Cycle Southend has created a ring road around Southend town centre. Cycling on the High Street itself is banned (a rule more honoured in breach…) but there are lots of side streets with cycle parking to allow access to it. I presume the ring road is there to help cyclists avoid the High Street when travelling somewhere other than the High Street (although you can use Heygate Ave (west to east) or Tylers Ave (east to west). This afternoon, with my 7 year old, I cycled the route, anti-clockwise, to get a feel of how it is laid out. I had cycled on every bit of it at some point but never as a complete circuit.
We started at the junction of Queensway and Short Street. This is all shared space, according to maps, but there isn’t much signage to indicate this. Some of it is just pavement that has been re-designated, but the Victoria Circus junction is laid out better with this in mind (below, far left).
Crossing the junction you follow the Queensway east on what appears as shared space on the map, but isn’t signed as such. There is nothing to indicate that cycling is allowed here (below, right).
You get to the roundabout with London Road which you traverse crossing the roundabout’s exits (see below left). The shared space, according to the map I have, continues either side until Brighten Road.
The ring road in this direction turns left into Park Road (above right). There is no signage I could to see to indicate this was a suggested route, it is only because I had marked it out on a map that I knew this. Cycling here is on the road, but the road is one way and is a 20mph zone, so fairly traffic calmed and I was happy for the 7 year old to cycle in front of me. You follow the one way system around here until you get to Hamlet Road. Here the ring road turns left but you wouldn’t know except for a tiny blue sign, well above eye level (below left).
Shortly after, it is right (again not well signed, above right) over the railway line on a on-road painted cycle lane (below left) – this could be improved greatly by adding kerb between the lane and the road. You then cross Scratton Road to join a contraflow cycle lane on Milton Place. My main gripe with contraflows is that as you reach a junction cars coming in their direction can cut corners. This one seems to have been improved with some kerbage to protect the cyclist at the junction (below right), but due to the parking alongside you couldn’t segregate it.
The lane then goes onto Runwell Terrace, again as a contraflow lane (below left), before going down the west side of Prittlewell Square. Along these stretches the main indication of the route was cycles painted on to the road or pinkish road colouring. Once at the bottom of the square you join the carriageway proper on Clifftown Parade, which at least is a nice wide road (below right). There is space here for a proper lane – not just something painted.
This comes to a dead end for motor vehicles but pedestrians and cyclists can use a link to Royal Terrace (below left) and join a poorly marked contraflow lane (below right). You’d be forgiven for not realising it was a cycle lane. This runs along the Royal Terrace and down Pier Hill.
At the bottom of Pier Hill you join the shared space (below left) on the sea front before turning left at Hartington Road. As with the rest of the route there is no sign to indicate that the ring road goes up there or that this a route back up to town (below right). At the north end of Hartington there is a shared space path that runs alongside the bottom of Queensway, and then runs north alongside the Queensway dual carriageway.
This shared space path runs all the way back up to the junction with Short Street.
- Signage is poor in indicating shared space areas. To be fair, there are bollards indicating the shared space starts at entry points and so on, but there are long stretches with nothing to indicate it. For example, the path heading north alongside the Queensway – there is nothing from the roundabout at Southchurch Road round to Chichester Road on the actual path (see above). Another example: I have always believe the shared space starts at the Short Street junction since the crossing there is pedestrians only. But the map I have, indicates a cycle path running east on the north side of the Queensway from Short Street round to the bottom of Sutton Road. There is nothing (to my knowledge) indicating this and why not link Coleman Road up to this (see below left)?
- Signage is poor to indicate the actual ring road route. Tiny blue signs are the best you get and they are easy to miss. The best areas are the contraflow paths west of the town since they have to be marked on the road! Since the council make a big thing of the route on their website I’m surprised there is nothing to highlight it out and about.
- It is a fairly safe route. I was happy for my 7 year old to cycle it. The on road bits were very quiet. The main snag was traversing some roundabouts with the speed some cars come round the bend, some exiting without signalling etc. Very few of these have a crossing with traffic lights.
- There are lots of little routes off the ring road to get into the High Street, but no signage. There is an obvious thinking that cyclists will investigate routes on a map before making a journey or just follow the routes one does in a car.
- Some of these little routes could do with a ramp or cut through for a bike, eg Portland Avenue – cut off for motor vehicles but could easily be a little bike route (below top right).
- Why make use of Pier Hill? It’s fine anti-clockwise, but I am not looking forward to it the other way. I would have routed the ring road south of the Royals car park and round to the Queensway via Church Road and Chancellor Road (below bottom right).