Cycle Routes in Hereford. November 2020
Updated: Aug 30, 2021
In July 2020 the Department for Transport published Local Transport Note 1/20, entitled Cycle Infrastructure Design.
This document by the DfT provides guidance on the adaptation of existing roads and footpaths for cycling use and also provides guidance for the design of new roads. In the Introduction Chris Heaton-Harris, the Minister for Cycling and Walking, admits that much cycle infrastructure in the UK is substandard, and in many places dangerous. To quote this document: “Some (cycle infrastructure) is actually worse than nothing, because it entices novice cyclists with the promise of protection, then abandons them at the most important places. Poor cycling infrastructure discourages cycling and wastes public money.”
This report examines the cycle infrastructure in Hereford with the DfT Local Transport Note 1/20 as a reference background.
The Transport Note provides states an important principal - that a cycle infrastructure network should be coherent, direct, safe, comfortable and attractive.
i) The infrastructure should be accessible for all people between the ages of 8 and 80;
ii) Cyclists should be physically separated from pedestrians on urban streets, and from high volume motor traffic;
iii) Side streets should be used only if truly direct;
iv) The infrastructure should be able to accommodate high volumes of cyclists;
v) The cycle routes should be contiguous.
The Local Transport Note also states that adequate cycle parking should be provided and that the routes be clearly signposted, and maintained after construction.
The reasons for the guidance are stated in the document. Broadly these are because of the great benefits to the flow of all traffic by creating cycle routes and the great benefits to the health of the nation if cycling were to be more popular. In order to make cycling more popular the creation of accessible, comfortable and safe routes would allow for the take-up of cycling, and this has happened in towns where such routes have been created.
The core principle in this document is that ‘if you build it, they will come’. That is to say, if cycle routes are constructed that are safe for 8- to 80-year-old, then cyclists will use them. There is a converse principal, which is that if cycle routes are not safe, then they will not be used.
Existing Cycle Routes in Hereford
Cycle routes in Hereford are of three types - Traffic-free cycle tracks; demarcated cycle lanes on roads; and cycle tracks that are shared with pedestrians. There are also suggested routes through quiet suburban streets or along traffic-calmed streets.
Traffic Free cycle tracks.
At present there are only two traffic free cycle tracks that conform to the letter of the DFT guidance. These are the cycle track on Holmer Road, where cyclists are separated from both traffic and pedestrians, and the cycle track in King street, where a two-lane cycle track separates cyclist from both traffic and pedestrians. The former of these is 3 km long, the latter less than 100 m long. Neither is continuous with other cycle routes. Apart from these two routes, few of the other traffic comply with the letter nor the spirit of the DfT guidance.
Advisory Cycle Lanes
Advisory cycle lanes are painted onto main roads to attempt to give cyclists a safe line to cycle. There is no separation from the traffic however.
Two routes are particularly poor. The first of these is the suggested cycle lane ascending Ayelstone Hill from the centre of town towards the Sixth Form College at the top. This lane is widely regarded by cyclists as dangerous. For much of its length the strip of road designated for cycling is only 1 m wide. There is a wall on the other side of the lane, with prickly weeds growing at the base, so that the cyclist really has to choose between ‘truck or nettles. Because of these features, this cycle lane is rarely used, so that its construction was a waste of public money. It would have been better to construct a cycle lane fully separated from the traffic, as the road is wide enough to accommodate this.
Alternatively, the cycle lane as it exists should be converted into a pavement for pedestrians, as this road is busy with students walking from the bus and railway stations to the colleges at the top. Cyclists could instead be routed up Southbank road to the junction with Folly Lane at the top of the hill. Southbank road has a gentler gradient than does Aylestone Hill, and could be made a no-through road for cars and lorries by a simple bollard.
The cycle route in the other direction, from Aylestone Park up to Folly Lane, could easily be separated from the traffic and accommodate cycling in both directions.
The new advisory cycle lane up Ledbury Road also has no physical separation from the busy traffic. It is not suitable for 8-year-olds to 80-year-olds. This lane only exists in the out-of-town direction and there is no provision for cyclists at the roundabout where it crosses Hafod Road and Bodenham Road. Motor vehicles are permitted to park on this cycle route, and do so. This means that the cycle route is blocked most of the time, forcing cyclists to move out into the motor vehicle traffic to pass them. Thus, the expense of painting this route on the road was wasted, since it does not achieve the ambition of separating cyclists from the traffic.
Ledbury Road is wide enough for the construction of a two-way cycle track separated from both motor vehicles and pedestrians.
Cycle Tracks Shared with Pedestrians
Most of the cycle tracks that are shared with pedestrians are routes that are not very busy. The route from New Bridge over the Wye to Rotherwas, for example, is shared with pedestrians, but there are not a great deal of walkers and so cycling is not impeded nor dangerous. There are, though, three routes where cycling is interacts unfavourably with walkers, because of the heavy traffic.
The first of these is the route along Yazor Brook, which is a popular walking route. Pleasant though this is, it is not a route that could take a high volume of commuting cyclists.
Neither could the recently constructed cycle track along Station Approach. An opportunity was missed when this road was built, to make a separated cycle lane. For its whole length Station Approach is adequately wide for this to have been done, but instead cyclists are encouraged to cycle on the pavement past the new Medical Centre. When it opens the Medical Centre will attract a large number of pedestrians, and there will be a large number of students walking along this pavement from their lodgings by Hereford station, so this cycle route will become unusable by cyclists. As it stands, the recommended cycle route also makes no provision for cyclists at the junctions where roads join Station Approach, against the principles laid down in the DfT guidance, so that when cars emerge from these roads, they obstruct the cycle route whilst they wait for a gap in traffic.
The third popular route where cyclists and pedestrians share the track is the old railway line that includes Hunderton Bridge and Great Western Way. This route has become very popular, with pedestrians and cyclists. It does show how cycling could develop if a decent infrastructure were created in Hereford. DfT guidance would advise marking separate lanes for pedestrians and cyclists along the bulk of this route.
One of the core principles in the new DFT guidance is that the cycle routes should be contiguous. Where routes cross junctions there should be provision made for cyclists, and where roads join the suburban streets that for part of the cycle network, the joining cars should give way to the cyclists. Suburban streets, down which cyclists are encouraged to go, should have traffic-calming measures or be made no through roads for motor vehicles.
If this is done, it would be possible for 8-year-olds to cycle to school, as 8-year-olds do in many towns in Germany and Holland.
There are three schools in Tupsley, but no provision for cycling along the suburban streets there. There is traffic calming in East Tupsley, but the DFT guidance points out that this is not enough for primary-school aged children to cycle safely. Nevertheless, traffic calming and a 20- mph zone are helpful, and could be extended to the other areas of Hereford, such as Whitecross, Hunderton, Putson and Bobblestock.
Future Cycle Routes
Hereford City could be improved significantly by an increase in cycling, but so too could Herefordshire County. There are two disused railway lines from Hereford that could be converted into cycleways - from Hereford to Hay-on-Wye, and from Hereford to Ross-on-Wye. A third route is the line of the disused railway in Golden Valley. When old railway routes such as these have been converted into pedestrian and traffic free cycle routes in other parts of England - for example in the Peak District or the York to Selby cycle way - they have become very popular and have increased cycling both for tourists and locals alike. If people enjoy out-of-town cycling, they will be more likely to take up cycling for trips around town, with benefits in their health, the health of others (because of the reduction in exhaust fumes) and even in the traffic congestion of those that do drive.
There is poor provision in Hereford for cycle parking. The bike stands in High Town and at the supermarkets are already almost always completely full. For cycling to work as an urban transport solution, there must be adequate provision for cycle parking, so more should be constructed.
It is possible to imagine an increase in cycling in Hereford City and in Herefordshire. The current Government has committed funds to do this, and the quality of life in the City and the County would be enhanced if it were to occur.
Richard Gregson at HSTG: November 2020