Chris Petch explains why the Sainsbury’s junction on Wetherby Road, Harrogate, is difficult to negotiate on a bike
As Harrogate’s main roads are not designed with cyclists in mind, the off-road cycle paths and routes take on greater importance. These safer cycle and foot paths are not always well-linked, forcing cyclists (and pedestrians) into taking unnecessary risks when crossing busy main roads. One example is Wetherby Road’s Railway Road/Sainsbury’s junction. It links Stonefall Park to Railway Road and the Hookstone Woods cycle paths.
The junction is an ordinarily very busy major main road for traffic entering and exiting Harrogate (or simply passing through). The junction also serves the recycling centre, Sainsbury’s, the Yorkshire Showground and its related businesses, and provides some limited access to Hookstone Woods.
It’s a difficult junction to understand if you haven’t driven it in a car. It has a couple of different lanes and a priority system for traffic turning into Railway Road. It is also on the threshold of the 30 to 40 mph speed change, and cars are often accelerating long before they meet the junction.
For cyclists, the problems start early on in the approach. Cyclists either have to use the roads, crossing busy lanes and contending with traffic (including a horrendous right turn into the Recycling Centre crossing two lanes of traffic which are moving at different speeds), or have to join footpaths (the more sensible option in my view). Either way, you face crossing oncoming traffic, but you even have to do this to get onto the right footpath for the crossing.
Once you get to the junction, it’s a case of waiting until there’s a gap in traffic on each lane of traffic and island hopping. There are cycle signs (see photo), but there is no way of stopping traffic. Some of the islands are not wide enough for a bike, so you feel exposed to traffic, even though you’re stood in what should be a sensible place.
When it’s quiet, it’s not so bad, but at its peak there’s a lot of cars, lorries and other vehicles moving along that road. Arguably, it’s ok if you take extra care, but all it takes is a misjudgement, an error, or a failure to understand the traffic flow and you’re in trouble with sometimes fast-moving traffic.
This issue has been highlighted before by others and the council has been made aware. Improving cycle and pedestrian safety on main road junctions that link cycle paths must be a key part of the local plans to improve cycling infrastructure and safety in Harrogate.
At best, leaving issues like this unaddressed dissuades new or inexperienced cyclists to take up cycling locally because of traffic and because it’s unsafe. At worst, someone will make an error and end up getting hurt because of poor junction design and a lack of interest in doing the right thing. It’s one thing to be king of the road, but another to be king of the junction.