It’s been a turbulent year across the whole world, let alone in Southampton. However the Coronavirus situation has accelerated change in many areas, one of which being the rapid introduction of temporary cycle corridors and improvements for pedestrians throughout Southampton. A significant proportion of this was made possible thanks to the Department for Transport’s Emergency Active Travel Fund (ATF), a £225 million fund intended to create quick improvements to active travel infrastructure.

Those of you who follow the YouTube Channel will know that Southampton City Council’s first allocation of £245,000 helped to fund part of the Green Transport Recovery Plan, including the pop-up cycle lanes along Hill Lane and Bassett Avenue. In September the Department for Transport collected bids for tranche 2 of the ATF, with a total of £175 million up for grabs.

The funding allocations for these bids were unveiled shortly after midnight on Friday 13th September 2020. So how did Southampton City Council fare?

And the winners are…

Southampton City Council’s bid, as it turns out, was rather strong. Following on from the first tranche results, Southampton City Council were projected to be given £980,000, having been awarded 100% of the £245,000 requested in tranche 1. The amount awarded in tranche 2 was £1,225,000, meaning that across both tranches the council has been awarded a total of £1,470,000.

As a brief comparison, here’s how Southampton compared to other similarly-sized Unitary Authorities:

AuthorityTranche 2 Funding Received
Portsmouth£461,400
Milton Keynes£684,750
Derby£776,150
Plymouth£945,000
Kingston-upon-Hull£1,035,000
Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole (BCP)£1,062,000
Reading£1,179,000
Southampton£1,225,000
Leicester£1,378,450
Brighton & Hove£2,376,000

So already among other similar-sized authorities Southampton is near the top, though the funding awarded to Brighton & Hove is really quite extraordinary and I look forward to seeing what they build.

There are other ways of looking at this data, however. Taken as funding per head of population, Southampton again does very well, with a funding level of £5.82 per head. Thanks to this graph by Mark Strong, we get to see how this compares to every other authority outside of London:

Active Travel Fund awards, by £ per person.

(London’s Active Travel funding is distributed on a separate basis)

Southampton again comes out towards the top of this table, coming in 9th nationally, so again this is a very good indication as to the strength of the bid.

So what will this money be spent on? In its bid, Southampton City Council outlined five key schemes:

  • Extending SCN4 West to Adanac Park via General Hospital and Lordshill
  • Upgrading the advisory lanes on Winchester Road between Hill Lane and Bassett Avenue to protected mandatory lanes.
  • Creating two new Active Travel Zones in The Polygon & St Mark’s, Shirley.
  • A small extension of SCN 6 from Rockstone Place to Charlotte Place via St Mary’s Road
  • Two temporary “Park & Travel” hubs in Lordshill and Bitterne while the Adanac Park Park & Ride is constructed.

1. SCN4 West extension to Adanac Park

Map of the proposed new route for SCN4 West
  • Proposed cost: £712,000

The headline project for the bid is a near-total implementation of the western leg of SCN4. Starting from Commercial Road just north of Central Station, the route will initially follow the existing pop-up lane from Archers Road to Bellemoor Road. It’s unclear what will happen for the section between Commercial Road and Archers Road, however light segregation will be installed along the existing pop-up lane. It’s also unclear as to whether there will be any improvements along the “cycle street” section between Wilton Road and Radway Road, where the central islands and the King Edward VI School bus stops currently prevent any segregated infrastructure from being installed. Cycle-centric improvements to the signalled junctions with Archers Road and Bellemoor Road are also planned.

Bus stops and central islands hinder quick cycle lane installation on Hill Lane (Google Maps)

From here the route diverges away from the controversial section between the Bellemoor Road junction and the Burgess Road mini-roundabout, instead turning left towards the popular Bellemoor Road. While there are no plans on turning this area of Upper Shirley into an Active Travel Zone (more on that subject later), there will be a modal filter installed outside of Upper Shirley High School. This will in effect turn the upper part of Wilton Road into access-only north of Colebrook Avenue, though motor vehicles would be able to make a short diversion via Ivanhoe Road and Wilton Crescent.

There will also be questions as to what sort of modal filter will be used as Bellemoor Road is currently used by Xelabus’ X11 route. However, the net effect should be that an already popular east-west route for people travelling between Shirley and The Common will become even safer.

The route turns at Shirley Infant & Junior Schools before joining Winchester Road, northern Southampton’s busiest east-west corridor, where we’re currently greeted with this:

Winchester Road, eastbound from the Dale Road junction

On a very busy main road shared with container lorries and other large vehicles, there is a turning cycle lane in the middle of the road. This is currently a road that only the bravest of riders will attempt to use (and I’m certainly not one of them).

In what is likely to be the single most expensive component of this scheme, the signalled junctions at Dale Road and The Range are to be redesigned and made more cycle-friendly. It’s unclear how this will look and what protection there will be between these two junctions. Consideration for ambulances will also need to be made as this is one of the primary blue light corridors towards Southampton General hospital, but we will hopefully see the final plans sooner rather than later. To quote the bid document:

Winchester Road – New and improved segregated cycle facilities between Dale Road and Wilton Road including new parallel crossings and changes to junction layouts to make them safer for people cycling and walking – this will make the existing arrangement safer where cycles travelling between Wilton Road and Dale Road en-route to UHS [University Hospital Southampton] currently are in the middle of the road and reallocating roadspace (need to retain space for emergency vehicles as this is on the ‘blue light’ route to UHS’)

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The roads from Dale Road through to Lordshill Centre, via the General Hospital will encompass a range of measures, from traffic calming to light segregation. These roads were lumped into a single section, so we’ll need to see the detail as and when it emerges.

Then we get to Lordshill. Reading this bid document for the first time gave me a reason to explore the area on my bike, and as I summarised on Twitter, it’s a reasonably well designed area that has unfortunately been badly-maintained over the years. It’s an Active Travel Zone by design, each residential road only has access to one major road. Pavements and cycle tracks run through the middle of the various housing estates, providing a quicker route compared to cars, but the surface of the cycle tracks are very worn.

A typical cycle track in Lordshill

The routes narrow when travelling through underpasses, but it’s unclear as to whether these paths are shared or not as there is no signage. There are zig-zag barriers which presumably were put up to hinder motorbike joyriders, but have no place in a modern cycling network. The lack of signage around Lordshill Centre also makes it unclear where cycling is permitted – the only clue is a “no cycling” sign at the Lordshill Way end of Sainsbury’s. With signage, the removal of clutter and possibly a resurfacing of the segregated cycle tracks, it should be possible to safely cycle all the way from Lower Brownhill Road to Lordswood and Olive Road.

Barriers in front of an underpass in Lower Brownhill

Finally, we have something that’s already covered under the Transforming Cities Fund rather than the ATF. The junction of Frogmore Lane, Brownhill Way and Lower Brownhill Road is being changed from a staggered signalled junction to a single crossroads signalled junction, which will also provide parallel cycle crossings.

All in all a very ambitious plan. This will make SCN4 by far the longest continuous route at just under 7km, and will finally add the General Hospital and Lordshill to the SCN map. It’s also worth noting that this changes the original vision of the Southampton Cycle Network’s external connections – SCN4 was originally envisioned to continue to North Baddesley via Rownhams Lane. In this form it’s now more likely to continue to Romsey via Lee. As with everything else, the devil will be in the detail, and the Department for Transport has made it clear that all funded improvements must be LTN 1/20 compliant, but this has the potential to create a route as popular as SCN1 and SCN5.

2. SCN8 Winchester Road Upgrade

  • Proposed cost: £178,000

Next up is an improvement to an existing lane on Winchester Road. This lane is currently marked as an advisory with dashed lines, though these lines have worn away over the years. It also ends abruptly into the back of a parking zone, and by extension, into the back of whatever car is parked in that zone. Eastbound, the lane disappears a few hundred metres before Winchester Road Roundabout, leaving riders to contest with left-turning traffic. All in all, not very appealing for less confident riders.

The plan here is to upgrade the existing advisory lane to a mandatory lane and provide light segregation. The lanes will also be extended to the Hill Lane Shops by displacing existing on-street parking, although from what I’m aware the parking directly outside the shops will be kept. Again, the detailed plans will provide more information once unveiled. Interestingly enough, this part of the bid directly references Local Transport Note 1/20, stating that despite a low average traffic speed along Winchester Road, the volume of traffic using this road means that segregation is required.

This will present an interesting problem with the roundabouts at either end, especially if the pop-up section of SCN5 between Burgess Road and Winchester Road is made permanent. The roads themselves will have segregated lanes, but riders will still be mixing with normal traffic at the junctions. Re-designs of the Winchester Road and Hill Lane will be inevitable, and all eyes will be firmly focussed on studies of the UK’s first “Dutch” roundabout on Fendon Road, Cambridge. There may also need to be changes to some crossings, such as this Puffin Crossing, which force riders into the main traffic lane.

Next Up

Coming up in part 2, analysis of two new Active Travel Zones and the introduction of “Park & Travel” hubs.