Science Park station access and Cowley Road

This article was published in 2015, in Newsletter 118.

The Cowley Road-Science Park-Business Park-Milton Road area is a huge and confusing junction with poor provision for people walking and cycling. Photo © Lucinda Price
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The Campaign was very disappointed to hear the Joint Development Control Committee (JDCC) approve a terrible plan for squeezing cyclists and people walking onto a shared-use pavement along Cowley Road for access to the new Science Park railway station. The Campaign has been clear in its opposition to this highly compromised proposal; it is deeply regrettable that our concerns have been ignored.

Cowley Road will be the access for all pedestrian and cycle traffic from Milton and the north, and for travel from the Science Park. Many routes onto Cowley Road will involve multi-stage crossings, adding delay to most journeys, far from ideal on an approach to a station where delay could mean a missed train. The route from the Science Park in particular will require users to cross five traffic lanes to reach Cowley Road.

Cowley Road has a mix of vehicles including many lorries and buses. Photo © Lucinda Price
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The entire length of the Cowley Road route as currently proposed, marked in red on the map, is a narrow shared-use pavement. This is a very short-sighted compromise in a location where active travel modes should be prioritised to tackle limited parking at the station, yet they will be squeezed into a narrow space, generating conflict. Shared-use routes like this are a common cause of complaint throughout the city from pedestrians and cyclists alike. It is unfortunate that the main active travel route to such a high-profile development should be compromised in this way.

The route crosses several side accesses from Cowley Road to the adjacent industrial estate. Two of those crossings will not have traffic lights or priority, particularly worrying on a 30mph road with HGVs accessing the industrial estate and bus traffic to and from the new station. This reduces both the utility and safety of the route relative to cycling on the main carriageway.

Crossing from the Science Park to Cowley Road requires three stages. Photo © Lucinda Price
Image as described adjacent

Such poor provision will undoubtedly split users into two groups: those using the shared-used provision who will be delayed, or placed into turning conflicts at each side road: and those who ride directly on the main carriageway at risk of ‘Milton Road effect’, that is, conflict from bullying drivers considering them to be in the wrong. Halfway along Cowley Road the route crosses from one side to the other, via difficult 90-degree turns, further reducing the usefulness of the route. Like those elsewhere on the route, this crossing is uncontrolled, thus introducing another risk of conflict with motorised traffic heading to the industrial estate and new station.

To add insult to injury the crossing places the route on the wrong side for the new station, so a second uncontrolled crossing is required to access the station. Though the industrial estate traffic can be assumed absent by this point, there will still be buses and other traffic to the station. Faced with two crossings and issues at side roads, it is not unreasonable to suppose many cyclists will ignore the terrible cycling facilities and take to the main carriageway.

Location map.
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It is very disappointing to see such a flawed cycle route being approved by the council. The access route to the new station, an exciting and aspirational development for the city, should aim for a high trip rate by foot and bike, maximising the station’s potential for onward journeys without adding many additional car trips to the road network. Designing such an unattractive route, where active modes of transport are placed in direct conflict and with a number of uncontrolled crossings, does nothing to make those modes an obvious or safe option. The insistence on shared-use for such routes, against the clear recommendations of the Campaign, perpetuates the false image in the wider community that these routes are the type cyclists want!

An alternative solution exists a short distance to the south: a disused Network Rail access track running parallel to Cowley Road along its entire length (marked in green on the map above). This track is wide enough, at around four metres, to accommodate both a cycle and walking route from Milton Road direct to the station. It would create a traffic-free route, without risk from crossing side roads or the station access road.

The Milton Road entrance to the Network Rail route.
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With care taken over the crossings and direction signs near Milton Road, it should be possible to funnel cycle traffic from Milton Road, the Guided Busway, Science and Innovation Parks to this route.

By gaining access to land from Network Rail, a sufficiently high-quality route should be achievable for the shared-used path alongside Cowley Road not to be required. The Campaign hopes that the council appreciates the importance of a quality route at this location and achieves access before money is wasted on the deeply flawed shared-use path, which would not serve any of its users well.

A view along the Network Rail route. Although slightly overgrown at the edges the surface is in good condition.
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Campaign members are encouraged to highlight this potential access route in feedback for both the station and Northern Fringe East consultations. Motivating the council to limit planning permission to a station access should reduce Network Rail’s desire to hold on to this land. By using this land a truly aspirational cycling and walking access for the new station is achievable. Without it, the proposed shared-use route is, to put bluntly, worse than nothing.

Tom McKeown