Balfour Beatty Living Places contract director, Brian Hammersley, and strategic transport manager for Southampton City Council, Pete Boustred, discuss Southampton’s new ‘Cycling Strategy’.
The project is currently being delivered by the Highways Service Partnership (HSP), a partnership between Balfour Beatty Living Places and Southampton City Council, which is providing highways, transportation, planning and asset management services for Southampton.
Southampton is a thriving city with a growing population. As a result, the city council saw the opportunity to modernise its key strategic transport links and deliver a sustainable network that is truly fit for the future. This has led to the recently launched Connected Southampton 2040 Transport Strategy, providing a strategic vision for the City’s transport future.
With a clear strategy of improving sustainable transport systems and supporting economic growth, the Balfour Beatty Living Places team was charged with the design and delivery of a programme of high quality, purpose-built cycle links to connect people with workplaces and local facilities while also driving down road congestion and air pollution.
Aligned to the Council’s commitment to providing sustainable solutions for its customers and delivering significant benefit for the communities in which Balfour Beatty Living Places operate, the HSP started work converting Southampton into a “true cycling city”.
The Southampton City Council ‘Cycling Strategy’ was born
Southampton City Council has invested more than £11m in its cycling infrastructure since the launch of its ten-year cycling strategy in 2017.
This has followed a series of successful funding bids to central government.
On completion, the cycling strategy will provide several new corridor routes across the city and will help to facilitate a 10% increase in the number of people making journeys to main employment hubs and suburbs by cycling, while also gradually increasing the percentage of travellers using bikes as a general mode of transport.
To ensure the Cycling Strategy was fit for purpose, the teams collaboratively designed and developed a hierarchy of cycle infrastructure including Cycle Freeways, Cycle Cityways, Quietways and Active Travel Zones.
The Cycle Freeways are perhaps the most impactful infrastructure, which allow cyclists to travel alongside major transport routes into the city with full segregation from other road users, ensuring a safer space to cycle.
This year, Balfour Beatty Living Places fully completed the first of these projects, known as SCN1. The SCN1 route provides cyclists with segregated cycle lanes from the city centre and links to the west of the city and on to the New Forest National Park. The 'freeway' is used by approximately 600 people a day for work and leisure.
Installing a cycle lane linking a number of residential roads, running alongside the A33, a busy six lane highway, and passing numerous busy trading estates required meticulous design, consultation and planning. The key focus was on the network users’ safety and setting a benchmark standard for what could be delivered in the future.
To make cycling and walking safer and more attractive, several additional improvements were made. These included the widening of a shared use cycle and footway, the resurfacing of the entire route and introduction of continuous footways, giving pedestrians priority at key junctions.
The team also created new cycling paths along quieter local roads to form a link of well maintained, easy and safe local routes through neighbourhoods. These paths also provide direct access to the city’s leisure amenities for cyclists and pedestrians.
Above and beyond
SCN1 has been a resounding success. It has received positive feedback from users and third parties who have commented on the overall improved safety performance, smoothness of the surfacing and shortened journey times.
The new cycling route has also helped eliminate through traffic to improve the living environment of residential areas.
Research undertaken by the University of Southampton discovered, in some areas, an 89% reduction in ‘severe vibrations’ from the road’s surface since its introduction. And to top it off, the freeway has supported the vision of Southampton becoming a 'true cycling city' with a 20% increase in the amount of people using the route and doubling what we set out to do.
The new infrastructure has been supported by the 'My Journey' team who have delivered a number of targeted behavioural change campaigns along the length of SCN1 and across the wider city.
These campaigns encourage people to consider modal shift and highlight the accessibility that the new route offers.
Through the ‘My Journey’ campaign, the HSP have trialled the first ‘School Streets’; an initiative to close roads to cars outside of schools.
Doing this not only improves safety but also encourages parents and children to walk, scoot or cycle home. Having been adopted by St John’s Primary School earlier this year, ‘School Streets’ are now being rolled out across the city at the beginning and end of each school day.
Success in delivering the Cycling Strategy is testament to the HSP’s collaborative nature, good planning, a strong transport policy foundation and a proven track record in delivering projects on time, and to budget.
Having recently completed the reconstruction of Millbrook roundabout three weeks ahead of schedule and having successfully implemented the first Cycle Freeway in the city, the HSP is actively making Southampton a great place to live, work and play.
Balfour Beatty Living Places: A focus on cyclist safety
Balfour Beatty Living Places have been awarded the FORS (Freight Operators recognition Scheme) accreditation across all contracts and projects, including Herefordshire, Warwickshire, West Sussex and Southampton. This accreditation forms part of the wider Balfour Beatty Group focus on driver and road user safety.
This award recognises that the team has met FORS standards for all its heavy goods vehicles. All heavy goods vehicles must have class V &V1 mirrors fitted, side underrun protection, audible left turn warnings for cyclists and “Blind spot beware” stickers.
The challenge is to maintain the focus of safe driving for our drivers.
In order to ensure safe driving, Balfour Beatty Living Places trains its drivers in 'Safe Urban Driving', guiding drivers how to share the roads with vulnerable road users such as cyclists.
To raise awareness of cyclists, Balfour Beatty Living Places also initiated an interactive vulnerable road user training course, which explains how the urban streetscape is evolving to encourage more walking and cycling.
The course also allows drivers to ride on bicycles in areas of potential conflict including junction turns, traffic lights and ASLs. This 'real life' experience gives drivers a positive cyclists perspective of riding in a busy urban environment.
This course ensures that Balfour Beatty Living Places drivers are:
- Aware of their environment while driving
- Sharing the road, trained in defensive driving techniques and collision avoidance
- Aware of areas of possible danger e.g. junctions, traffic lights and advanced stop lines
- Driving in a safer way to allow for vulnerable road users and the hazards they face whilst cycling
- Understanding the value of having a higher specification of mirror fitted and audible left turn warnings
Additional courses are planned for the near future and Balfour Beatty Living Places continue to focus on safe driving best practice in line with Balfour Beatty’s Fleet Management guidance.