The Huddersfield Narrow Canal Upgrade Consultation is now live until January 2nd 2021. Everyone is invited to participate. Details can be found on: www.yourvoice.westyorks-ca.gov.uk Kirklees Cycling Campaign has sent the following formal response to the consultation:
Kirklees Cycling Campaign Consultation Response to Proposals for Improvements to Huddersfield Narrow Canal between Milnsbridge and Slaithwaite
Kirklees Cycling Campaign welcomes the intention to improve conditions for cycling along the towpath of the canal. We hope that these improvements will encourage more people to cycle, and make a small step towards making us all less reliant on using our motor vehicles.
We do, however, have some significant reservations about the project, and we believe that some additional measures are necessary if WYCA and Kirklees hold true to their commitment to encourage more bike travel between Huddersfield and Slaithwaite.
There are parts of the consultation document where the plans are not clear to us. As an example of this, the nature of the surfacing to be used has not been specified. This is important not only for the comfort of the cyclist, but also for permeability and the problem of erosion, to which parts of the towpath is vulnerable. Another example which is not clear to us, is the prevention of potential problems from tree roots. This – as far as we can see – has not been mentioned.
The “Missing Link”:
When the surfacing of the towpath is complete; all cyclists will be able to make an unhurried journey from Slaithwaite to Longroyd Bridge in around 25 minutes. A journey time not much longer than it would take by car. The cyclist will not, however, be able to continue and complete the final 1km into Huddersfield Town Centre in the same manner, because there is no direct traffic-free or on-road protected route available.
This “missing link” severely limits the value and benefits of the proposed improvements along the HNC towpath. Until there is new cycling infrastructure to resolve this “missing link” it will continue to discourage people from using a bike; and the current proposals will not achieve their full potential.
We understand that The Canal and River Trust (CRT) does not always share the same agenda as City Connect. The canal towpaths are used by many different user groups and the ideal needs of cyclists often have to be compromised. This is particularly the case in avoiding conflict with pedestrians.
To some extent this can be alleviated by maximising the width of the towpath. We do hope that the consultation plans have done this in every case, as there are many areas where the towpath is very narrow. Where this cannot be avoided, wide passing places should be constructed at either end of the narrow section.
Signage is important to remind cyclists that they do not have priority over pedestrians. Cyclists should be asked to be friendly to other users, to use their bells and to give way where necessary. We do not consider it necessary, however, to ask cyclists to dismount. In places where space is limited, cyclists are more than able to use their brakes, and proceed slowly and with caution, without having to dismount from their bikes.
Access for All:
Everyone should have the opportunity to use the newly improved canal towpath and this must include those with mobility difficulties as stated in the CRT/CityConnect objectives.
We are aware that Craig Grimes of Experience Community is making a response to this consultation and we trust that his concerns will be addressed.
Of particular concern is the lack of finance to make an alternative route at Bridge 38 (mentioned later). We believe that finance needs to be found for this as soon as possible.
There needs to be more consideration to cyclists’ access points to the towpath along the length of the route. These need to be identified, and, where necessary, added to. They all need to be signed and adapted with dropped curbs and other measures that make for a straightforward easy access to the route.
Along the existing Longroyd Bridge to Milnsbridge section there are a number of access points without signage and dropped curbs. We sincerely hope that in time these will be addressed, and that these shortcomings will not be repeated in the Milnsbridge to Slaithwaite section.
The following points concern specific locations on the YourVoice map of the canal:
- Britannia Bridge Slaithwaite: To facilitate good access to the towpath for cyclists, the existing pedestrian crossing needs to be changed to a Tiger/Parallel crossing. We understand that this is beyond the brief of CRT and would have to be carried out by Kirklees Council.
- Library Lock (11) Dropped curbs need to be installed in to make the road crossing easier. Potential erosion from water flowing from the road to the towpath also needs to be prevented.
- Bridge 38: This is a very restricted part of the towpath whilst, at the same time, being an important heritage feature for CRT. The current budget appears only to allow for re-laying the cobbles and making sure that conflict between cyclists and walkers is minimised. If this position is maintained, those with mobility difficulties will continue to be restricted from using the towpath. Funding, therefore, needs to be urgently provided to construct a short (20 metres) alternative and additional route, to the rear of the existing towpath, that cyclists with mobility difficulties are able to use. The existing topography, and available land, appear to enable this to be possible.
We sincerely hope that mistakes made in the Longroyd Bridge to Milnsbridge section will not be repeated. Access points at Milnsbridge and Longroyd Bridge remain without signage and dropped curbs. Areas of slabs and cobbles on the route have been left without adequate pointing and make them precarious for cycling.
We also expect that regular maintenance of summer vegetation to be carried out, and accountability if it is not.
The Next Decade:
If, over the course of the next few years, the towpath proves to be a successful and popular route for cyclists, then it is foreseeable that more difficulties could occur in some of the limited spaces along the canal. If such a significant increase in utility cycling materialises, then there will be a need for an additional route.
A dedicated segregated, protected cycle route along the Manchester Road would seem to be the obvious next stage of the development of cycling infrastructure in the Colne Valley. For this reason, we wish to register to Kirklees and WYCA, that the of numbers of cyclists and pedestrians using the canal towpath over the next decade should be closely monitored and that consideration should be made to design some cycling infrastructure for the Manchester Road, if the canal route generates a need.
We are sure that we have not made every possible recommendation and pointed out every shortcoming of the proposed scheme. We hope, however, that others might do this on our behalf and that City Connect, CRT and Kirklees Council will listen to our concerns and recommendations and do all they can to make this project a success.
Chair – Kirklees Cycling Campaign
20th December 2020