I’ve just added details of five different circular cycle routes to the Thetford Loops page of this blog. Unfortunately none are perfect, so there are usually one or more of a major road to cross, short sections of cycling along a busier road, or some rough off-road tracks. But hopefully some of these routes will be useful ideas for people to try.
A rigid sign attached to a marker post with cable ties on St Benedict’s Road had been cut off. The sign and the cut ties were lying on the ground nearby. I didn’t have any more ties with me, but was able to use the existing ones to secure the top of the sign. I returned the next day to finish the job.
I was also reminded that the two signs on a telegraph pole on Frog Hill Road north of Croxton will need replacing soon, as they’re looking a bit the worse for wear.
I went out today for a routing route inspection as part of a longer bike ride. All the signs were fine, so now work was needed.
I did however have a closer look at a known problem — that of how to sign the junction at Knettishall where route 13 and 30 meet. It’s difficult to do using the standard ranger signs, as from each approach there are two directions to take, with different route numbers applying. From one approach there isn’t even a suitable sign post to attach any signs to.
I think the long-term solution will have to involve permanent signs. Probably some combination of adding facing panels to existing posts on the approaches, and maybe installing a new post at the junction. Photos showing the three approaches, and a possible position for a new three-way sign are shown below.
Maybe Suffolk County Council can be persuaded to do something here, as part of the Suffolk Year of Cycling.
I went out today to have another look at the new cycleway parallel to the A11 between the Sainsbury’s roundabout in Thetford (map) and the new A11 slip-road at Elveden Gap (map). This is something I’ve previously blogged about.
Unfortunately, not much progress has been made since the previous post. At the Thetford end, the new cycleway ends abruptly at the roundabout, with an annoying “Cyclists Dismount” sign.
There’s then no way for cyclists to legally and safely get from the roundabout to the centre of town. The choices are either cycling along London Road (used by heavy lorries and with only a 40mph speed limit), or to cycle on the pavements. I asked the Highways Agency contractor whether they had any discussions with Norfolk County Council regarding the route there, but they never got back to me. I contacted Norfolk County Council a few months ago, who said they had no plans to add a cycle route along London Road, and the necessary investigation, planning, and installation would be likely to cost in the region of £100,000.
At the southern end of the cycleway at Elveden gap, there is still a problem with how the route re-joins the carriageway. Things are a little better than they were, as the shared-use footway parallel to the narrow one-way section of the road has been widened and a better turning radius has been provided to allow south-bound cyclists to turn left along it more easily.
However, the additional width and turning space parts have only been surfaced with compacted material, and it’s unclear whether they will be properly surfaced in the future. There’s also an issue that the natural place to re-join the carriageway is at an entrance used by agricultural vehicles, which is currently rather muddy and uneven.
The compacted surface and the section where cyclists rejoin the carriageway all need to be properly tarmaced, some paint markings should be provided to direct south-bound cyclists along the shared-use path and road users away from rejoining cyclists, and some cyclist warning signs should be installed on the slip road.
I will be following these issues up with the Highways Agency.
Today I attended a Group Coordinator Training Day in Ipswich. We had various activities and presentations on different aspects of our role, including recruitment, safety, and group plans. It was really good to meet up with other Group Coordinators from the East of England region and learn from each other’s experiences.
I went out to inspect National Route 13 between Thetford and Thompson today. The signs were generally very good, though there was one in Thetford town centre that will need repairing. There is also a fork in the road just north of Galley Hill that needs a more visible sign.
The problems with flooding on the off-road section on the Peddars Way that I previously wrote about seems to have been suitably addressed by the Council. However, the southern section was very muddy and full of water-filled pot-holes. From the numerous tyre tracks visible, I presume that the surface is being damaged by heavy vehicles travelling to and from a nearby farm.
With the opening of the newly dually A11, also comes the opening of a new underpass next to the Elveden memorial and some associated changes to the Public Rights of Way network.
The orders for the changes were approved some time ago, but the new routes to the north of the A11 didn’t officially come into use until they were certified by Suffolk County Council on Friday 12th December. The key changes are as follows:
- Icklingham BY 7 has been stopped up between the junction with Icklingham BY 6 at the north-west corner of Berners Heath and the A11 at the Memorial. A new Public Bridleway (Icklingham BR ?) runs along most of the old route, but ends at the underpass, rather than joining the A11.
- New Public Bridleways (Elveden BR 7 and BR 8) have been created passing through the underpass at the Memorial.
- A new Public Bridleway (Eriswell BR 11) has been created following the eastern and northern edges of Weather Heath, and then continuing west to join Shakers Road (Eriswell BR 8).
- The section of Shakers Road (Eriswell BR 8 and Icklingham BR 13) between the new Bridleway and its old junction with the A11 has been stopped up, and so is no longer a public right of way.
You can view the Creation Order for Eriswell BR 11 and Elveden BR 7, which includes descriptions of those new routes, and a map is shown below. (The other changes were made by a DfT Side Roads Order as part of the main A11 works.) You can also see the detail of all the new routes on OpenStreetMap.
Public Bridleways provide a right of way for the public on foot, horseback and by bicycle. They must be maintained in a suitable state for pedestrian and equestrian users, though not necessarily for cycle use. Nevertheless, these changes now provide a useful new route for cyclists without having to cycle along or cross the A11.
- The new Rights of Way provide a continuous route from Thetford Forest along Shakers Road, through the underpass, and then either south to Icklingham or north-east to Thetford.
- The surface of new route should be ok for use on an off-road bike, though it may be hard going in places.
- The fenced in section round Weather Heath is nice and wide — 4.5m according to the description in the Definitive Statement.
- There’s no cycle or pedestrian link parallel to A11 between Memorial and Elveden village. There’s a service road for the Elveden Estate that could be used, but it’s a private road not open for public use.
- The signing by the Highways Agency around the new underpass is rather over-the-top and spoils the natural environment. Large green road-sign style signs have been used, rather than more fitting roundels or finger-posts, and far more signs than would be necessary have been used.
- The surface of new Bridleways is not ideal for cycling; bumps and vegetation growth may be tiring around Weather Heath. It also may get overgrown, and it’s not clear how committed the council will be to keeping it well-maintained.
- The barbed wire on fences either side of Eriswell BR 11 around Weather Heath, could be dangerous. Fortunately the wire is mostly on the outside of the posts, but there is one section a few hundred meters long where it is the other way round (a pre-existing fence along the heath boundary).
- It would appear that the changes to the Rights of Way may have inadvertently cut off any lawful access to Horn Heath. The only access point I’m aware of is a kissing gate from the stopped up part of Icklingham BY 7. Users now need to trespass on the private estate road to access this from Icklingham BR ?.
- No cycle parking has been provided for those wishing to arrive at the memorial by bike and then explore the access land on foot. Though presumably one could lock bikes to the fence posts.
- There’s no easy access to Weather Heath at its north-west NW corner, which is now passed by Eriswell BR 11. There is a field gate there, but it was padlocked shut when I visited a couple of weeks ago.
- On the section of Eriswell BR 11 west of Weather Heath, there are some overhanging branches, which will probably obstruct horse riders.
The final cones were removed and the completed dual carriageway of the A11 between Thetford and Barton Mills was opened today. This is great news for motorists and local businesses, but how will it affect cyclists?
The Thetford Area Action Plan contains proposals for a number of Cycle Loops from Thetford, and the Highways Agency have recently been instructed to ensure that all their new schemes are cycle-proofed, but has this scheme delivered any improvements for cyclists? To be fair, it was never pleasant or safe to cycle along or cross the old A11. But rather than looking at whether there has been a net improvement, we should perhaps be looking at whether the scheme took advantage of numerous possibilities for improvements.
A dual carriageway inevitably forms a linear barrier to cycling, so it’s important that there are sufficient locations where it can be crossed safely. There are three key places where crossing points should have been provided. One has been done well, one acceptably, and one neglected completely.
At the Elveden Memorial, there is now a multi-user underpass (map), allowing safe passage for pedestrians, cyclists and horse-riders. This has been linked in to the Bridleway network by a new route around Weather heath. For further details see this following post.
At the northern end of Mildenhall Woods, new paths link Icklingham Public Footpath no. 2 and the end of the C616 opposite to the B1112 underpass (map). It’s a bit of a detour for anyone wanting to cross there, but it’s better than nothing.
Finally, at the Thetford end of the new dual carriageway, it was planned for one of the Thetford Cycle Loops to cross the A11 just south of the Rifle Range (map). No provision has been made for a crossing point here at all. Thetford Forest is now severely cut off from the Town of Thetford by the A11, which represents a great loss of amenity. Shame on Breckland Council and Moving Thetford Forward for not raising this issue with the Highways Agency during the planning phase. The only realistic possibility for the future would be if traffic lights are installed at the Sainsbury’s roundabout, and included pedestrian and cycle crossings.
For those wanting to travel parallel to the A11 it is another mixed bag of results.
The good news is that there is a new high-quality cycle path on the south side of the new road linking the Thetford roundabout (map) with the old A11 north of Elveden (map). This provides a good route from Thetford to Elveden. Or at least it would if there was a suitable way to get from the centre of Thetford to the start of the cycle path. The access to the new route is along London Road in Thetford, which has a 40mph speed limit and is a principal lorry route to two industrial estates. So not suitable for cycling. Norfolk County Council say they have no plans for adding any cycle infrastructure to the road. It is most disappointing that such provision was omitted from the A11 Scheme. At the other end of the new cycle route there are also issues with how users are expected to re-join the carriageway, which I have written about previously.
Further south, it is also inexplicable why a cycle route was not provided between the old A11 through Elveden (map) and the Elveden Memorial (map). A new high-quality tarmacked service road has been provided for the Elveden Estate precisely along this route, but as far as I know it is not available for public use. I don’t understand why it could not be opened up, as it was presumably publicly funded, will probably carry little traffic, and is wide enough to allow two vehicles to pass safely. Another fail from the planners I feel.
While there is some good news from the scheme (notably a new route between Thetford and Elveden, and the new underpass at the Elveden Memorial) on the whole the scheme seems to be dominated by missed opportunities. We’re told that the works came in under budget. It’s a shame some of the unspent cash couldn’t have been used to allow more provision for cycling.
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.
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.