The A46 Link Road Scheme: Some Early Thoughts

The Leamington Observer posted a short and somewhat cryptic story a short time ago entitled County Council approve plans for improvement works to A46. It peaked my curiosity as this would have an impact on my daily commute. The article was based on a Warwickshire County Council News item. It also talked about some three phase project that impacted the route from the A46 to the University of Warwick. Still, it is rather cryptic. It entails a new road that links the A46 from Stoneleigh Road westwards to Westwood Heath.

Not quite sure what to make of it after reading it, I decided to go on another quest for information from Warwickshire County Council. I ended up speaking with Adrian Hart, Senior Transport Planner for the County Council. The conversation was very cordial and enlightening.

The missing piece in all of this is that the area to the south of the University of Warwick will not only see the HS2 train project (that much is known) cut through the fields there, but apparently also a major road project that will rather dramatically change the entire area. Part of plan is based on the projected expansion of the University of Warwick and what will – according to Mr. Hart – be the new main entrance to the University.

Phase 1 is a reconfiguration of the A46 Stoneleigh interchange which now functions more or less, but is relatively straightforward for a cyclist to navigate. The plans for the interchange will make it much more complex.

The image below is from a planning document, which is available here.

For those not familiar with the interchange, here are the most salient changes. The project will turn the existing one bridge design into a large gyratory with a new bridge being added on the northern side. The existing roundabout on the western side will be demolished and replaced with a new one that is supposed to be better aligned with what will be the new road towards the new main entrance to the university – on the road that is yet to be built once you move past Dalehouse Lane and which will be on the southern perimeter of the university grounds.

Initially, this will mean no change to the traffic volume on Stoneleigh Road which often sees bumper to bumper traffic. That will only be alleviated when Phase 2 of the project is completed and for which no public plan exist at this point.

Mr. Hart assured me that in all phases there will be provisions for cyclists and that there are initial plans to put in place a stop on the rail line between Kenilworth and Coventry (something that I have long been thinking should be the case). So far, so good.

The problematic bit of this is that the existing bridge which currently has two lanes is slated to be expanded into three lanes (as per the above description), which would triple the existing capacity. This seems a bit odd given that the existing structure can cope (if not exactly well) with the traffic volume. At least two problems. First, the existing scheme does nothing – I repeat: nothing! – to deter individuals to come to the university by car, but rather encourages that mode of transport. Second, the three lane layout will make it impossible to put a badly needed bicycle lane in place if one expands the capacity to such an extent.

So, it will be interesting to see the exact plans for this project. Mr. Hart was kind enough to agree to come to a meeting of Cycleways, the local Leamington Spa advocacy group that I am a member of. We will keep you posted on what the next steps in this project will be.

Bike Share and Biking in Taipei (Part II)

Following up on my previous post in cycling in Taipei, here are some further impressions and thoughts on the YouBike system there and the cycling infrastructure in general.

As I mentioned before, the YouBike system works well. My initial suggestion to make the stations more visible is of course only necessary if you don’t have a mobile phone, which most – if not all – users will have. It is quite naturally also put into an existing infrastructure and in some places is well thought out and fits in quite nicely with the existing roadway design.

There is also the issue that drivers in Taipei tend to be very courteous to cyclists and pedestrians alike. This makes for a much more pleasant experience than in many other places around the world. Cyclists are also welcome on the MRT, as seen here:

But there are issues that make the cycling experience less comfortable than it could be. Clearly, cycling came as somewhat of an afterthought in Taipei and it is being squeezed into the existing design. So what you get are nice pathways that travel underneath the MRT lines, such as this one:

But then that path, when hitting a canal or another roadway, either suddenly ends or you are shot out into regular traffic. And when that happens, you are sometimes left to head up stairs like this:

Then there are the dreaded sharrows whose arrows signify the position where cyclists are supposed to be. For the most part it is a confusing element in the roadspace. The particular placement shows what the problem with sharrows are. Instead of placing you in a part of the lane that is safe, this one requires you to maneuver in and out of traffic.

But overall, cycling in Taipei is a pleasure. Part of that comes through the sheer number of people who are on bikes. Both images are from National Taiwan University, the first one showing a problem in terms of parking in the designated bicycle lane (which is, in the grand scheme of things, a good problem to have).

During my time in Taipei I bicycled all over the city, day and night, for pleasure and for business. The bike share system is reliable, efficient and easy to use. The infrastructure, if the government bureaucracy wants this to be the case, can be adapted and improved. I look forward to my next visit and my first choice for moving about will certainly be either my own bike or YouBike.

Missing Gutter Cover: Figuring Out Warwickshire County Council

I took a slightly different route to work this morning and came across an unpleasant surprise:

As you can see from the picture below the missing cover is a hazard and I suspect that is true not only for a skinny bicycle tire, but even for cars. The placement of the gutter also makes this a place where cyclists would venture and may have a hard time seeing the missing cover at night. It would make for a nasty spill, with serious injury highly likely.

I decided that I would make this a test case. I had never contacted authorities about road issues in the UK and figured this obvious case would be as good as any to see what the reaction of the authorities were. At the time I thought I would be in for a bureaucratic odyssey.

The County’s website has a bunch of information and ways to submit an issue, but none of them seemed germane to a more urgent situation (which I consider this to be). I decided to call instead.

10:50 am: I call the main line and get put through to a friendly agent within a minute or so. We discuss the problem, location. Very efficient. I ask what will be done about it. The response is promising: as this is considered an urgent matter, they would send someone out today and determine what would need to be done. I was also asked to send in the pictures.

I was happy with that response and have some hope that this will get fixed within a few days.

UPDATE:

12:39 pm (8 December): I receive a phone call from an unknown number and someone from Warwickshire County Council is on the line and informs me that the crew is being dispatched and things should be fixed within a day or so.

I will post further updates as things develop (which really should only be one more, indicating that things have been fixed).

11:00 am (9 December): The results are in – Warwickshire County Council has done an amazing job by fixing this within an extremely short period of time. On my way home last night I saw that the gutter had already been fixed, but with darkness and traffic the timing for taking pictures just wasn’t right.