The Bridge proposal
Kirklees Council is currently working on a proposal to construct a foot/cycle bridge over Castlegate in Huddersfield. So far there has been no request for Kirklees Cycling Campaign (KCC) to declare its position on the project, so, as chair, I thought that it might be useful to start a debate on the pros and cons of this scheme.
Crossing Castlegate on foot and by bike
What is the problem?
The problem is the Huddersfield Ring Road. This acts as a barrier to cyclists and pedestrians who need to access destinations on either side of Castlegate.
The Trinity Street crossing is particularly hazardous for cyclists, and deters many people from using a
bike to get to the railway station and other destinations in the town centre. If there was a direct safe and easy way to cross the ring road at Trinity Street – together with a link to the planned A629 “Quietway” cycle route at Greenhead Park – many more people would be encouraged to get to the station on a bike, rather than using their car.
The above map shows examples of routes that cross Castlegate.
Currently cyclists and pedestrians who wish to travel between the town centre and destinations on the western side of Castlegate are limited to using either:
1. the crossing point at Trinity Street or
2. the subway near to the Civic Centre.
• Students exiting the railway station and going to Greenhead College generally use the Trinity Street crossing point because it is the most direct.
• Greenhead College Students exiting the bus station will either use the Trinity Street crossing or use the Civic Centre Underpass.
1. Trinity Street
For pedestrians this crossing is:
• inconveniently in two stages/phases
• it has limited pedestrian space on the central island
• is used by very large numbers of Greenhead College students in term time
N.B. the pedestrian subway at Trinity Street does not help to access Greenhead College.
For cyclists the Trinity Street crossing is particularly hazardous when exiting from the town centre:
• it is uphill (cycling can be slow and unsteady)
• there are three lanes of traffic, none of which are dedicated to cyclists.
• cyclists normally wish to proceed straight ahead but the inside traffic lane is dedicated to left turning traffic.
• There is no ASL or access to one.
2. The Civic Centre Subway
• There is a fairly direct straightforward route up Back Cecil Street to Park Avenue to Greenhead College and Greenhead Park
• The pedestrian route can be used, but it is not ideal at the moment. A small sum of money is required to make it a trouble-free cycling route. This only involves making a number of dropped curbs together with a ramp onto Springwood car park.
Q. So would a bridge help solve the problem of the Ring Road?
A. Yes and No
• It would make for an uninterrupted walk from the bus station to Greenhead Road and then on to Greenhead College, Greenhead Park and beyond.
• It would be a direct route for cyclists traveling between Ramsden Street and Greenhead Road/Trinity Street
• There is currently no simple practical route for cyclists between Ramsden Street and Queen Street South or the University. Until such a route is established there would be no real need for the bridge. As long as this situation remains, bridge users would mainly be confined to pedestrians using bus transport.
• For pedestrians and cyclists, who currently use the underpass to get to Greenhead College and Greenhead Park, a bridge would make no significant advantage.
• The current bridge proposal doesn’t help cyclists or pedestrians that use the railway station. The majority of these would be inconvenienced by having to use the bridge. They would continue to use the Trinity Street crossing (frustrating/hazardous though it is) because it is a more direct route to their destination.
It is unlikely that Greenhead College students coming out of the Railway Station would use the footbridge.
So is there a better solution than a bridge?
• The cycling route via Back Cecil Street and Rifle Fields could be easily upgraded at little expense. This would then make a seamless route via the underpass.
• Rather than the bridge, many would argue, that significant improvements could alternatively be made to the Trinity Street crossing. Doing this would serve BOTH:
Pedestrians using the Bus Station
Pedestrians and Cyclists using the Railway Station
Making a good cycling and pedestrian friendly crossing at Trinity Street would be an expensive project, but it is likely that the construction of a bridge would be considerably more costly.
What does the Dft say about Bridges?
The government document “Gear Change” was published in 2020. As can be seen from the quote below, it was not very enthusiastic about bridges:
Major ‘iconic’ items, such as overbridges must form part of wider, properly thought-through schemes.
There is sometimes a temptation to build costly showpiece structures in isolation without thinking enough about the purpose they truly serve and the roads and routes which lead to them. We will only support such things when they overcome a major barrier on a desire line which cannot safely be crossed in other ways, and where they form an essential, properly connected part of a wider network of good, safe routes.
So what now?
It is not presumed that the above arguments constitute everything that there is to say on the proposal. There is undoubtably more to discuss.
Given the controversial nature of this project it would seem sensible for Kirklees Council to initiate a public debate with a wide range of stakeholders so that the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of the proposal can be fully understood. Only after this should a decision be made.
The bridge could well turn out to be a useful and successful project. But it could also result in being a very expensive and wasteful mistake.
Kirklees Officers, the Cabinet, its councillors, WYCA Active Travel officers and all local stakeholders need to be able to engage in a well-informed public debate or some kind of workshop before this project proceeds any further.
It is truly hoped that the council will facilitate this debate at the earliest opportunity.