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TRCH The Da Vinci Code

Cycling in Nottingham: The Best and Worst Routes

24 February 15 words: Mark Patterson
illustrations: Christopher Paul Bradshaw

We did a quick survey to find out what cyclists reckon are Nottingham’s best and worst cycling infrastructure features. Nothing scientific, but we asked around, heard your opinions - including Nottingham Velo Venturers and Pedals chairman, Hugh McClintock - and came up with a list to outline the physical things that make cycling easier, safer and more convenient.

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the bad outweighed the good. There was no outstanding bad feature; the tenor of the comments was rather that our cycling infrastructure is generally half-hearted, poorly designed and connected, and poorly maintained. As one cyclist put it, “There are lots of ‘cycling dismount’ signs, yet nowhere to go.” Despite the hype about being a green, pro-cycling city, Nottingham remains a place where people cycle despite the infrastructure and not because of it.

Top Five Best

City to Beeston cycle route
Although this route is a track of many parts - on-road, off-road, across-road - and is currently disrupted by tram works at Dunkirk, it offers one of the more pleasant, continuous through routes in Nottingham.

Cycle parking
Nottingham now has cycle parking in abundance. Okay, too many of the spaces are occupied by Citycard Cycles and police capture bikes, but the days of having to chain your bike to lamp posts and iron railings are passing… slowly.

New cycle lane along Queens Walk to Clifton
We have to admit that the shared track adjacent to the new tram line along Queens Walk, between Midland Station and Wilford Toll Bridge, is quite good. It’s broad, uncluttered and has wooden sculptures to look at. Across the Trent, some of the track remains unsurfaced but eventually it will follow the tram line to Clifton.

Dunkirk flyover cycle crossing
Bit of a cheat, this, as the double ‘toucan’ crossing under Dunkirk flyover is part of the city-Beeston route. All the same, apart from the fact that the buttons face the wrong way for cyclists to reach, this feature gives a nice “someone thought about me” feeling.

Rough Trade air pump in Hockley
The record shop’s Shoreditch-esque style includes a resident £690 tokyobike and an exterior high pressure air pump for your achingly fashionable single speed bike. But we understand that you have to have a beard to operate it.

Top Five Worst

Carrington Street and city centre
The raised path between Broadmarsh and Canal Street looks like something beamed in from another planet. Frankly, this little track feels like a feature that’s been shoehorned into a road system by planners who only ride bikes when holidaying at Center Parcs. While it’s only a small feature in a big city, it’s symptomatic of the cycling mess that is Nottingham’s city centre, where it is still difficult to follow a through-route without going on the pavement or battling it out with motor vehicles.

The Carrington Street track itself is a one-way thing, which is presumably supposed to be linked to the largely unused cycle track near Big City Tyres - unused because it’s on the wrong side of the road to be of much use to anybody. The air of isolation is reinforced by the way that the track begins or ends abruptly at metal railings. In essence, a distinct sense of disconnectedness prevails.

Tram junctions
Despite the flak the new tram lines have been getting, it seems unfair to judge a system before it is finished. However, there are already potential problems with completed new roads and tram junctions, such as the one near The Meadows where the new tram line swoops down from Midland Street and crosses the Arkwright Street/Meadows Way junction. Here, the narrow bike lane offers an illusion of security, since cyclists are on a potential collision course with motorists from behind and those who are turning left in front of them, which could cause serious injury - or worse. Junctions like this need phased traffic lights that allow cyclists to go first. Until then, plonk yourself prominently in the newly painted bike box when the light is on red and proceed with caution.

Blocked cycle lanes
Vehicles blocking cycle lanes are a menace and the blocked lanes that spring most quickly to mind are those along Gregory Boulevard in Hyson Green and Carrington Street opposite Midland Station. Strictly speaking, this isn’t an infrastructure problem; it’s a bad manners and a highways planning problem. But it’s also a legal non-issue since it is not against the law for vehicles to park in cycle lanes in Nottingham. Motorists who drive or park in bus lanes outside of permitted hours can be fined. This is not the case with cycle lanes, as was pointed out to me by a police officer when I officially complained about taxis parking in the Carrington Street lane opposite the station. I’ve since had to swerve around a white van in this lane, but the best complaint at my disposal was shouting at the driver. He shouted back.

Ugly cycle lanes
All on-road and many shared-path cycle lanes are innately poisonous because they are next to pollution-emitting vehicles. But do they have to be unpleasant in other ways? The pavement tracks along both sides of Clifton Boulevard between the Dunkirk flyover and Queens Drive are unremittingly ugly with howling traffic, out-of-town business parks, leisure developments and car showrooms.

Yes, this is partly down to US-style strip development. But it’s also about the absence of tree screening, the close proximity to the traffic, and the way that the concept of a ‘cycle track’ has been reduced to painting a white line down the middle of a pavement. Who looks forward to riding a bike in such a place?

Road potholes
Potholes may be damaging to vehicles, but they are potentially fatal to cyclists. In our survey the Hucknall Road cycle lane through Carrington was described as, “the most uneven, potholed lane ever”, but a big mention must also go to the A612 Daleside Road to Netherfield which has so many deep manhole covers and potholes that it’s akin to a slalom course. For a main road – a pretty important infrastructure - it’s a disgrace.

Email your own best and worst bits to [email protected]

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