So on Friday “Ride Leicester” announced on Facebook that the new Route 1 from Leicester to Cossington was open. I expressed some negative feelings about the route (the route now appears at Cycle Trails – Cycle Routes in Leicestershire – Leicestershire County Council).
So yesterday I went to test the finished route and took some photos. I had been to Loughborough for a meeting and took a detour from the direct route back to Syston, of course as this is a cycle route and they have the lowest priority in Leicestershire you know that it won’t be direct or convenient. Anyway this is what I found.
It is immediately obvious that the route is not actually finished. Here is the northern end of the new route. The signs are still covered and the crossing lights have not yet been installed. Not finished or open by most definitions.
This Syston Road which runs between Rothley and the A46 is busy and fast. They have put up a new 50mph speed limit but it is not enforced with speed cameras or any traffic calming so is widely ignored.
The route north abandons you here. While still signposted in a few places as route 1 there is no infrastructure through Cossington, Sileby and Mountsorrel. As you leave Cossington going north there are a couple of blind bends, almost every time I ride through there I have vehicles that insist on overtaking me through those blind bends when they have no idea if someone is coming the other way. Quite scary.
The real start of the cycle route is of course obvious because of the barrier that will ensure this new facility is as inconvenient as possible for cyclists. Only a road bike with drop handlebars can fit straight through this gap. My wife’s step through frame with front basket needs the front lifting over the shiny steel sides due to the width of the handlebars. If you try to angle the handlebars to get them through then the basket won’t fit. Ladies with bikes that have baskets on the front are clearly not wanted here.
Of course you also won’t be able to get through if you have a child trailer or have a child in a seat on the back of your bike. But then we don’t want parents with young children to use this new cycle facility either.
Please don’t try most tandems, they tend to have wider handlebars for better control and of course the stoker bars can’t be turned either. But no worries, tandems are only used by couples or maybe for a partially sighted or blind stoker – Leicestershire don’t want them either.
Fortunately, you probably can’t get many mobility scooters through this either. The reason it is fortunate is because you are going to find the route impassible a bit further on anyway. But that is ok, we don’t want people with limited mobility to be able to get around either.
Here you can see how the edge of the route is already overgrown, you can’t see the edge at all and there are branches and brambles overhanging about 1/3 of the width. The experience from other parts of this route suggests it might get cut back once every few years. In 12 months the width will be considerably reduced.
Notice how the pedestrian couple have moved to the side to let me past. The path isn’t wide enough for an ordinary bike to pass two people walking side by side.
Experience in Watermead Park suggests that on a nice weekend cyclists will have to slow to a walking pace about every 30 metres to get past pedestrians, often needing to stop because of loose dogs. But it seems that is ok, Leicestershire know that cyclists never want to get anywhere quickly.
The short new section of path also includes two sharp blind bends. This one is a full 90 degrees and the hedge has not been cut back at all so there is no visibility. In fact as I was stopped taking this picture a runner suddenly appeared just where I would have been riding, as you see in the next photo.
Next time it could be a person with a dog on a long lead that goes right across the path. There will be no warning.
To make a point here is a picture of the other blind corner which is a 90 degree right hander, again with no visibility.
Once you have navigated the barrier and blind corners you get to the River Soar. More bad news here. Not only does the surfaced path disappear but they haven’t provided a smooth transition, just roughly and partially filled with loose bits.
By now you have realised that the only bikes designed for these routes are cross bikes. You need the gearing, agility and big tyres of a mountain bike combined with drop handlebars to get through the barriers.
The next bit uses the spacious towpath.
Of course this bit hasn’t been surfaced, but don’t worry, if it rains a lot it will probably be underwater anyway.
The good news is that they have been repairing the river banks. The bad news is that they have not filled in behind them properly so the surface is very rough and here there are reinforcement bars showing ready to trip you up.
Of course this will probably be changed because we have been promised a new bridge over the Wreake. Sadly despite this route being declared open you still have these steps to navigate.
I have done this with a cargobike because I mistakenly followed earlier signs without realising that this is perfectly ok on a National Cycle Network route in Leicestershire.
Finally, we reach the point where we turn off for Syston. Of course we can’t let you leave this wonderful new cycle route without another cycle proof barrier. Just to make sure that you are slowed down enough we put in a steep slope up to the road to really scare you if you are silly enough to have a child in a seat on your bike.
From here the route to Syston uses Meadow Lane.
That includes this steep and narrow bridge over the A46, the safety audit recognised that it was dangerous for cyclists to be riding slowly up this hill to the blind bridge with the possibility of meeting cars, vans or lorries coming the other way.
So they have fitted ramps onto the pavement so that cyclists can get off the road over the bridge hump. Of course they have not put up any signs to tell you that this is ok. Also they have allowed the ramps to become so overgrown that you can’t use them with a trike or a trailer.
The bridge pavements also feature wheel catchers, sorry I mean expansion joints.
As I reached the end of Meadow Lane my camera battery ran out so I can’t show the delights of the semi derlict industrial area, the huge potholes, the overgrown section to the Fosseway, the loose gravel when crossing the Fosseway or the path between Fosseway and Broad Street that is still closed for re-surfacing (despite them taking down the closed signs at the Broad Street end).
I’ll put those in another post along with the appalling crossing of Syston High Street and the rest of Route 1 (that incidentally ends at the Leicester City Central Ring Road).
No doubt this is going to prove popular, but why couldn’t it be done properly to a good standard as other countries manage?