Joe Blunt’s Lane Surface Improvements

A cycling issue I’d been chasing with Norfolk County Council for several months has finally been addressed.

As part of the Thetford Academy building works, some adjustments were made to the north-west end of Joe Blunt’s Lane in Thetford. A new path was added alongside Croxton Road where Joe Blunt’s Lane  meets the road, and a new path crossing the Lane from the main Academy site to the new car park was added a few meters further down.

In both these places, a new shingle surface was added adjacent to new hard-surfaced areas. This is dangerous to any cyclists using the Lane, and as the gravel dispersed, step-changes in surface height would be left behind. I complained to the council about this, who informed me that the single surface was contrary to the agreed plans. They asked the contractor to replace the shingle with a compacted sub-base material, which would be much safer for cyclists.

It took several months and further chasing with the Council, but I’m pleased to say that when I visited the site today, the shingle had (mostly) been removed and the new sub-base material had been installed.

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The only slight snag is that a quantity of shingle remains just below the new surface at the Croxton road junction. This isn’t too bad, however, as it will naturally disperse over time.

Thetford to Elveden Cycleway Issue

Yesterday, I went to have a look at the newly opened junction on the A11, that allows southbound traffic to exit north-east of Elveden on to the old London Road through the village. This is also the place where the new cyclepath that runs parallel to the A11 from the Sainsbury’s roundabout in Thetford re-joins the carriageway.

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The current juction configuration, with the A11 exit sliproad and the cycleway coming in from the top right, and London Road proceeding out of the botom left towards Elveden. (Image © Thunderforest, CC-By-SA; data © OpenStreetMap contributors, ODbL.)

I do not know if the current configuration is intended to be final, but the route that south-bound cyclists are currently forced to take is somewhat dangerous. The cyclepath rejoins the carriageway opposite the exit from the turning loop, which is great for those heading north. However, those heading south are forced to use the narrow single-lane one-way section of road opposite the turning loop. The traffic here is likely to be fast moving as it will have just come off the A11. The physical width of the lane means that there is insufficient physical space for cyclists to be overtaken safely.

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View looking west towards Elveden from the cyclepath exit, showing the narrow single-lane section opposite the turning loop.

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View looking east from the turning-loop island at slip-road coming off the A11 and the cyclepath exit.

DfT Guidance Note LTN 2/08 gives the the minimum width required for an HGV to safely overtake a cyclist at 30mph as 5.05m. We are likely to have significantly higher speeds here, and the carriageway is only 4.7m wide here. It appears that the pavement on the south side of the old A11 has been designated as a shared-use path. But this only slightly improves things. The path is unsatisfactor for a number of reasons:

  • The turn from the new cycle path to the footway is too sharp.
  • The effective width of the footway is only about 1.5m at its widest, below recommended guidelines. The path narrows below this value as you travel south.
  • Given the fast-moving vehicles on the road and the narrow carriageway, cyclists will still be too close to the moving traffic. The problem here is made worse by the right-hand white lane line on the carriageway being so far from the right-hand curb, which will have the effect of moving vehicle trajectories closer to the footway side of the road.
  • It’s unclear how far the footway will remain shared-use, but given the narrowing further south, cyclists may still want or need to return to the main carriageway. There seems to be no facilities for this merging.

I have written to the Highways agency to enquire whether the configuration is supposed to be final, and if so to ask if they will reconsider. Ideally an additional short section of smoothly joined-in full-width cycleway would be provided so that south-bound cyclists can rejoin the main carriageway further south after it has returned to two-way traffic. The merging with the carriageway should be into a short section of cycle lane with vehicle diverted outside this, as shown on page 28 of the Sustrans Handbook for Cycle-Friendly Design.

Update (2014-09-17)

I have now had a reply from the Highways Agency’s contractor. Apparently the current configuration is not final and discussions are still ongoing about the junction with Suffolk County Council. I took the liberty of sending a sketch of how the current layout might be improved (assuming a shared-use path isn’t to be provided all the way along the old A11).

slip-road-junction

Route Inspection: RR30 Bridgham to Thetford

I went out for a route inspection ride today, to check on Regional Route 30 and National Route 13 between Bridgham Lane and Thetford. The condition of the surface on the lane itself was surprisingly good. I think the recent wet weather has stopped it becoming too snady over the summer. The rest of the route was fine, and all the existing signs were in good condition.

New Route Investigation: Downham Market – Oxborough – Swaffham

Today I went out for another ride to investigate possibilities for some new National Cycle Network routes around Oxborough. The idea is for one route to run from Route 11 at Downham Market to Route 30 at Weeting, via Oxborough (see my previous post) and for another to link Oxborough to Swaffham and on to Route 13 at Bradenham.

I was looking at options for the route to cross the A134 near Stoke Ferry, and also for the routes from Oxborough to Swaffham. The most promising crossing point so far seems to be at Wareham, where there is an staggered crossing with an island. From Oxborough to Swaffham, the direct route through Cockley Cley would be ok, but the route further north via Beachamwell and Drymere seemed to be more pleasant and on quieter roads.

Route Inspection: RR30 Thetford to Thelnetham

I checked the section of Regional Route 30 between Thetford and Thelnetham today. The route itself was fine, and the surface of the Peddars Way section was ok. However, there were a few places where some additional signs were required:

  • At the junction with the B1111, the black and white chevrons sign has been replaced, and so the sign originally on one of the posts is gone.
  • On heading East from the Knettishall crossroads, there’s a convenient pole for a confirmation sign on the right-hand side of the road.
  • At the Hopton crossroads, the left-hand “Stop” sign is still hidden in bushes, so the cycle route sign on the back is not as visible as it could be.
  • At the Thelnetham corssroads, there’s a convenient sign post that should have confirmation signs added to it.

Route Inspection: RR30 Weeting to Thetford

brandon-lamp-postI checked up on Regional Route 30 from Weeting to Thetford today. The route and signs were all fine, though I did notice one issue that I hadn’t spotted before. When the street lamps were replaced in the area around the Brandon level crossing, it seems that one of the new columns (labelled “1 Brandon Road”) was placed within an already narrow section of cycle path. The width between the post and the painted white line is now only about 75cm, and the width from the post to the edge of the curb is less than 110cm. Both of these measurements are far less than DfT guidelines (Local Transport Note 2/08) for the minimum width of shared use cycle paths.

I have therefore contacted Norfolk County Council Highways to enquire how the lamp column came to be installed in such a poor position and what can be done to improve things now.

Update (2014-08-04)

I’ve now had a comprehensive reply from Norfolk County council. Apparently the column was supposed to be positioned off the cycle path, but when the contractor came to install it, they discovered some underground services in the way. As a result, the column location was moved. The council say they weren’t consulted about the move, and are investigating whether it will be possible to move the column back off the path. If not, they say that they’ll try to make it more conspicuous.

Possible New Route: Downham Market to Weeting

Today I went on an exploratory ride to investigate a possible new NCN route form Downham Market to Weeting, via West Dereham, Oxborough, and Foulden. Such a route would provide an alternative to the existing Route 30 between Weeting and Ten Mile Bank, provide a link to the National Trust property Oxburgh Hall, and also make it easier to eventually link Swaffham in to the NCN.

Most of the route I tried seemed fine. There are a couple of options near the start: namely whether to cross the A143 at Wereham of Stoke Ferry. There’s also a busy stretch on the C873 into Weeting at the end. I tried an off-road alternative to the east via Pilgrim’s Way, but I think the condition of the surface there isn’t good enough.

I’ll be liaising with other members of the ranger group to get their input on the route, and then hopefully we’ll put together a definite proposal for Sustrans to consider.

Group Meeting

Tonight we held a group meeting in the Deer’s Leap, Thetford, with volunteer rangers from the Thetford and Waveney Valley group and two Sustrans staff members: the volunteer projects officer for the East of England, and the area manager for Norfolk and Suffolk. The meeting was a nice opportunity for everyone to get to know one another, and we had productive discussions on a number of issues. These included problems on existing routes, possible diversions and new routes, and the training and support available from Sustrans.

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