In a previous post I highlighted some of the issues around cycling on the A127. Today I tried my alternative and in doing so perhaps identified some ideas for a lane to make it a bit more off road.
I started at Victoria Circus like before and followed this route to the start of the cycle lanes at Kent Elms. I then returned making use of the same route, to confirm it could be used in either direction. I recovered ground I described in the previous post from Victoria Circus to the junction with Priory Park. The main difference here was that I needed to turn left into Fairfax Drive and so had to try and cross the carriageway before the lights – since the lane ends there!
Got a few funny looks from people in cars – perhaps they thought I should stay on the pavement rather than use the lanes as they have been (poorly) designed to be. Once there I waited in the queue for the lights to go green so I could turn left and right into Prittlewell Chase joining the painted cycle lane there.
This has been put in place, presumably, to help school children at the High School, but it is along side parking (so car dooring always a possibility) and a bus route. I cycled on it recently with my 7 year old and did worry a little as a bus went passed us. However, I tend to try and use lanes that are provided even if they aren’t great…
This lane ends soon after the school, however the road is dual carriageway and fairly wide so I don’t have a problem cycling on it. I stay on Prittlewell Chase until Eastbourne Grove where I turn right and then a dog leg to the left to enter Northville Drive.
As I cycled along Prittlewell Chase I could not help but notice the gap between the two carriageways – from Fairfax Drive all the way along. There is scope here for a cycle lane to wind itself amongst the trees between the carriage ways and take cyclists off the road along this route – a busy one with two schools and the hospital. It would eradicate the need for the painted lane mentioned above.
At the north end of Northville Drive you join the shared space arrangements around the Tesco roundabout. I followed this as before, joining Exford Avenue (note 1), which runs parallel to the A127, and using this all the way until turning left into Mendip Crescent.
You can then loop round, using Mendip Road, Bridgewater Drive, Hurst Way and Broomfield Avenue to get back to the A127, just west of Kent Elms and join the cycle lanes.
The benefits of using Exford Avenue to Broomfield Avenue? You stay off the fast A127 and don’t have to use pavements etc. There is a lot of space around the route and so there is potential for an off road cycling lane, if well thought out (having used some lanes in London I have noted that lanes don’t have to stay immediately adjacent to main roads all the time), rather than pushing a lane through Kent Elms – which is pretty backed already.
The downsides? It is a rat run – Exford should probably have speed bumps – and there are a lot of parked cars which obscure your view around corners etc. However, I think I would rather it to staying on the A127.
Heading back to town, I used a cut through I spotted on the way from town between Bridgewater Drive and Mendip Road. This took me through garages. Probably not the best cycle route…
After that I reversed the path I had come. What I noticed heading back was how much space there was around Exford Avenue. There is space for a cycle lane, but even if you made use of Exford Avenue as the route, when it becomes Somerset Avenue it could spur off through the free space and join up with the shared space arrangements at Tesco.
This route worked fine for returning to town and kept me off the A127 carriageway throughout, apart from when turning right from Fairfax Drive to head south towards town. Here I had to be on the carriageway until I could merge with the painted cycle lane on the pavement going up to St Mary’s Road.
I feel it is a safer and more scenic route (in places) and provides just as much connectivity to other parts of the road network for travelling around town. I have tended to use this in parts whenever I travel around, particularly to and from Rochford.
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 street signs say!