Penwortham one-way plans scrapped, but cycle lane will still go ahead
Highways bosses have performed a U-turn over controversial proposals to introduce a one-way system on a busy Penwortham street.
Lancashire County Council had planned to change the traffic flow along Kingsway at its junction with the A59 Liverpool Road as part of work to create a new segregated cycle lane between Penwortham and Preston.
Under the proposed changes, vehicles would only have been able to exit Kingsway onto Liverpool Road - and not enter the side street from the main route. The idea was to prevent traffic turning right from the A59 - known locally along this stretch as Penwortham Brow - and potentially cutting across the path of cyclists using the new facility in the process.
However, the plans left locals fuming, with many complaining that the alternative route was inappropriate for the volume of traffic that would be forced onto it - and led to claims that barely any bike-riders were using a newly-installed cycle lane in the area.
A survey conducted by the Post during the morning rush hour on 7th July found only nine cyclists used the segregated Liverpool Road lane, close to the new Tesco, between 7.45am and 9am. During the same period, almost 600 vehicles used the junction with Kingsway.
Now, cabinet members at County Hall are to be asked to approve a revised £450,000 scheme which retains the cycle lane proposal, but sends the one-way plan into reverse.
It follows a consultation by the authority in which more than 500 objections were lodged - the majority regarding the one-way element of the scheme - and a survey by South Ribble MP Katherine Fletcher, which, as the Post revealed earlier this month, saw 91 percent of more than 1,200 respondents say that they were “very concerned” about the proposals.
Amongst the issues raised were worries about potential congestion on the narrow Priory Lane - via which drivers would have been diverted if they could not access Kingsway from Liverpool Road - and potential difficulties for emergency service vehicles accessing the area as a result.
Residents had also expressed concerns on social media about access to St. Fillan’s Medical Centre, located on Kingsway, and St. Mary’s Church nearby.
Under the redrawn scheme, a protected, two-way cycle facility will be created to connect an identical facility recently installed on the Preston-bound side of Liverpool Road from its junction with Cop Lane through to another section of segregated cycle lane across Penwortham Bridge - up to the A59's junction with Broadgate - which has been in operation since 2019.
Janet Stretch, who has lived in Penwortham for more than 25 years, welcomed the county council’s rethink of the original Kingsway plan, which she described as “an absolute nonsense”.
However, she says that further tweaks are still needed to the proposed cycle lane - and questioned the timing of its introduction.
“They should have done this 20 years ago when Penwortham was like a motorway. Yet now they were talking about inconveniencing thousands of people when Liverpool Road is a lot quieter since the bypass opened.
“A lot of the cyclists who have commented on the plans on Facebook say that it's not a problem for them [as it is].
“The other thing I don’t understand is why the cycle lane is going to go up and down the hill on the same side of the road. You see cyclists coming up out of Preston on the pavement or in the road - and they don't realise that there is a lane that they could use [on the other side].
“I’m quite happy for there to be a cycle lane, but the problem is that it’s people who don't live in Penwortham who are making these plans - it’s the people who live here who should come up with the ideas,” Janet added.
The Post understands that the main reason for making the segregated lane two-way - rather than having two separate cycling facilities on either side of the road - is that there are fewer potential points of conflict between bikes and motor vehicles on the city-bound side of the A59.
Had a lane been introduced on the opposite side of the route, the lane and its users would have had to cross the Penwortham triangle junction with Leyland Road, the junction with Hill Road and the access to the former Penwortham library which now functions as The Venue arts centre.
Katherine Fletcher thanked Lancashire County Council for making the change to the Kingsway element of the scheme after “the people of Penwortham had spoken”.
“In huge numbers, residents helped me quantify their views and I’m really glad that [the authority] listened, but is still looking at another way to promote the really important active travel agenda.
“I did a drop-in surgery at the Fleece Inn in Penwortham recently and cyclists told me that they want cycling infrastructure improvements that are coherent and work as a whole - but people just didn’t want a road to have to be shut off in order to achieve that,” Ms. Fletcher added.
As part of the proposal, a raised “parallel crossing” point will be introduced on Kingsway close to its junction with Liverpool Road. The segregated cycleway will be diverted across this hump-back platform, which will also include a separate zebra crossing area for pedestrians - with both elements featuring a central refuge point where cyclists and pedestrians can pause to cross the second lane of Kingsway traffic.
A report to be presented to cabinet members at County Hall next week acknowledges that the abandonment of the one-way system means that “there is an increased risk to active mode users [cyclists and pedestrians] when compared to the initial proposal”.
However, the document adds: “The revised proposal seeks to manage the risk and reduce the likelihood of occurrence [of an accident] in accordance with design guidance by reducing the number of lane crossings in one movement.”
Highways officers also dismissed as a “flawed metric” the use of current cycling data from the location to support any suggestion that the new cycle lane was not needed - stating that it could simply indicate that the route is “viewed as unsafe by potential cyclists”.
A traffic survey undertaken on Penwortham Brow by Lancashire County Council between 8th and 14th October, 2020 - when a pop-up cycle lane was in place - found that, during the 7am-10am morning peak, there were 17,124 vehicle movements across that seven-day timeframe, 492 of which were by bus. A total of 359 cyclists and 436 pedestrians used the route during that period.
County Cllr Charlie Edwards, the county council's cabinet member for highways and transport, said he was grateful to everybody who had made comments on the Kingsway proposal via the authority’s own consultation and Katherine Fletcher’s survey.
“The wealth of feedback we have received during our engagement period, which closed at the end of July, have been fully considered to ensure that we put the right measures in place.
“We've developed a revised solution to what was previously put forward, which still supports the wider aims to improve facilities for those travelling the mile between the Cop Lane junction and Preston city centre. These proposals will be discussed at cabinet next week.
“As well as providing safety improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable users, the new cycle track will reinforce our efforts to discourage through-traffic from Penwortham and onto the Bypass. By encouraging sustainable journeys, we can improve local air quality and support further opportunities to enhance the local centre.”
There are currently established cycle lanes - most of which are not segregated - running along Liverpool Road from the junction with John Horrocks Way - the Penwortham bypass - through to the Broadgate junction, with the exception of Penwortham Brow.
The cabinet report states that that particular stretch of the A59 “can be intimidating to less confident cyclists, particularly children”.
The new scheme - to complete what has been dubbed the “Penwortham Cycle Superhighway” - will be fully funded from a £2.8m active travel grant awarded to the county council by the government.
That pot followed on from an initial £782,000 received by County Hall last year for temporary active travel measures to be implemented during the pandemic - including the cycle lane introduced on Liverpool Road in each direction where the permanent cycling infrastructure is now being proposed.
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