Cycling the Blackburn Valley cycle route

The Blackburn Valley route (BVR) goes about 6.5km from Meadowhall, in the east of Sheffield, to Chapeltown in the north.

You can see the route on Sheffield Council’s map of green routes. I rode it on Sunday 16 October 2016, and filmed some videos.

Though there are a couple of unfinished sections I still found the route ridable. Sheffield City Council is planning to spend around £1m completing a missing section between Butterthwaite Lane and Loicher Lane over the next year.

What is good about the Blackburn Valley route?

The BVR is a direct, continuous route. It is flat and is well surfaced. It is entirely free of motor traffic.

What’s not good about the Blackburn Valley route and what could be improved?

The BVR could be a great route into the east end of Sheffield from the north. However, it suffers from a number of issues – some common to many cycle routes in Sheffield.

Barriers. There are a number of A-type and K-type barriers along the route and also some more unorthodox barriers (the technical term for which I think is ‘massive concrete blocks’), which you can see in my video. The London Cycle Design Standards (see page 73), recognised as the highest quality standard available, does not recommend the use of barriers at all, because of the accessibility issues they create. They are obstructive to people less physically able to lift and squeeze their handlebars through narrow gaps. They can prevent use of paths completely for users of larger and less nimble cycles like tandems, some recumbents, various trikes often used by disabled cyclists, and cargo bikes.

Signage. There is a distinct lack of signage directing you to the route from either end and  informing you where you are once on the route. If you are not familiar with the route or area you have no idea where you are.

Grange/Deep Lane crossing: The route crossing at Grange/Deep Lane could be improved. The cycle route should be raised up and given priority to slow vehicles down and make clear the presence of people cycling. Car parking around the crossing should also be removed.

grange-lane

Width of path. The path doesn’t meet best practice standards for the width of a two-way path, which should ideally be 4 meters. Most of the path is around half this, and in some places it gets even narrower and is overgrown, making it difficult to work pleasantly as shared-use with pedestrians.

Unlit. The route is unlit which I think would put some people off using it, especially in winter.

Links to residential areas along the route. The BVR passes urban areas (such as Shiregreen, Wincobank and Thorpe Hesley) but it does not link into them. If this is going to be an effective route to take people from their homes to work/shops/entertainment it needs to feed in from these areas rather than just run along the outskirts. At the moment the BVR is just a long single route, not part of a network.

Connection to Chapeltown. The BVR goes to (or from) Chapeltown but it ends (or starts) in a cul-de-sac on the edge of Chapeltown. See the blue line indicating the BVR:

bvr-1

The main attraction of the BVR is that it offers a traffic free route to Meadowhall, however, that appeal is lost if you have to use busy roads, such as Station Road, to get onto the route in the first place. Again, if this is going to be an effective route to take people from their homes to work/shops/entertainment it needs to feed in from residential areas rather than just run to the outskirts.

Connection at Meadowhall: The BVR connects well to the park and ride at Meadowhall train station, however, from there the route gets worse fast. To get to Meadowhall shopping centre a narrow, shared-use path takes you along Barrow Road to Meadowhall Road where you are required to cross busy roads a number of times with no traffic lights on the crossings. This needs major improvement.

mhall

2 thoughts on “Cycling the Blackburn Valley cycle route

  1. I agree that the route needs to be linked in to the surrounding residential areas – however, we need to get the core route finished first and that’s proving hard enough! The concrete blocks should go once the route is finished.

  2. Dextor has provided an excellent review of the current ‘work in progress’ and identifies the pitfalls of restricive barriers, gates and concrete blocks. I agree that there needs to be further work to create safer crossing places at Grange Lane and Meadowhall. The frustration for me is that the completed sections are so good but of limited use until the final links are complete.

    I think there is an opportunity here to really encourage people to cycle to work. The BVR when completed will provide a safe traffic free route between Ecclesfield/Chapeltown and Meadowhall. I wonder how many people living in those areas work either in the Meadowhall Centre or surrounding industries?

    If more secure cycle storage was provided at Meadowhall Interchange people could commute the final distance to the City Centre by tram. Perhaps the ‘Boris Bikes’ would also have a greater sense of purpose if the BVR provided a much needed destination for them!

    I acknowledge peoples comments about the need to prioritise safe routes in the City, however I also feel that a route with the quality of BVR could help to change attitudes to cycling for commuting and for leisure. It would help if the cycle lanes could be re-established and further developed along Holywell Road/Carlise Street to link to the existing cycle lanes across the city.

    There is a need to establish better links with communities close to BVR, for example I would like to see a cyle lane or shared footpath on Cowley Hill to provide a safer (and more managable) link to Thorpe Hesley than the current Route 67 which involves cycling along narrow unlit lanes with fast moving traffic. But even without those links, I still appreaciate being able to spend at least half of my daily commute away from traffic.

    I hope the final sections will be completed soon. When completed SCC need to promote the BVR with an ‘official opening’ event to ensure people are aware of it and large employers should be approached to promote the benefits of the scheme along with CycleScheme etc.

    Also I applaud Dextor’s acknowledgement of the needs of potential users with disabilities. There is an opportunity for a truly inclusive resource here which can be enjoyed by a wide range of users.

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