Monthly Archives: July 2013

Aldgate gyratory and a separated cycle track gone wrong

A few weeks ago I joined the London Cycling Campaign protest ride in London to call for dedicated space for cycling. The ride happened because a lady was killed while cycling along Whitechapel High Street.

London Cycling Campaign Space For Cycling Protest Ride

London Cycling Campaign Space For Cycling Protest Ride

On my way to the ride I encountered Aldgate gyratory for the very first time (I’d read about this junction and plans to improve it but had never paid much attention). My initial reaction to encountering the junction was to get off my bike and push around.

I don’t know if I’ve ever encountered a more hostile looking piece of road.

Aldgate gyratory

Aldgate gyratory

I found it quite difficult even to walk around because the obvious crossing points were blocked by fencing.

Pushing not allowed?

Pushing not allowed?

Others had mastered the art of fence jumping and traffic dodging.

P1080298P1080297I encountered a segregated cycle track on one of the exits (Dukes Place).

Cycle track on Dukes Place

Cycle track on Dukes Place

I couldn’t believe what I saw though, the track ended just before a bus stop which lead to significant conflict when people rejoined the normal road from the bike track.

P1080288P1080290P1080291

Is this a prime candidate for a bus stop bypass? Are there plans to improve the design of this track?

Formal warnings issued to Taxi drivers for parking on Sheffield cycle lane at Castle Street

I’ve written about Castle Street cycle lane repeatedly over the past year. It’s frequently used by taxi’s and the police as a place to park causing an obstruction to all vehicles on the road and especially anyone trying to use the contraflow bicycle lane.

Blocked - The taxi drivers use the cycle lane as an extension of the taxi rank

Blocked – The taxi drivers use the cycle lane as an extension of the taxi rank

A story has appeared in today’s local paper the Sheffield Star on page 4 about the next Taxi Licensing Enforcement review which features Castle Street.

They reveal that 201 warning letters have been issued to drivers since September 2012 and that “Most warnings related to drivers waiting to pick up passengers on Castle Street, where 118 warning letters were sent out for ‘causing a hazard or obstruction’ to pedestrians, cyclists and buses.”

The council report states:

Taxi ReportThis area continues to be of concern for cyclists and a number of warning letters and formal warnings have been issued to drivers who have repeatedly transgressed in this particular area.

118 warning letters and 2 Defect notices have been issued to drivers in this period of enforcement activity, for causing a hazard or obstruction on this particular road.

5 Formal warnings have been issued, these are issued to drivers who have transgressed in this particular area before and are warned that further problems may lead to a Licensing Sub Committee referral for persistent contraventions.

http://meetings.sheffield.gov.uk/council-meetings/licensing-committee/agendas-2013/agenda-25th-july-2013

I’ll plan to go to the meeting on Thursday (where this will be discussed) and ask them to step up proactive monitoring of this site so that I don’t need to report so many incidents. I plan to invite the department to join me for 30 minutes one day to observe the behavior of drivers on Castle Street.

Good progress I think.

Sheffield City Region LEP announce preliminary list of Major Transport Schemes

source: http://www.sheffieldcityregion.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/SCR-LTB-26-07-13-Full-Papers.pdf

logo-960Today the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership has announced their preferred list of major transport schemes.

This has come about because the Sheffield City Region has secured devolved powers to develop and fund major transport schemes in the area from the Department for Transport. We (the Local Transport Body) now gets to choose the major transport schemes in it’s area with far less control from the Department for Transport.

The Local Transport Body (LTB) is the body responsible for making and overseeing key infrastructure investment decisions in the Sheffield City Region.

http://www.sheffieldcityregion.org.uk/projects/ltb/

The Local Transport Body gives a worrying vision for transport by showing an image of an M1 junction at the very top of their webpage. I hope they can see past the big trunk road schemes and put large investment into local and sustainable transport (rather than just focusing on the needs of hauliers, distributors and big business).

The schemes put forward today as priorities are a mixed bag for the people of Sheffield and improving transport.

Image from the top of the Sheffield City Region LTB Webpage - http://www.sheffieldcityregion.org.uk/projects/ltb/

Image from the top of the Sheffield City Region LTB Webpage – http://www.sheffieldcityregion.org.uk/projects/ltb/

Of the 19 schemes given priority, 4 are within the Sheffield Local Authority area.

#3, Sheffield City Centre

Infrastructure works to support delivery of New Retail Quarter, Central Business District, Riverside Business District and university development. Investment includes bringing forward a number of key city centre sites, refurbishment, development and consolidation of university campus buildings, train station access improvements, walking and cycling enhancements, public realm, housing, Hillsborough – Penistone Rd key bus route.

If done well, this could be a good scheme. The recent draft Sheffield City Centre Masterplan was lacking on encouraging cycling and instead focused on pedestrianisation of the City Centre (with the exclusion of cyclists), we’ll see how this evolves.

Penistone Road

Penistone Road

Onto Penistone Road, National Cycle Network Route 627 runs along this road and provides a safe (even if it could do with improving) alternative to the less busy but dangerous (because of tram tracks) Langsett Road.

Sheffield City Council have been awarded £3million from the DfT Pinch Points fund to develop the Penistone Road highway but have so far been uncooperative in releasing information about exactly what this scheme involves. Just like before, we’ll have to wait and see how this pans out.

#9 Upper Don Valley

Infrastructure and facilities to open up for inward investment Claywheels Lane Industrial Estate and Parkwood Springs Business Park. Includes a series of junction improvements and site access roads.

5 Signals for the bicycles and pedestrians, 1 for the cars Clay Wheels Lane Junction Redesign

5 Signals for the bicycles and pedestrians, 1 for the cars
Clay Wheels Lane Junction Redesign

This scheme worries me. Sheffield City Council have already shown that they have no appetite for considering walking and cycling in this area viable by approving schemes like the Clay Wheels Lane widening and junction redevelopment designed and funded by Sainsburys. Clay Wheels Lane is part of the Sheffield National Cycle Network route 627 however there are plans to develop a business/industrial park along this road. The plans for cycling on Clay Wheels Lane so far have been abysmal, I don’t hold out much hope but would be very happy to be proved wrong. This scheme links into #3 above, both Claywheels Lane and Parkwood Springs are off of Penistone Road.

#11 Lower Don Valley (Waverly)

Highway, community and green infrastructures and utility services to accelerate the delivery of a mixed use site. Highway investment includes Waverley Link Road, Widening of the A630 to dual 3-lane between the M1 Junction 33 and the Catcliffe Interchange, Bridge maintenance scheme at critical location on A630 Sheffield Parkway.

 This seems like a typical road congestion alleviation scheme – I know very little about this area of Sheffield.

#15 Lower Don Valley (Sheffield)

Enabling works / infrastructure for two 20Ha sites. Development of over 1000 homes and retail and commercial centre, Bus Rapid Transport South.

BRTSouthLargeMapThis is an interesting sounding scheme that I know very little about. I believe it involves the widening and introduction of a bus lane along The Parkway in Sheffield – a road where cycling and walking is not permitted. More information is here.

Sheffield fails to bid for Cycle City Ambition Grant money

P1050814.resizedIn January 2013 Norman Baker launched the Cycle City Ambition Grants, £30 million (later upped to £77 million, later upped by £114 million more) of funding for cities that showed the ambition to “make cycling easier and safer for people throughout England”

Sheffield was the only large city that failed to submit a bid.

What does this mean? Are Sheffield City Council and our Regional Transport ITA just not interested in cycling? Are we not ambitious enough? Do we already have enough money? Or are we just incompetent?

Back in April the Cycling Safety Junction Improvement funds were awarded, Sheffield did not submit a bid for this either – as noted by fellow local blogger Stan Fichele and even with Brookhill Roundabout highlighted by The Times as a dangerous junction for cycling.

Stan notes that Sheffield City Council were intending to submit a bid for the Cycle City Ambition Grant.

However, you may be interested to know that it is our intention to make a bid for the Cycle City Ambitions Grant, the requirements for which are not quite so onerous.  I cannot, of course, guarantee success.

This never happened and I’ve been trying to find out why.

I asked at the Sheffield Cycle Forum. The council seem to put the blame squarely with the South Yorkshire ITA and washed their hands of it. I believe that if Sheffield were truly ambitious they would have submitted a bid independently of the ITA as Newcastle have done. The full statement from the Cycle Forum on 21st May can be found here. Cycle Forum Minutes 21May2013

In summary, the response said

  1. The Sheffield City Region have no cycle schemes to bid for
  2. We did apply for National Parks Bid money for the same scheme
  3. All the cycle schemes have already been funded through LSTF and National Lottery/Sustrans Connect
  4. We’ll have some schemes ready for funding applications in TWO YEARS

Sheffield have used up all the cycle schemes as part of LSTF back in 2010 and will have new ones ready in two years. This means that Sheffield will not have planned any significant new cycle schemes for 5 years. This situation is ludicrous! The statement describes these schemes as very recent, but we’re already three years on from the LSTF bids.

Sheffield City Council will have a hard fight on their hands if they think they can get away with failing to bid for funding opportunities for cycling (as with Ambition Grants and Safer Junctions) for the next 2 years. We must not let them be idle.
Sheffield have proven that they can apply for funding when they’re really keen, as is the case with the Pinch Points fund where £3m was awarded in May for a scheme to increase capacity on Penistone Road. A very similar bidding process was used.

The council try to say that all is OK because funding has been sought from the National Parks Bid. This is irrelevant, no application was made for the Cycle City Ambition Grant.

It speaks volumes that the schemes could be so easily transferred to the National Parks bid – a funding source with tourism and recreation at it’s heart instead of door to door transport.

I visited the South Yorkshire ITA to ask a similar question. Nothing about the South Yorkshire ITAs decision not to bid had been discussed in a public meeting, I thought it was important to get it on the agenda – you can watch a recording of this meeting here. It is well worth a watch and there is a very interesting discussion about applying for this sort of funding as viewed by Local Authorities.

Key points from their response

Tom Finnegan-Smith – Local officer

  1. It was a difficult to reach a decision to not submit a bid
  2. Schemes intended for a bid didn’t meet the criteria from the DfT and no coherent package across the region
  3. Cycle in the National Park bid was submitted
  4. Submitting a weak bid would harm relationship with DfT
  5. Don’t have all the funding to deliver all of the South Yorkshire Cycle Action Plan from 2011
  6. There will be a review of coordination between authorities in the City Region

Leigh Bramall

  1. Disappointing to not put in a bid
  2. You’ve already asked these questions – (I think hinting that I was wasting their time)
  3. Local Authorities facing financial cuts and capacity is stretched. Difficult to come up with complex bids in such short timescales
  4. Need a higher permanent level of funding
  5. No previous short term funding so we’ve not planned to have bids like this ready

Ian Auckland

  1. Nothing new about short term funding
  2. Issue was about no schemes that fitted the bill ready, not the lack of time preventing a bid

Alan Jones

  1. Officers must have had some preemptive warning of this grant (other said that this is how it happened!)

Graham Kyte

  1. Doing well in Barnsley – good relationship with cycling organisations
  2. Thanks to Matt for coming along and taking advantage of the democratic process! More people should come along( I completely agree! Thanks for having me!)

Ben Still

  1. Difficult to preempt the nuances of funding before officially announced
  2. Need to look at problem of no bid submitted when looking at next round of budget cuts (perhaps hinting that we need people to develop these schemes)

So, I think I’ve come to the end of this story. I’ll keep monitoring for National Funding on my page here and will do my best to support and urge Sheffield in applying for these opportunities in the future.

I think that some of the responsibility must fall on local people/organisations to come up with good cycling schemes and to push the council to fund and implement them. Local campaigners need to step up to the mark and start being bolder and ask for more.

 

Some notes:

 List of applications:

  • Large cities – Wave 1 City Deal Cities
  • Birmingham – http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/bcr
  • Bristol – http://www.travelwest.info/node/703
  • Leeds – http://road.cc/content/news/81876-leeds-and-manchester-each-seeking-%C2%A320m-dfts-%C2%A330m-cycle-city-ambition-fund
  • Liverpool – http://liverpool.gov.uk/media/476954/cycle-city-ambition-application-liverpool-approved.pdf
  • Manchester – http://cycling.tfgm.com/velocity/
  • Newcastle – http://www.newcastle.gov.uk/parking-roads-and-transport/cycling/cycle-city-ambition
  • Nottingham – http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/Bid-pound-6m-funding-create-cycling-city/story-18686041-detail/story.html#axzz2ScX5gv1E
  • Sheffield – NONE

Statement from Sheffield City Council:

It was explained that the Sheffield City Region (SCR) had not made a bid for any funding as there were no schemes ready that met the necessary bidding criteria for the City Regions.  However, running in parallel with the City Regions grants there were also National Park grants with different criteria.  Exactly the same Sheffield and Barnsley elements (of the not progressed SCR bid) were included in the Peak Park grant submission.  

The press had reported words to the effect that Sheffield had ‘yet again failed to bid for funding’.  Clearly, the local press had got the situation wrong or were being economical with the truth.  All the Council had done was to ‘change horse’ when it became clear that the SCR would not bid.  A situation which the various authorities involved in the Peak Park bid had prepared for.

Further, many Sheffield Council cycle schemes, that had been ‘ready to go’ and would have met the necessary bidding criteria for the City Region grants, had already been funded through the successful Local Sustainable Transport bids (e.g. Beeley Woods, Hanover Way, Five Weirs Walk between Sheffield and Rotherham, FWW link to Exchange Place, etc) and the successful Halfway to Killamarsh Connect 2 bid and scheme.  These very recent schemes add up to many millions of pounds of successful bids, matched by LTP funding.   

For the future, Sheffield is in the process of preparing further cycle infrastructure schemes.  These should be far enough advanced in another two years to be able to bid for similar City Region grant funding and will amount to around £10 – 20m worth of cycling infrastructure.  Currently the council would be expected to find around 30 – 50% of this sum in match funding – not easy given the considerable recent cut-backs suffered by most councils (with more to come).