MRN Response

Response from the Plymouth Cycling Campaign (PCyC) to proposals to improve the Major Road Network (MRN) in Plymouth dated May 23 2021

SUMMARY

We would support improvements to the Major Road Network (MRN) in Plymouth provided they incorporate meaningful and substantial measures to improve facilities for pedestrians and cyclists. Better infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians offering people a way to move around our City without using the car will do more to reduce traffic congestion than road improvements in themselves.

  • The consultation offers no policy to meet net zero
  • The consultation does not adequately address the need for a modal shift to active travel options

There is an urgent need to effect a change from car use to more sustainable forms of transport. Traffic congestion has well-known highly detrimental outcomes for health, the climate, and the economy. It is encouraging to see that some segments of the scheme mention improving cycling/pedestrian infrastructure. Currently these are woefully inadequate and force any but the bravest and most experienced cyclists to either not cycle at all or to use the less than direct infrastructure that exists. Unless the scheme recognises this and incorporates new infrastructure to the latest DfT standards this scheme will be just another incentive for people to use motorised transport.

It is also essential to recognise the needs of people with disabilities, who are currently very disadvantaged by obstacles on existing cycling and walking routes, such as barriers too close together to allow recumbent cyclists to pass, tight turns, poor visibility and so on.

The proposals as they stand are noticeably lacking in detail, which makes it difficult to comment meaningfully at this stage. We would urge your officers to involve the PCyC as the plans are taken forward. Most of us, including planners, are pedestrians so have an understanding of what is required to allow pedestrians safe passage. Very many fewer are cyclists or people with disabilities and there is a strong feeling amongst this community that there is little understanding of their particular needs. This is especially true of users wishing to progress quickly from a to b (commuters) who often find their progress hindered by poorly designed infrastructure, but who are most likely to change from car to bike if these disincentives are removed.

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COMMENTS ON THE PROPOSALS

Our comments on the individual segments of the proposals as they relate to people who cycle (this term to include users of individual disability vehicles) are as follows:

  • A38 Marsh Mills Junction

This vital junction requires substantial re-working to allow many more regular cycle journeys. Cyclists need to confidently travel between the City Centre and Plympton, and further to Ivybridge and beyond. Improving this junction for cyclists would, we are confident, persuade many to change from motor vehicles to sustainable transport on this important route.
 
Improvements should not only focus on the roundabout itself, since some of the most difficult obstacles for cyclists are the crossing of Sainsbury’s exits and entrances, the sharp blind turn just below the north west exit from Sainsbury’s where the existing path is also prone to flooding at high tide – likely to become a more frequent occurrence and leaving cyclists no option but to take to the road.

On the western and northern side of the roundabout we have inadequate signage, barriers, and poor integration between the various bits of infrastructure. A recently remodelled entrance/exit from Plymouth Road to NCN27 path to Saltram features a “dropped kerb” which is not dropped flush – an accident waiting to happen and typical of a development where planning has not understood the needs of users.
 
We urge the Council to consider what is happening in other cities, with around 30 junctions in the Greater Manchester area alone being redesigned to better cater for cyclists and pedestrians. These “CYCLOPS” junctions do not force cyclists to take often circuitous deviations away from the roundabout, but enable them to safely stay on the carriageway with the same prioritisation as motor vehicles.

We would add that improving the roundabout is pointless from the cyclists’ perspective if improvements are not also made to the continuation of the route beyond the roundabout. In the case of Marsh Mills this is especially true as the shared pavement towards the City is narrow, bumpy and dangerously close to traffic. We hope your planners are aware of our visionary suggestion for a segregated quality path from beneath the Marsh Mills flyover, crossing the Plym on a new bridge, hugging the eastern side of the railway then keeping to the riverside all the way to join with the Old Laira Bridge path just beyond Blagdon’s Yard. What a fantastic contribution to Plymouth this would be, a riverside route joining several communities, retail and manufacturing hubs, and becoming part of the Vélodyssey International route, one of Europe’s premier cycling touring routes.

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  • Cattedown Roundabout

Without going into further detail, the comments relating to Marsh Mills apply equally to the Cattedown Roundabout. Note that this roundabout would be particularly benefit from a CYCLOPS re-design, being very difficult for both pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate, especially on the southern side where the footbridge is a major obstacle.

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  • A38 Weston Mill junction to Camels Head

This is a shared path which is frequently narrow and results in conflicts between cyclists, walkers, people with prams etc. In places it is perhaps 0.5 metres wide, opening to just over 1 metre towards Camels Head. As you the approach the traffic lights at Camels Head Fire Station it just ends, you then have to dismount and become a pedestrian. To become a cyclist again you have to use the crossing across Carlton Terrace and then use the crossing to get over the bypass, only then you attempt to start cycling again. So we would support meaningful upgrades to this important link between Plymouth’s north western suburbs and the St Levan/Dockyard area as well as routes into the City.


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  • New and improved pedestrian / cycle infrastructure including safer crossing points to support active travel as set out in the council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan


We welcome these commitments and of course support their implementation, provided they are effective in meeting the needs of cyclists by providing coherent and integrated infrastructure.

  • Removing the low rail bridge (Seagull Bridge) on Embankment Road to improve access for HGVs.

We assume this does not involve the removal of the cycling and walking bridge alongside the Seagull Bridge, as this is the only means of crossing the A374. Since there is no other crossing point between Prince Rock and Laira such removal would be totally unacceptable.

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  • Flood protection works at Arnold Point to significantly reduce the risk of flooding affecting both Embankment Road and the nearby mainline rail route.

The PCyC has already commented on this and you will be aware that we strongly support Option C which could incorporate a cycle path, in itself a part of our suggested Embankment Path/Mayflower Path from Marsh Mills to the Old Laira Bridge path.