Green routes, urban routes and what should we focus on in the Lower Don Valley?

We are invited to work with the Council on developing a strategic cycle network for Sheffield, that is, a coherent set of cycle routes whether dedicated paths, cycle lanes or roads with low traffic/low speed.
We are agreed that these should be a mix of off-the-road and on-the-road routes – a current example of this kind of mix would be the Sheaf Valley Cycle Route

This blog is about the Lower Don Valley. It is a preliminary sketching out of some ideas I have had so I would welcome comments and criticisms about anything really – there are still some omissions and I may have made some errors; so it’s a work in progress and all faults are mine.

I’ve drawn a crude map which is below. I’ve marked, in black boundaries, shops, leisure, and in the Don Valley the site of the stadium which, currently, is scheduled to be a 5-18 academy. Red boundaries indicate housing and everywhere else is industry, business and either protected or undeveloped land

View Green Routes 5WW in a larger map

I’ve drawn 5 ‘cycle’ routes to Meadowhall starting roughly at Blonk St at the beginning of the 5WW.
The most direct route (mustard coloured line) to get to the cycle parking at Meadowhall is along Brightside Lane and it is 2.87 mi.
The 5WW is coloured royal blue and it is 3.92 mi to get to Meadowahll and is 1.37 times longer than the most direct route hence the note that states ratio 1.37.
The brown route is along the roads through Attercliffe and then takes the 5WW after Carbrook School. It is 3.23 mi and has a ratio of 1.12 to the direct route
The purple route follows the Woodbourn Rd cycle path and I have connected that along Cricket Inn Rd to the NCN 67 which runs from Blonk St to the bottom of Maltravers Rd. It is 3.78 mi and has a ratio of 1.31 to the direct route.
The turquoise line follows the canal from Tinsley – it is a proposed route that has been included in the latest LSTF funding. I didn’t hear about this until the last Cycle Forum. I don’t know a completion date. It is 4.23 mi long and has a ratio of 1.47 to the direct route.

A cycle route should be convenient and Dutch planners state that a cycle route should be no more than 1.2 times longer than the most direct route – otherwise people will cycle the direct route.
However one has to be careful with the ratios, there are connections from one route I’ve drawn to another and the routes I have drawn aren’t no-exit tunnels.
But the connections that are important are the connections that allow cyclists to conveniently access work, rest, shops and play.
For example the only connection I am aware of with the canal between the Canal Basin and Meadowhall South tram stop is at Broughton Lane, but this gives good access to the purple route. The proposed route along the canal may have a good surface but it may be unlit and it is not always easily accessible to nearby roads or buildings (cf the towpath to Rotherham) so it may feel unsafe as it is dark and isolated at night so it may be unsafe. This would make it a good leisure route but not all year round transport cycle route in the winter months or for people working shifts.
A cycle route should be enjoyable and it may be that Brightside Lane, a fast road with high traffic volumes, may not be enjoyable, or feel that safe.
Attercliffe Rd (the brown route) is supposed to have weight restrictions between I think Staniforth Rd and Carbrook School (I don’t think these are ever enforced) and if you have ever cycled along it the proximity of HGVs makes it feel unsafe. Much of it will be the Bus Rapid Transit route but I am not sure that cyclists needs have been considered in that design
The 5WW is not convenient, it has many crossing points and again Dutch planners state that cyclists should not be having to stop/start or get off frequently – otherwise they will seek alternative routes.
The 5WW may not be that safe either, some of it has rough surfaces, there’s a v low bridge, some of it is closed at night, some of it is unlit or away from any human contact in an emergency and some of it is all of these.
The 5WW is paved and lit from Stevenson Rd to Meadowhall and connects with the purple route at Carbrook so this section has something going for it.

The purple route is interesting though. It runs to the South of Attercliffe Rd. It has a good surface all the way. It is lit and it passes housing, leisure and is close to shops and businesses. It will pass right by the new academy and would be an ideal path to nurture and care for so that pupils and staff at the academy could cycle to and from it. With a bit of will it could connect directly to Meadowhall Retail Park and with even more will it could have connected to the new IKEA. Yet when talking to SCC officers this route hardly ever gets any mention.

I rode the purple route and the 5WW last but one week of July 2014. They are often down to a very narrow path because the vegetation is not cut back (eg weeds brushing yr face at Centertainment) and they are not swept so glass can be a problem. There are no plans to grit them in the winter. If these routes are to be a cycle network they will need maintenance.

So take some time to look at the map and then think about where should SCC be making the effort and putting the money.
I think some combination of the turquoise and purple route would be good to explore or there may be a different way of thinking about it altogether.

WE want cycling that is safe, enjoyable and convenient.
WE also want cycling to be a genuine alternative to cycle to work, home, shops, leisure and entertainment
WE also want every child to be able to cycle safely to school.

Is this the kind of conversation/discussion we should be having with SCC?

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