Anyway, we went shopping there yesterday (yes by bike, traffic on a Friday afternoon is terrible, we would have been crazy to drive).
We were trying to find our way in and find the bike parking. It turns out that my original guess (south side of the vehicular entrance) was wrong. The best way in on a bike is off Troon Way. But despite all those posts there is not a single sign anywhere to tell cyclists how to get to the store. DUH!!!!
I wonder how a large company like Sainsbury’s can work so hard to promote themselves as having excellent environmental policies, how they can have huge posters everywhere explaining how this new store is so brilliant for the environment while being so totally useless about supporting staff and customers arriving by bike.
I have written a lot of blog posts now on the failures of Leicester City Council and Sainsbury’s in the design and implementation of the new junction on the Melton Road at Troon way/Watermead Way because it is appallingly bad. There is probably at least one more critical post to come about actually getting to the Superstore by bike. So if you haven’t seen these posts have a look:
The thing that is really frustrating is that it could easily have been so different. On the east side (where Sainsburys is) there is lots and lots of space.
So my first suggestion for what Sainsbury’s could have done is very simple. They could have re-connected the old 1930’s segregated cycle track alongside the Melton Road so that it stayed as a segregated track running all the way through the junction.
They could have copied the design of the new segregated cycle track they have put in on Newarke Street where there is a colour and grade separation between the cycle track and the footway. See that in this video:
Then at all the crossings they could have copied the design of the “super crossing” near the station where a toucan crossing is both very wide and straight as it crosses the Central Ring dual carriageway.
The cycle track and footway would have needed to curve away from the Melton Road slightly from just north of the Sainsbury’s entrance to just south of Troon Way in order to allow the toucan crossings to be straight. This would have also allowed the cycle track to bypass behind the bus stop as they always do in the Netherlands.
The new left turning lane into Troon Way would have needed to be made a little more separated in order to line up the crossings. The central refuge of the Troon Way crossing would have needed to be a little wider so that the cattle pens could be removed and the crossing be straight.
None of this would have cost very much in the context of the whole junction.
The problems with the other side of the junction could have also been solved very simply by
upgrading the existing 1930’s cycle track on the Sainsbury’s side from Thurmaston to Belgrave.
upgrading one Melton Road crossing north of the junction and one south to supercrossings (with linked lights)
As part of this the Council could have reasonably resurfaced the 80 year old segregated cycle track on the east side of the Melton Road all the way from Manor Road in Thurmaston to the entrance to Rushey Fields in Belgrave (just south of the vehicle entrance into Rushey Mead Secondary School). Most of that cycle track has not been resurfaced in 80 years and now the concrete slabs have big steps between them. While resurfacing it could have been widened into it’s grass verge, been given priority over side roads and entrances by running it across a hump as existing standards allow (there are only about 4 needed) and bus stop bypasses installed.
If that work had been done then I am confident many people would be content to use this as a fast two way cycle route along the Melton Road and when travelling North would cross from the west side to ride the whole length on the east side. Therefore a crossing of Watermead Way would no longer be an issue.
I feel I should have made it clearer that my suggestion is not just about this junction but about how it connects and how it can contribute to a wider network.
My suggestion connects at the north end with a scheme (that has a significant number of design issues itself) provided by Leicestershire County Council. With a naff bit of shared pavement you can get past the health centre and shops at the Humberstone Lane junction and then use the route along the Thurmaston bypass which is partially on a 20mph limit road (a speed limit that is widely ignored) and then on a shared footway to Thurmaston Shopping Centre. From there the quality goes down again and you have a section of poor shared footway to the mini roundabout at Fosse Way where you are abandoned.
At the south end of my suggestion there is the possibility of using Lanesborough Road to connect to Bath Street and join the Sustrans route through Abbey Park. There are only two problems with this. a) the bit between Thurcaston Rd and Abbey Pumping Station floods a lot and b) there is no safe route into the City once you get to the Central Ring Road.
A signposted alternative for cyclists at the southern end is to go through Rushey Fields and along Harrison Road. I only recommend this if your destination is on Harrison Road and you are a confident cyclist with a death wish. It is horrible!
More frequently these days I tend to go straight along the Melton Road/Belgrave Road. It is unpleasant but it is fast. I find it easier going towards the city than away from it though. This is the Golden Mile in Leicester, it has exciting vibrant shops and restaurants but ends being dominated by a combination of parked and speeding motorised vehicles. The road could be made so much more attractive to visit by reducing it to a single lane of motor vehicles in each direction with protected segregated cycle tracks and wider pavements with outside seating for the restaurants in the summer.
While the posts, signs and other street furniture scattered randomly around the shared use footway are a big problem they are by no means the only problem.
Even if the footway were fully cleared of all this junk the junction would still be very slow and inconvenient for cyclists and pedestrians and that is for two reasons:
a) the junction design and traffic light sequencing is entirely focused on motorised traffic throughput. Hence there are a lot of separate toucan crossings and they only go green when vehicles can’t use those lanes due to conflicts with other vehicles.
b) Sainsburys have managed to wangle their way out of providing any crossings at all on the west side of the junction where pedestrians and cyclists travelling North on the 1930’s segregated cycle track need to cross Watermead Way. This means pedestrians and cyclists need to cross the Melton Road twice and Troon Way once instead of crossing just Watermead Way.
This junction is really important for journeys in and out of Leicester along the Melton Road to the North East. With Thurmaston; Syston; East Goscote; Cossington and Sileby all in easy reach of the city. The only popular alternative is to use the National Cycle Network through Watermead Park. However, this has been inaccessible due to flooding for around 8 weeks in 2013. Even when not flooded it is very slow and much further (8.5 miles instead of less than 6 from Syston).
So, how much of a problem is it? At the moment I am told that the traffic lights are not in their final programmed state so I have not taken any timings.
If you head South through the junction towards the city you have got to use 5 separate toucan crossings (2 for the Sainsburys entrance and 3 to cross Troon Way). Due to the way these prioritise motorised vehicles they cannot all be green. So far I have not experienced less than 3 waits.
The “normal” route North would be on the segregated cycle tracks (that become shared footways close to the junction) on the West side of the Melton Road (ie travelling in the same direction as the lane of traffic alongside you). This route requires 7 Toucan crossings and you get stopped at lots of them (I think it takes 2 or 3 complete junction light phases to get through).
An alternative route North would be to cross the Melton Road at a different spot. However, all the crossings for about a mile in each direction are made up of two separate Toucan Crossings and as they are not part of junctions they are set to be very slow to respond to button presses. Therefore any time saving is likely to be very small. If you are continuing North past Thurmaston you do need to cross to the East side at some point, however doing this at Troon Way adds additional side roads to cross and the 2 Toucan crossings for the Sainsburys entrance.
On Road Routes
Many “fast” cyclists will be tempted to stay on the road. Partly because they will get through this junction so much more quickly but also because the cycle tracks have had almost no maintenance since they were built of concrete slabs in the 1930’s. The joints are now several inches high making for a very jarring ride that soon breaks lightweight wheels or causes pinch flats. When the northbound Melton Road was recently resurfaced the Council said that while there was a planned maintenance schedule for the cycle track after only 80 years it was not yet due for resurfacing.
So heading north along the Melton Road it is a straight dual carriage way about a mile each side of the Troon Way junction. Traffic is heavy and fast, while the speed limit is 40mph when you drive at that speed you are overtaken be vehicles going much much faster (I would suggest a significant % doing around 60mph). I see some cyclists riding this but I have tried it only once and found it so unpleasant that I have never used in since. Neither my wife or sons (21, 18 and 15) would consider riding along this road.
Going south there are a few more options. You could ride the whole dual carriage again, it is very little nicer than going North. At the northern end traffic is very fast having just come from the 50mph Thurmaston bypass (usually at a lot more than 50mph), at the southern end the left lane is a bus lane which at least means there are fewer drivers trying to kill you.
You could also join the carriageway at the Sainsburys entrance and leave about 100 metres south of Troon way where there is way onto the cycle track. However, you now have the added danger of a new left feed lane for the junction so you risk being knocked off by left turning traffic crossing lanes into you.
I have written about this junction as it used to be, when it had one of the worst accident rates in Leicester. Then there were no safe crossings for pedestrians and cyclists on any of the arms of the junction and also no safe refuges in the middle. For very patient and slow pedestrians and cyclists it is now a little better, for everyone else it is worse. What a waste of an opportunity!
Later I’ll write about what could have been done with a bit of imagination and a willingness to invest in transport for the future.
The new junction includes access to the new Sainsburys and a complete reworking of where the Melton Road is crossed by Troon Way (to the East) and Watermead Way (to the West).
Approaching from the North heading towards Leicester on the west side of the Melton Road.
First is the classic Leicester City design (also seen at the new Southgates cycle path) where posts are added to the middle of a cycle track, of course they are not high vis despite their position). This is at the entrance to Sainsburys.
also the matching post once you have crossed the junction. After all there is no space to put this post except in the middle of the path (not!)
Same post from the opposite direction, completely unclear how you will get into Sainsburys by bike as the path ends just on the corner ahead.
Then we have a huge road sign. Pictured from both sides. It shows how easily the posts could have been positioned to the side of the path instead of reducing the width and making it far too easy to catch them with your handlebars.
The next sign needs to have been a bit wider so that the posts could have been positioned clear of the path.
Yet more posts, presumably for another sign. Again there is no reason why these have to block the cycle / pedestrian shared space.
Look how much fun we can have with positioning a lamp post, a no stopping sign and a bus stop
Where else would you put this vital sign other than the very middle of a shared use pedestrian and cycle pavement? After all it would be impossible to fit the sign to either the lamp post or the bus stop.
By the entrance to Sainsburys why put these brand new boxes of electronics in the cycle path?
At the corner of Melton Road/Troon Way the boxes are positioned more sensibly. Why couldn’t they be consistent?
On the North West side of Melton Road they decided that for a change to install the post 1/3 of the way across the path.
On the South West side a return to normal with the sign right in the middle of the path
This junction has been closed for weeks, everything has been replaced and yet all these posts have been placed in such stupid places.
To my knowledge the Cycle City Workshop was never shown detailed plans of this junction. I want to know who decided on this junction layout. I want to know who decided to position these posts in these way. Is it the City engineers? Have the construction team followed the design correctly or did they choose these positions?
No doubt cyclists will have to live with this rubbish for the next 50 years. I reported a new sign post in the middle of the new cycle track on Southgates in September and was told on 17th September that the engineer was aware of the problem and the post would be reallocated. Nothing has happened yet and that was a single post in what was an unfinished cycle track.
At the moment I have lost all my confidence in the ability of the City Council to implement safe cycle infrastructure. In another post on this same junction I will also show how the City Council are also failing to implement convenient cycle infrastructure.