If the whole route into Leicester was like this bit (just passing Birstall) then maybe other families would also cycle into Leicester for a meal on a Saturday evening (especially when approaching a deadline for using up Tesco vouchers).
For us it is just over 7 miles from Syston to the Pizza Express in St Martin’s Square. Much of the route is off road.
However, none of the off-road elements are dedicated cycle routes, they are all shared with pedestrians and worse with pedestrians who have dogs with them that are not on leads.
Also the off-road elements are generally a poor surface, occasionally a very poor surface (such as south of the Space Centre which is still very bumpy despite some recent very minimal “maintenance” – which consisted of pouring some tarmac down some of the wheel swallowing canyons). There is also a lot of glass around on the off-road sections.
Unfortunately, the on road sections are much worse than the off-road.
On the way in there is:
- The junction from Grafton Place to Abbey Street (crossing the Central Ring with a left then right). The traffic lights make this reasonably straightforward but both our sons feel unsafe doing this.
- The junction from Abbey Street turning right into Belgrave Gate. The right turn is clearly marked as being for buses, cycles and taxi’s only but that is totally ignored despite being only 50m from a Police Station. Due to all the parked cars and aggressive driving getting into the lane to turn right is not easy and cars want to rush past you through the junction before they get to the roundabout.
- The roundabout on Belgrave gate where we need to turn right at to continue up Haymarket. Buses and Taxis all feel they can and should push cyclists out of their way while car drivers who are trying to go where they know they are not allowed are very unpredicatable.
- At the Clock Tower we join the pedestrianised area which is generally ok.
On the way out we take a slightly different route as Haymarket is one way. So we go along the pedestrianised Humberstone Gate and then turn left into Charles Street. The problems are:
- Charles Street is very clogged with buses who ignore cyclists (however hard to try to make sure you are visible in their wing mirrors then seem to ignore you totally).
- Charles Street also has a number of cars despite no cars being allowed. I guess that as the car drivers are already breaking the law it is no surprise that they often show very dangerous behaviour to cyclists.
- From the end of Charles Street we turn right at the roundabout and then left into Abbey Street. As you go around the roundabout you can be sure a car or taxi will ignore you and pull out just in front of you while a bus tries to ram you from behind.
- At the end of Abbey Street we go straight across the Central Ring into St John Street. As the traffic light phase is so short that car drivers get very impatient here and try to force their way past.
Of course at the Syston end we also have the horrors of the traffic calming on the Wanlip Road (all of which are bad for cyclists) and the aggressive behaviour typical of the Melton Road.
So we have a ride which is 7 miles long. 5 miles of which is safe and traffic free but the mile at each end does not feel at all safe.
With some basic work it could be made much more attractive for people to ride into Leicester from Syston, Thurmaston, & Birstall. Work such as:
- enforcing the existing law eg
connecting the national Cycle Route 6 into the centre of Leicester in a safe way
20 mph speed limit in Syston and inside the Central Ring of Leicester
training bus drivers to be safe to cyclists
- speed cameras are much better for cyclists than the style of traffic calming on Wanlip Road
- traffic light cameras to catch cars turning right into Humberstone Gate
- cameras to catch cars using Charles Street
Of course if we were at all serious about attracting cyclists then in addition to sorting out the on road sections the whole route through Watermead Park and Abbey Park would be twice the width, a smooth surface and woith a very clear segregation between cyclists and pedestrians (different surface treatments and a kerb between).
More of the route would also be lit at night and the bollards under Watermead Way and the barriers at Birstall, Bath Street and Thurcaston Road would all be removed.
Finally the bizarre signs & route for cyclists at the Wanlip Road exit to Watermead Park should be improved (at the moment new signs have been added that contradict the white markings painted on the surface and cyclists are directed to use a narrow cycle entrance that is painted as a one way entrance as the exit as well).
Sadly many people seem to believe that Leicester has a legitimate claim to be a cycle city and that it can expect to see significant increases in the number of cyclists. No doubt much of any increase will continue to be people riding illegally on the pavement because they feel the roads are too unsafe and they can’t find the cycle facilities (or indeed tell them apart from the pedestrian pavements).