Huddersfield Town Centre
Some of you might have noticed a sudden increase of cycle route signage in and around Huddersfield Town Centre. The signs look good but they often tend to promise more than what turns out to be the reality. It’s true to say that there have been some recent improvements, but there is an awful lot more to do in the small space that is Huddersfield Town Centre.
When the cycle lane contraflow in Ramsden Street first appeared The Examiner ridiculed it saying it was a “The Cycle Lane to Nowhere”. Two years on there is disappointment in Kirklees Highways that the cycle lane is hardly used, and people are beginning to question whether it was money well spent. It seems that the council thought that the construction of 100 metres of contraflow cycle lane would encourage hundreds of cyclists to suddenly start using Huddersfield Town Centre. They seem to ignore the fact that – at the moment – The Examiner’s headline is largely correct.
Whilst the headline didn’t seem to understand that without the contraflow lane cyclists would be prevented from riding up Ramsden Street it still begs the question ‘where would the cyclist be coming from?’
The answer should be – ‘from the Holme Valley and Queen Street South but the Ring Road currently severs this route at the top of Queen Street South and the current options to get to Ramsden Street from there are either:
(i) a series of pedestrian crossings into Alfred Street
(ii) to use the Queensgate Car Park subway and carry the bike up the steps.
Many cyclists do not know of the existence of these two options, but even those that do, are not enthusiastic as they hardly encourage simple straightforward cycling. This is a major reason for the sparse use being made of the contraflow cycle lane in Ramsden Street. One would like to think that the car park route under the ring road could be made more cycle friendly making it a straightforward route to the civic centre/leisure centre area.
Even with these improvements there would still need to be a comprehensive network of routes to encourage people to see the advantage of using a bike in the town centre. This comprehensive network was supposed to be part of the City Connect plans but the WYCA transport committee has relegated Kirklees Council plans to a ‘reserve list’. (see also the forebodings mentioned in newsletter no. 8). Given the funding restraints City Connect is unlikely to provide the required finance.
Over the next couple of years a complete rethink is needed to decide on the best ways to encourage cycling in Huddersfield and the means of funding to carry it out. We hope that KCC can have a positive influence on this.
It is easy to complain about things, but it is not always so easy to devise solutions.
If the man on the Clapham omnibus is asked why there are not more people using bikes he will almost certainly say that it is because it is too dangerous on the road.
However the reasons are often more complex than this.
If, for example, one looks at the CS1 route between Bradford and Leeds one can see a route – perhaps with the exception of the Stanningly Bottom section – that is safe enough for one’s child to use to get to school everyday. However, if you stand alongside any part of the route between 8:30 and 9:00 on a weekday morning you will be struck by the sparse numbers of cyclists using it. You will probably see more cyclists in Leeds City centre in 5 minutes than you will see in an hour riding along CS1. Speak to many local people and they will berate you with fury because WYCA seems to have spent £millions on a white elephant.
If we are to move forward in the quest to encourage more people to cycle more often, it would seem to be important to investigate the reasons why CS1 is not full of cyclists on a morning commute. In addition to the money, an awful lot of time, thought and hard work has gone into its construction and promotion but this should not be a cause for being in denial about the outcome one year on.
Is it the nature of the route or the infrastructure? Is it that there is not the enthusiasm for commuting on a bike in Yorkshire? If so why not? These are but some of the questions that should be being asked. If new cycling infrastructure is not successful in getting more people out of their cars then funding is unlikely to be available for future projects.
Possible future local routes
KCC committee members are currently in the process of developing routes in the Holme Valley and also exploring how best to link up the Calder Valley Greenway route through Mirfield. We are working with Sustrans and CyclingUK and hope to have some productive discussions with Kirklees in the near future.
KCC Committee Meetings
Just for clarification, KCC committee meetings are open to anyone who wishes to attend. The dates are posted on the KCC website. The next one is:
7pm on 9th August 2017 at The Sportsman St John’s Road Huddersfield.