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