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.
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 as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.