Sunday morning I ventured out to cycle the A127. I started at Southend Victoria and cycled to the boundary of the Borough and then back.
Wherever possible I went off road – shared space, cycle lanes etc, but often had to go on the road. In some regards it is a decent route. Not too hilly, fairly direct and has a number of entry/exit points to get to other areas of town. Some of these are blocked off for motor traffic and are probably deemed pavement so shouldn’t be cycled on but people do and it wouldn’t take much to make them slightly more passable for cyclists.
The journey started at Victoria Circus on shared space around the station and the junction but then there is a brief and narrow bi-directional cycle lane, lowered into the pavement, running past the government offices. At this point it deposits you onto a side road of Victoria Avenue, and then straight onto a cycle lane. The route used to be marked on the ground and cycles painted on it, but when work was done there, these markings were lost. Now, there is no indication it is a cycle lane other than the blue signs on bollards, that can be missed by other users. Indeed this is often used as if pavement.
The entirety of this lane is in the photograph bottom right. It takes one to the traffic lights in shot. Here you could join carriageway but the traffic free route is to cross and use the cycle lane alongside the court house and council offices.
This is a narrow bi-directional cycle lane that runs up to Carnarvon Road. It is lower than the pavement and is generally respected by others. It can be a bit dicey when you meet oncoming traffic but otherwise fairly good.
At Carnarvon Road the lane stops and you join a wide shared space path. This isn’t too bad, nice and wide and I have never had a problem. The shot below is taken north to south on my way back but it shows what the route is like.
This path stops at East Street. From here it looks like pavement from East Street to St Mary’s Road, but Southend’s cycle map indicates it is shared space. There isn’t really room here for both pedestrians and cyclists but there is not much room to do anything with it. Once at St Mary’s Road we get a bi-directional cycle lane but it is narrow and is just painted. It is often walked on.
This lane takes you down to the corner of Priory Park (above right), but it stops short of that, and directs you onto the carriageway. If you are heading north at this stage you have to cross the carriage way before the lights. I have done a number of times and you basically wait for the lights to all go red and then cross and join the queue of traffic. The alternative is to break the law and continue cycling on the pavement down to the junction.
From here it is carriageway only. Up a slight hill, with cars going up to 40mph (or more…). To be fair I have never had a problem (you know where the cars are coming from, there’s nothing parked to deal with and no car dooring risk), but the speed of the cars can make you feel you need to cycle quicker than perhaps you want to (which I don’t, I’m happy with an average of 10 mph). And kids? No, they’d have to go on the pavement and break the law.
It is like this until Cuckoo Corner. At this point you are directed by road markings onto the pavement (so I presume it is shared space!) to use the traffic lights to cross roads to get to your desired exit. To stay with the A127, you are directed down Earls Hall Parade, a row of shops, so technically still on the road but cars are mostly stationary. Very soon though, it’s back on the road
It is on carriageway cycling until just past the junction with Hobleythick Lane. Here a side road comes up (I presume the original bit of road, bottom left) and so you remain on road but on a fairly dead one, used only by motorists that live there (except if traffic is heavy and some use it as a rat run to get a few minutes ahead).
This runs to and crosses Coleman’s Avenue where one has to rejoin the A127 carriageway (above right) towards the Tesco roundabout.
As you approach the roundabout there is a slipway that takes you off the A127 onto Prince Avenue and into a shared spaced set up that abruptly deposits you on Prince Avenue again. I tend to just use the road here. You continue and can turn left into Exford Avenue (note 1), running parallel to the A127 (below left).
Guess what, this ends just beyond Mendip Crescent (above right) and there is nothing there to indicate if the pavement can be cycled on. Most people do… but I choose to turn right at Mendip Crescent and rejoin the A127 carriageway, and approach Kent Elms (note 2).
Shortly after Kent Elms you can get off the carriageway and join cycle lanes, dating back to the 1930s. These are now used (and marked out for) residential parking but they remain cycle lanes. Alas, one can find cars double parked and blocking them.
In this direction the lane is fairly decent, well marked out and you can have a decent run to the Borough boundary. At junctions you have to give way, which in itself isn’t a problem but due to travelling in the same direction as the cars you have to look back – only a glance back is possible to ensure you keep an eye on where you’re going. As such, it actually makes sense to travel opposing traffic (eg head west on the lane next to the eastbound carriageway).
Heading back, there is a decent lane running all along to just before Kent Elms. This used to abruptly stop at a bus stop, depositing you back on the carriageway. Now, it just disappears into pavement – the recent widening of the road at the junction saw to that. It’s not clear if this pavement is shared space – but there isn’t a ramp down to the carriageway at the end of the cycle lane so one naturally carries onto the pavement (below left) whether you’re meant to or not.
From Kent Elms it is on carriageway all the way but on the approach to Tesco, road markings direct you onto shared space which carries on all the way round the roundabout. This allows cyclists to traverse the roundabout traffic free until a crossing over the A127 where you can head south. This is all fairly decent and joins up with a traffic free route to Rochford.
It wasn’t clear if the shared space arrangements around the the roundabout continue, so I went back onto the carriageway. I noted a bit further down the road a shared space sign and inspection of Southend’s map, once home, indicated it is shared space all the way along.
Shortly after, this shared space becomes a cycle lane marked out on the pavement that weaves in and out of driveways and side roads. The markings are worn and cars park across it. This runs until Denton Approach, at which point you are back on the carriageway and all the way to Cuckoo Corner. The shame is there is potentially space for a cycle lane between the pavement and the carriageway (above right).
At Cuckoo Corner, one has to remain on the A127 carriageway heading south. At the traffic lights at the junction by Priory Park one can join the cycle lane mentioned previously, via a ramp from the carriageway and then up the hill to St Mary’s Road and basically reverse the initial stage of the journey.
Except for the lanes near the boundary, the provision for cycling isn’t great. Chopping and changing between the road and shared space delays the journey and means the route can’t be used in its entirety in the same way one would drive it, and not by young cyclists you wouldn’t want on the road. Having said that, the shared space around the Tesco roundabout is fairly decent and isn’t just pavement that has been designated as shared space (like Victoria Avenue between East Street and St Mary’s Road).
Could some sort of continuous cycling provision be created?
There are two key bits: between Kent Elms and Tesco and then between Tesco and Priory Park.
Heading into the Borough, the separate cycle lane stops at Kent Elms but shortly after that there is Exford Avenue, which joins up with the shared space at Tesco. There would just need to be a bi-directional lane installed from the 1930s lane to Exford Avenue.
On road you can use Broomfield Avenue, Bridgewater Drive and then Mendip Crescent, looping back up to the A127 and joining Exford Avenue. Alternatively, a path could be pushed through the Kent Elms junction in some way. It was shame such a route was’t considered with the recent tinkering of the junction – something could be provided for and given its own turn in traffic lights.
After that you need something to bypass everything from Tesco to Priory Park via Cuckoo Corner.
A possible route could be: Prittlewell Chase, Eastbourne Grove and Northville Road up to Tesco. Prittlewell Chase is a good route since it is dual carriageway and a nice path among the trees inbetween the carriageways could be installed. This also allows a cycling provision to the hospital.
Soon, I will cycle this route to check it…
Note (1) – on the AtoZ Map of Southend I use this road is referred to as Exford Avenue but I note that Google images have it as Prince Avenue. When I am next in the area I will check what the streetsigns say!
Note (2) – I’ve later learnt from maps that Exford Avenue becomes Elms Court – a new group of houses tucked away. The maps and satellite images suggest a path from Elms Court to Bridgewater Drive but I suspect this pavement. In any event, you would then have to head north on Bridgewater Drive and turn left at Kent Elms using the carriageway briefly before getting to the cycle lanes.