Last night I wrote Posts at new junction on Melton Road by Sainsburys which has now been viewed over 500 times in the first 24 hours.
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.