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Protected cycle lane on busy city road could “unintentionally deliver a more dangerous environment” by creating rat runs, councillor warns

Leeds City Council says the new infrastructure, set to be installed on a “busy, narrow” road used by schoolchildren, will “keep people safe”

Plans to install a protected cycle lane on one of the busiest and most dangerous roads in Leeds has been opposed by a Liberal Democrat councillor, who called for the scheme to be scrapped after claiming that it would “deliver a more dangerous environment” by creating rat runs on surrounding roads. However, Leeds City Council’s Labour administration says the new infrastructure on a “narrow” and “well-used” corridor will “keep people safe, not just from collisions, but from air quality problems as well”.

The plans, which are funded by Active Travel England, involve the creation of 1.7 miles of protected cycle lanes on the A660, a main road stretching from the north-west of Leeds into the city centre and a popular route for commuters and students accessing university and college campuses.

The A660 is also one of the busiest, and most dangerous, cycle routes in Leeds, with over 1,000 cyclists using it daily, while 172 people were killed or injured on the road between 2016 and 2021.

Leeds City Council’s proposals, announced earlier this year, are part of broader plans to upgrade the Otley Road and involve the installation of inbound and outbound two-metre-wide segregated cycle lanes along most of the route, widened footways, a reduction of the speed limit to 20mph in certain places, and the closure of two residential streets to prevent rat running.

However, the A660 scheme came under fire last week from Stewart Golton, the group leader for the Liberal Democrats in Leeds City Council, who called the plans in for scrutiny at a meeting of the local authority, forcing a vote on whether senior leaders should reconsider pressing ahead with the cycle lanes, Leeds Live reports.

According to Golton, the new cycle lanes do not represent value for money and instead have the potential to cause rat running on nearby roads.

“Nobody wants to see the A660 left the way it is,” Golton told the meeting. “Everyone wants to encourage people to use their bikes and everyone wants to see pedestrians using their streets. I’m not saying no action should be taken to achieve any of that.

“But there can be unintended consequences of well-intended schemes. To reduce casualties on a route you may unintentionally deliver a more dangerous environment in others.”

The Lib Dem councillor also questioned the local authority’s ambition to quadruple the number of cycling journeys on the A660 through the scheme.

“Unless you are converting car users to bike users on those journeys, the overall safety benefits are not achieved,” he said.

Helen Hayden, the council’s executive member for infrastructure and climate, defended the scheme and said she would “not apologise for this administration being ambitious”.

“This is a well-used corridor, it’s very busy and it’s narrow,” Hayden said, adding that 63 percent of residents backed the scheme during its public consultation.

“This about keeping people safe, not just from collisions, but from air quality problems as well. There are young children going to school along this route. When more people walk and cycle their health improves.

“I won’t apologise for this administration being ambitious and wanting the best. We’d love to do this all over the city if we had the money.”

Following the debate, the council’s infrastructure scrutiny board dismissed Golton’s concerns and backed the scheme, voting eight to one in favour of it going ahead.

> “Doing nothing is not feasible”: Council defends “life-saving” cycle lane after opponents said it would cause “traffic stacking” and destroy green space

The Lib Dem councillor’s attempt to scrap the proposed cycle lane isn’t the first time that the scheme has come in for criticism, however.

In May, we reported that plans for the A660 cycle lane were criticised by a local residents’ group, who claimed the proposals will increase congestion and pollution in the area, as well as wipe out green space.

In a presentation to councillors, the Friends of Woodhouse Moor group argued that turning a pavement into a shared-use lane on one section of the route would cause “traffic stacking” and increase danger for pedestrians.

However, the council responded by noting that the scheme will help save lives, increase safety for all road users, and improve the environment by offering more easily accessible alternatives to motor transport.

The local authority also disputed the group’s claim that the consultation process surrounding the proposals was “biased”, and pointed out that while 11 trees will be felled as part of the work on the cycle lanes, some of these are in poor health, with 33 new trees set to be planted.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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14 comments

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cyclisto | 9 months ago
0 likes

I ran along the route on google maps and I think it would be hard to use rat runs efficiently, there is no consistent alternative route.

It is indeed not very wide road as seen on Streetview, but maybe with a little expropriation and maybe 1m reduction in road space, the practical minimum 2.5m wide cycle lane for both directions could be created in one side of the road. It needs money I know, but so did car roads when built.

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chrisonabike replied to cyclisto | 9 months ago
1 like

I'm not sure rat runs necessarily have to be efficient - that may not be the most important thing driving the behaviour.  In fact it's quite probable rat running may slow traffic overall (albeit over a wider area) e.g. as you're trying to get through / into other lines of traffic.  It may also take you personally as long or longer.

I think a driver of rat-running (and of use of private transport modes in general) is the feeling of autonomy / agency.  Plus it may feel like you're making more progress if you swap slow and steady for race and then wait.

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bensynnock | 9 months ago
11 likes

Isn't this just an argument to install low traffic neighbourhood infrastructure in those rat runs?

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muhasib | 9 months ago
3 likes

Stewart Golton ran for the post of West Yorkshire Mayor in 2021, here are a couple of excerpts from his pitch at that time:

"Let’s get more investment in local bus routes, and safer walking and cycling in our neighbourhoods"

" I will use my 20 years experience in local government to work with councillors and communities to develop ‘15 minute neighbourhoods‘ to revive our town, district and village centres"

If you want the bonus round on his policies then consider what he said about HS2 in 2021:

"HS2 is an overpriced white elephant, and I will not accept that our region should wait for the delivery of HS2 before we can benefit from better local rail services"

It's almost as if the last statement was ghost writing Rishi Sunak's speech 2 years in advance. It is a delicious irony that if he is so concerned about a cycle lane on the A660 he's going to get very stressed about the possible re-emergence of the Leeds Supertram project as that goes straight up the A660 and will make the displacement of car traffic off the scale compared to the segregated cycle path.

Still it's what he campaigned for apparently....

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bensynnock replied to muhasib | 9 months ago
6 likes

The lib Dems are political chameleons and shouldn't ever be trusted. They don't have opinions, they have talking points.

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headingley replied to bensynnock | 9 months ago
6 likes

This is my daily commute route and will build on the improvements already made by LCC to date - the plans have been very widely discussed and consulted on. The results of the consultation (with over a thousand responses) was stikingly supportive with over 7 out of 10 supporting the plans, very little opposition. In fact 1,709 comments were received, only 25% of the replies  were "dissatisfied" or "unhappy" with 63% supportive and 11% neutral. The Lib Dem objections are (not surprisingly)  illogical, the suggestion of increased rat-running is just rubbish - it already happens and it's not to avoid cycleways ! They local Libe Dems also oppose the re-modelling of a major roundabout at the north end of this corridor - Lawnswood. Their local Councillor lost his seat here earlier this year -  and they tried (and failed) to make the planned road changes an issue in the election ! Once built this scheme will show what can be done when you have a local authority that really does want to improve the cyclists lot.

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muhasib replied to headingley | 9 months ago
3 likes

Agreed, I used to commute(on foot) from Lawnswood to Quarry Hill as i lived on the A660 and I could run faster than the traffic for most of the way until Woodhouse Moor; Lib Dems always talked about local democracy but never seemed to actually get anything done for the area!

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eburtthebike replied to muhasib | 9 months ago
2 likes

That can't be right.  A lib-dem saying one thing one day and the opposite the next: not possible.

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headingley replied to muhasib | 9 months ago
0 likes

The "Leeds Tram" or (more correctly named) "West Yorkshire Rapid Transit" scheme mentioned by Sunak and as proposed by the West Yorkshire Mayor, Tracey Brabin, isn't planned to go up the A660 route any more. At most it will serve the University (and other parts of Leeds and the wider County) The original 1990's scheme did follow the A660 but was cancelled by the last Labour Government (Alistair Darling) in what I believe to be pre-London Olympic financial panic.

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eburtthebike | 9 months ago
7 likes

I just can't believe he didn't say "I'm a cyclist myself but........."

The staggering level of driver entitlement is gigantic, and anyone or anything that threatens the supremacy of the car is vociferously opposed by car addicts.  Soon to get much worse with the government now ditching all it's previous transport policies in favour of the driver.  Personally, I think that they are just screwing everything up as much as possible to leave labour with a complete and utter cluster-f**k.

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HarrogateSpa | 9 months ago
14 likes

Another Councillor who is in favour of cycling in theory but not in practice. It's never the right place, never the right time, never the right scheme as far as some people are concerned.

Helen Hayden and the council are right to give short shrift to Stewart Golton.

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morgoth985 replied to HarrogateSpa | 9 months ago
11 likes

Agreed.  "Drivers are so untrustworthy, you know, we can't introduce measures to protect others from their lawlessness because they'll just go and break the law somewhere else."

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belugabob replied to morgoth985 | 9 months ago
4 likes
Morgoth985 wrote:

Agreed.  "Drivers are so untrustworthy, you know, we can't introduce measures to protect others from their lawlessness because they'll just go and break the law somewhere else."

Nailed it.

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bensynnock replied to morgoth985 | 9 months ago
3 likes

We've seen this with the 20mph speed limits. Apparently nobody will obey them and seeing as they will be speeding anyway and there's no 30 limit they'll be going even faster. As if people ever stuck to the 30.

Besides, it's quicker by bike.

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