A Happy New Year to everyone and welcome to the latest newsletter from KCC.
Given that it’s the first one in 2018 it seemed appropriate to reflect a little on the past year in the hope that some lessons might be learnt for the next 12 months.
To that end I hope that you will forgive my indulging in a little soul searching before resuming the more usual newsletter format next month.
Just before this however, two news items need to be briefly mentioned:
- The Milepost Café on Spen Valley Greenway –which was closed last October
has re-opened – albeit with a different name.
- The next KCC committee meeting is: 7pm 18th January 2018 at The Navigation Mirfield. All supporters welcome.
Please note different venue, we are hoping to be more inclusive for all Kirklees’ supporters and intend to meet in different parts of the borough over the next year)
– John Lewis (Chair KCC)
Reflections on Huddersfield Town Centre
It is conventional wisdom amongst cyclists to believe that Kirklees Council have only themselves to blame for not developing an acceptable plan for Huddersfield Town Centre. That Kirklees, exerting its (Yorkshire?) stubbornness, has rightly forfeited the £1.25M, that will now be used elsewhere in the region.
After speaking to some of the Kirklees officers, involved in the project, I am now not so sure that this is a fair assessment. It has prompted me to reflect on how we came to get where we are at the present time.
My conclusion is that all parties involved in the project: The Infrastructure Group (a group formed from the Kirklees Cycling Forum) City Connect, the City Connect Advisory Group (CCAG) as well as Kirklees Council, have, together unwittingly, run the project off the rails.
The focus of malcontent amongst Kirklees Highways officers revolves around their design of a high quality protected cycle route from Huddersfield Railway Station to the NCN69 Greenway at Willow Lane via St John’s Road.
The design for this route came about because City Connect had previously criticised Huddersfield Town Centre plans as not being ambitious enough.
Officers now complain that, when they produced this ambitious scheme, it was not supported by City Connect.
The original plan for Huddersfield Town Centre was based on a SUStrans feasibility study made in 2013. This plan centred on the concepts of:
(a) for cyclists to move freely within all parts of a town centre that had only light vehicular traffic (permeability).
(b) a number of cycle-friendly crossing points of the Ring Road to enable cyclists to enter and exit the town centre safely and easily (severance).
Successful, value-for-money cycle projects are more often, however, single strategic routes that will have a popular take-up. This is, no doubt, why it was suggested by City Connect officers that Kirklees expand their vision and draw up plans for a route along St John’s Road to NCN69.
The Infrastructure Group was reluctant to oppose this suggestion by reason of the fact that it was suggested by the body controlling the purse strings. Nevertheless, on reflection, I see this as a key mistake made by, both the Infrastrucure Group and City Connect, because the St John’s Road route took the focus away from the original concept.
It meant that the Advisory Group, and everyone else involved in the project, were not focussed on developing the principles of permeability and severance, but were spending hours discussing and disputing about the detailed infrastructure of a route that was totally outside the scope of the original concept. We were all getting distracted by detail and not seeing the overall purpose of the plan. We arrived at the production of an impressive ambitious plan, but in reality we had been diverted away from the intended project.
Perhaps, in hindsight, the town centre plan was not such a good idea to put forward for City Connect funding. With regard to severance there is the question as to how much could be done with £1.25M to make a Huddersfield a cycling hub and satisfy City Connect criteria.
How many high quality Ring Road crossings (not just toucans and routes on shared space) could be constructed? Would Kirklees have been amenable to radical measures control/reduce vehicle traffic over and above what it had started by installing the bus gates?
It seems to me that the bus routes through the town centre make significant difficulties – particularly in Kirkgate/Westgate and Market Street. I am of the opinion that – in many cases – the buses could be re-routed to use the Ring Road to access and exit the bus station. History tells me, however, that this is another issue that could take some time to persuade council officers and politicians, let alone some of the vociferous readers of The Examiner.
I am of a mind that it is a plan that is best delivered gradually over a period of time. A plan that needs to make trial ideas before finally committing trying out one thing at a time, rather than making a sudden transformation and risking a backlash. I believe that there needs to be a growing and noticeable increase in cycle users in the town centre before justifying further, more radical decisions.
To have made the original project a success from City Connect funding seems to me, in retrospect, a difficult mountain to climb. It might have been helpful if City Connect had, early on, spelt out some of the difficulties to Kirklees Council and the Infrastrucure Group and suggested that the plans be revised. But then, perhaps, City Connect themselves, hadn’t yet identified all the difficulties that were going to come along. I cannot remember discussing these at any CCAG meeting – we were all too busy pouring over detailed plans.
It might have been better, in retrospect, to have put the town centre plans to one side and just opted for the alternative of a simple strategic route. A route that would have given good access to the town centre from an established route that was cut off from the town. The St John’s Road route seemed – at the time – to fulfil that criteria. But in reality there were significant problems with it. These couldn’t always be seen by those that only knew the route as a line on a map.
I would like to think that a better alternative is the one now proposed by Kirklees Cycling Campaign. It starts at Huddersfield Railway Station and links to NCN69 at Red Doles Lane/Bridge No. 11 via Northumberland Street, Leeds Road and the Huddersfield Broad Canal. It is simple and straightforward and I believe that it satisfies a number of criteria.
- Encourages more use of NCN69.
- Accesses a number of strategic destinations.
- Makes a safe two-way crossing of the Ring Road for cyclists at Northumberland Street.
- Taps into and improves the fairly well used route of Leeds Road. (PTC)
- Makes a start to Kirklees Highways’ aspirations to have protected cycle lanes on Leeds Road.
- Encourages more use of the Huddersfield Broad Canal towpath.
- Doesn’t need to reduce road space for motor vehicles. This part of Leeds Road already has a mandatory cycle lane and has ample width.
- Provides an example for subsequent strategic routes to and from the town centre.
- Has good potential as a leisure, shopping and commuter route.
However the opportunity for this to be funded by City Connect has past. Kirklees Cycling Campaign has, however, proposed it to Kirklees and it is under consideration along with proposals for a slow role-out of measures in and around the town centre.
To give an idea of size of the task a “Cycle Network Quality” map of HTC is attached.