What you’ve all been waiting for!
(All background information is here and we would urge you all to make your own submission to the online consultation.)
It has taken the Dynamo committee a long time to finalise a response. It’s quite difficult to consider the schemes from a purely cycling perspective: you end up getting side-tracked about where cars will go, whether or not Central 2 is the more pragmatic option to Central 1, the risk of rat-runs developing on hitherto quiet roads, or deploring the loss of countryside. Our submission – after much discussion – is below. (And below that is further reading if you’re really interested.)
As a general principle Dynamo is opposed to the building of new roads given the concurrent emergencies relating to climate and public health due to both air pollution and inactivity. These are exacerbated by road transport, which is already the UK’s greatest single contributor to carbon dioxide emissions. However, Dynamo does support the reduction of traffic volumes in Lancaster city centre, preferably by closing the city centre to through traffic, and would consider supporting an additional motorway link road as a means to achieving this goal. Some conditions would be applied to the support for such development, and these are identified below:
1. Lancaster city centre is closed to all non-essential through traffic, and walking and cycling prioritised for local journeys within the city.
2. Any new roads constructed include acceptable provisions for non-motorised forms of travel that are fully compliant with design standards in the design year.
3. Park and ride facilities are provided with direct access to a high quality cycle route (the ‘cycle superhighway’) which provides safe, direct, and convenient access to both Lancaster University and Lancaster city centre.
Of the options offered in the consultation, Dynamo’s preference is for Central 1, as it is the most direct, the least intrusive and offers the greatest benefit to Galgate air quality.
Dynamo debated the option of Central 2 (a link road to the A588) but the consensus was against it. Ashton Road is fast, twisting and already a difficult road to cycle on; increasing traffic on it between the golf club and the Pointer roundabout without modifying it in any way (e.g. by introducing cycle lanes) is unsustainable. Moreover it is effectively single-lane outside De Vitre Cottages and, in term time, is partially blocked by school buses outside Ripley School.
Dynamo favours the closure of the city centre to all non-essential motorised through traffic in order to improve conditions within the city and to prioritise the area as a space for people rather than traffic, to prevent any problems with both congestion and air pollution, and to facilitate more sustainable travel in and around the city centre.
Dynamo has a clear preference for a sustainable transport corridor on the eastern side of the existing gyratory because this provides a more direct route for through cycle traffic from north of the river heading to destinations to the south of the city, such as the hospital and university, and because it has more gentle gradients than the western side. It would be preferable for this route to be separated from both pedestrians and motorised vehicles in order to provide a route along which the perceived level of safety is high. This route should be of a sufficient standard to attract traffic from both Penny Street and the canal so that any potential conflict with pedestrians along these routes can be minimised.
Of the options, 6a comes closest to our vision. It may also facilitate the tentative plans for the Canal Quarter and the idea of the ‘Stonewell nose’. However, in funnelling cycle traffic onto the eastern side consideration must be given to cyclists who need to access the railway station.
It may be necessary for motorised traffic to be restricted to a single lane along the sustainable transport corridor in order to provide sufficient space for a separate two-way cycle route, and pedestrian space. In this case buses and taxis could follow the route of the existing one-way system, with the section along China Street designed for pedestrian priority and low traffic speeds. All cycling infrastructure introduced needs to be suitable for a range of mobility adapted cycles, cargo bikes, and conventional bikes with trailers, and must be designed for much higher levels of use than are currently seen in Lancaster city centre.
It may be necessary for additional measures to be introduced in the wider area to prevent through traffic diverting onto residential streets to bypass the city centre. This could potentially be achieved by converting streets to one-way traffic, or by closing them to through traffic to produce low traffic neighbourhoods, or active neighbourhoods.
The local Green Party held an online public meeting about the plans at the end of November, and Dynamo learned a bit more about the city and county councils’ thinking as follows (with our comments in brackets):
- Cycle superhighway is due for completion in May 2023, although there is no information on the scheme yet.
- January 2024 is the date for city centre gyratory changes (so, before changes to J33).
- March 2024 – possibility of a crossing over the canal linking the A588 to the A6 (so does that mean the Central 2 option has already been decided on?).
- June 2024 – bus Rapid Transport and potential park & ride.
- 2025 – “Bailrigg Garden Village” spine road and utilities. West Coast mainline road underpass.
- 2027 Junction 33 and various associated routes.
- Department for Transport Safer Roads Fund to include safety improvements at the Pointer roundabout and average speed cameras between Galgate and the Pointer roundabout (no date given).
- At present the County Council doesn’t yet have an indication of the breakdown between through-traffic and city centre-bound traffic. Page 60 of the Strategy says that traffic within the city centre has risen since the opening of the Bay Gateway, despite one of the conditions of funding the Bay Gateway was that growth of traffic in the city centre should be prevented.
- Central government has said it will make £140 million available for roads/direct measures as part of the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF). Lancashire County Council will have to borrow to cover the cost of plans not covered by the HIF. (This may make some of us a little uneasy.)