Back in September 2012 I blogged about on-going roadworks in Plymouth, which while essential, made things far worse for cyclists than what was necessary.

I emailed Plymouth’s Cycling Commisioner about this, with some suggestions of small changes that could have made things better for cyclists. She told me she’d put my suggestions to the relevant department and get back to me. She did in fact get back to me, but only to say she’ll get back to me with an update.

The roadworks have finished a while ago now, and still no actual answer, so I’m beginning to wonder what exactly the role of Cycling Commisioner entails, or whether it is merely a ceremonial title.

Having said that, the end result of the roadworks did actually improve things for cyclists and pedestrians, which is a welcome change.

The roadworks made changes to the junction of Finegan Road and Laira Bridge Road, while also resealing and resurfacing Laira Bridge itself. Before, there was no signal-controlled crossing across the mouth of Finegan Road and pedestrians & cyclists often took their lives into their own hands trying to cross here.

Now Rule 170 of the Highway Code clearly states “Give way to pedestrians who have started to cross” when turning into a road. Sadly (and quite predictably) this ISN’T enforced, and cars would come tearing around the corner, causing pedestrians and cyclists to have to jump for their lives!

Now there is a signal-controlled toucan crossing which may be used by cyclists and pedestrians. This change alone was worth all the traffic upset the roadworks caused and massively increased the safety for pedestrians and cyclists crossing here.

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On the left pavement of Finegan Road, heading towards Laira Bridge, there is a good surface quality, yet otherwise very poor cycle path. Plymouth City Council clearly didn’t follow DfT guidelines when they built that. For starters, the cycling side of the path is furthest away from the road, while DfT guidelines state the pedestrian side should be.
The path forces cyclists to yield at each and every side entrance, while they would have enjoyed priority had they cycled on the road, which means it is one of those paths that was built simply to get cyclists out of the way of all these far more important drivers.
The turning raduises are very tight, so cyclists towing trailers or tag-alongs, those on tandems or those on trikes will not be able to make the turning. As such, it is best avoided!

At the junction itself, there is an Advanced Stop Line on Finegan Road, while the cycle path bypassed it on the pavement. Now at least is has been improved so cyclists can enter the ASL from the cycle path. Imagine that! Joined-up cycling infrastructure in Plymouth!

On Laira Bridge Road, between Embankment Lane and the start of the traffic-free cycle path just before the bridge, on the left pavement when traveling East, the pavement is a shared space.
Before, that continued for a short while, before the dreaded “End of Route” sign left cyclists stranded about 50 meters from the start of the traffic-free path. This pavement has now been re-worked to offer a continous route through, and even has the addition of a flush ramp to allow cyclists riding on the road to ride onto the shared path before turning onto the traffic-free section.

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I’m hoping that the engineers Plymouth used for this project weren’t just on loan from somewhere else, and that the roads team have finally started catching up with what makes for better cycling infrastructure, but to be honest I’m not very hopeful that this is a lasting change of step.

Perhaps if they resolve the mess that is the shared path along the southern pavement of Billacombe Road I’ll start to believe.

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