Cyclist claims £400,000 pedalway upgrade will “benefit no one”

Cyclist Laura McKinlay pictured on Bluebell Road shared cycle and pedestrian path.
Picture: ANTONY K

Cyclist Laura McKinlay pictured on Bluebell Road shared cycle and pedestrian path. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A cyclist has claimed a £400,000 upgrade to the Norwich pedalway will 'benefit no one'.

Cyclist Laura McKinlay pictured on Bluebell Road shared cycle and pedestrian path.
Picture: ANTONY K

Cyclist Laura McKinlay pictured on Bluebell Road shared cycle and pedestrian path. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Laura McKinlay commutes to and from the University of East Anglia every week. Since the southern section of Bluebell Road was upgraded, the 33-year-old mother says it is not safe.

She says cyclists and pedestrians are being merged onto a narrow section of footpath, and the busiest end of the road has been deprived of any investment.

The £431,887 upgrade stops at the junction of South Park Avenue as funding would not cover the length of Bluebell Road.

'As it continues on to the university you have a really narrow path which is tricky for two pedestrians, let alone a bike,' said Ms McKinlay. 'It gradually gets narrower as you get to the entrance of the university.

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'While it is meant to be a shared cycle and footpath it is not practical as that. Highways said they didn't have enough money, and they prioritised the bottom bit.'

Ms McKinlay added when she approached Norfolk County Council highways department they told her they expect proficient cyclists to use the road, not the new shared space cycle and footway.

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'It is all very well saying cyclists need to go on the road but it does encounter a lot of aggression from drivers,' she said. 'It is really difficult and we are all trying to inhabit the same space.

'When they come to some compromise it ends up benefiting no one. They have spent a heck of a lot of money and I can't see who that is going to please.

'I just wonder who is making these decisions and whether they get on a bike and use these roads, because it doesn't make any sense to me. If you have a small pot of money you would prioritise the part of Bluebell Road near to the university because it has got a higher footfall. The moment you reach that part of the road you have people walking both ways and cycling both ways and it is bedlam to be frank. It is like common sense goes out the window.

'It is a waste of money at a time when money is so short.'

Margaret Todd, secretary of the Norwich Cycling Campaign, added it was 'disappointing' upgrade work failed to extend to the junction at the southern end of Bluebell Road.

'We felt it was really unfortunate there wasn't a link through to the improvements made at the Eaton crossroads,' she said. 'That is a really important route for cyclists.

'We do welcome the upgrade to the shared path on Bluebell Road because a lot of our members would grumble about how narrow and uneven it was.'

A spokesperson for Transport for Norwich says: 'Current work on Bluebell Road will dramatically improve the quality of cycling facility along this part of the blue pedalway, providing cyclists with the option of using a path that's separated from traffic on the road.

'Since DfT-funded investment in the pedalways began in 2013, we have seen a significant increase in levels of cycling. We hope the addition of facilities such as this path will encourage more people to cycle, particularly those who are less confident or new to getting around the city by bike.'

Conflict 'will be avoided'

A Transport for Norwich spokeswoman said work on Bluebell Road stops at the South Park Road junction because it's a well-used exit and entry for cyclists and forms a natural end point.

They said current funding did not allow for the scheme to be extended any further.

Work was brought forward because the previous shared-use cycle and footpath was in a poor condition with a cracked surface. Resurfacing work was carried out and a tiger crossing for pedestrians and cyclists has been installed.

They added the scheme fits with London Cycling Design Standards widths, and the new shared-use cycle and footpath extends out to 3m in many places.

Transport for Norwich also stressed all cyclists have a choice over whether they cycle on the road or on a shared use facility, but they find more confident and faster cyclists tend to cycle with general traffic.

With slower, less confident cyclists using the shared space, they said conflict with pedestrians will be avoided.

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