Grass is unable to grow on an area of the park beside the Wellington Statue because some people use the area as a short cut. I’ve therefore asked Parks and Countryside to let me know how much it will cost to fence the area to give the grass a chance to grow back. I shall then use money from my ward initiative fund to pay for the fencing.
The Highways Department has plans to make the existing cycle track on Woodhouse Moor, part of the Route 5 cycle track running from Cookridge to the city centre. If the scheme goes ahead, it will mean cyclists crossing the Moor at the rate of one every thirty seconds between 7.30 and 9.30am (according to figures published by the Leeds Cycling Action Group). Woodhouse Moor is already the most intensively used park in the city. To add to the existing park users, all those cyclists from the outer suburbs travelling to the city centre, is to create a serious health and safety issue on the park.
Councillor Adam Ogilivie is the Executive Board member with responsibility for Woodhouse Moor. Here is what he had to say earlier today about the plan to run Route 5 across the Moor:
This scheme is a very bad idea as it would make the park unsafe for pedestrians. Consequently, Parks and Countryside have written to the Highways Department asking for the scheme to be withdrawn. We have yet to receive a response. I’m grateful to local residents for alerting Parks and Countryside to the existence of this scheme.
The Highways Department is planning on creating a cycle super highway to be known as ‘Route 5’ that will run from Cookridge to the city centre via Leeds University. Cyclists heading into town will be directed onto the existing Woodhouse Moor cycle track via a new toucan crossing to be constructed across Hyde Park Road at its junction with Brudenell Road.
The new cycle highway will take all the cycle traffic that currently runs along Headingley Lane and Woodhouse Lane, and divert it across Woodhouse Moor. According to figures released in October 2008 by the Leeds Cycling Action Group, this will mean that during the morning peak between 7.30 and 9.30am, there will be cycles crossing the Moor at the rate of one every thirty seconds.
This massive increase in cycle traffic on the park will lead to congestion and bottlenecks in the area of the park around the Wellington statue, with pedestrians and cyclists competing for space on paths that were only designed to carry pedestrians. To relieve the congestion, Highways are planning on creating several new paths in the area of park around the statue.
These paths are unnecessary for the functioning of the park and are being provided as a cheap alternative to providing a cycle track along Hyde Park Road and Clarendon Road. They would be incongruous with the original path layout installed in the 1870s and make it extremely difficult to have the park added to English Heritage’s ‘Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of special historic interest in England’. The scheme would also make it far more difficult to obtain lottery funding to restore the park.
A report outlining the scheme was presented to Leeds City Council’s Executive Board on 14 October 2009. The report gave no details of proposed routes and claimed at paragraph 3.2.1 that :
Initial consultation on the project proposals was undertaken during June 2009. Ward members and community groups were informed by letter which included the project leaflet and links to more detailed plans placed on the internet.
In fact, there was no consultation with any of the community groups in the Hyde Park area. But on the strength of this report, Highways were given approval to proceed with the scheme and awarded £1.5 million. This is the second time in recent years that Highways have claimed there has been consultation when there has been none. In 2008, they wrongly claimed they had consulted local community groups about their proposal to widen the A660 where it crosses Woodhouse Moor.
The proposed Route 5 would run along Brudenell Road and connect to Woodhouse Moor by means of a toucan crossing to be constructed across Hyde Park Road at its junction with Brudenell Road. The intention is to locate the crossing in front of a block of flats called Kensington Court.
The first the residents of Kensington Court knew about the proposed crossing was when construction work began before Christmas. Alarmed that they would be kept awake through the night by beeping from the crossing, they contacted their ward councillor, and he arranged for a halt in construction. Even though the crossing would greatly impact on their quality of life, none of the residents of Kensington Court had been consulted about the proposal to instal it. Nor had they been consulted about the proposed Route 5 cycle track.
Highways chose the route of Route 5 at least as far back as 2009 when the situation on local roads was very different from what it is now. The introduction of residents only parking schemes on other roads in the area has meant that roads intended to form part of Route 5 are now double parked from Monday to Friday by workers from the suburbs who park their cars on these roads and then walk to work.
The problem of cars parked along the proposed Route 5 has specific health and safety consequences for cyclists:
According to figures produced by Parks and Countryside, Woodhouse Moor is the most intensively used park in Leeds. Pedestrians and cyclists already compete for space on paths.
To avoid pedestrians, cyclists often have to ride on the grass, creating broad swathes of mud in the process.
Given the intensity of use of this park, to divert all the cyclists from the northern suburbs onto it, is to invite a serious accident.