary people. The A660 is the ideal place to start.