The Luton and Dunstable Busway

The much anticipated Luton and Dunstable Busway is nearly finished and ready for it’s official opening.  Here I road test the cycle track which runs alongside this new development which connects the two towns together with an efficient transport link.

It is a special concrete track for buses only.  The buses have extra wheels at the side of the vehicle to steer or guide them along an otherwise traffic free corridor between Houghton Regis, Dunstable and Luton.  Much of it runs along the route of a railway line which was decommissioned several decades ago.  The idea is, amongst other reasons, is to provide a fast and efficient transport link between the towns, to ease the considerable congestion, to be more environmentally friendly and be an asset in an otherwise growing area.

Running alongside the Busway is a cycle track which is what I was keen to have a look at, as the whole project nears completion.  While the actual Busway maybe hailed as a success (and time will tell), how does the cycle track fare?  Is it a logical feature to supplement the actual Busway?  Will it contribute towards getting people out of their cars (and buses) and travel a little more under their own steam?  Is it the rump of the project and a poorly executed add-on?

I have used the cycle track a few times this week, prior to the official opening.  So it could be that some finishing touches still need to be made and naturally there is bound to be some residual tidying up and snag-fixing by the contractors for sometime afterwards.  The stretch I have tried out is from Luton Railway station through to the junction of Station Road and Great Northern Road in Dunstable.  The track extends further into Dunstable and will, at the Luton end, connect with Luton Parkway station and an on-road link to the local nearly airport.

The highlight was an early morning ride along the track on my way to Stevenage where I work.  This is normally a distance of 23 miles, so I was interested in whether this route would be better than a slightly longer route which is more hilly and rural.

P1150407

Early morning misty conditions for cycling on the Luton Dunstable Busway

The route from Luton to Dunstable

As one would expect, the route is fairly flat making it easy going; you hardly notice the undulations although there are one or two steeper sections in Luton but this is only for a short distance.  The route is quite interesting, from the busy cosmopolitan and urban Luton and the newly refurbished area around the town’s main railway station through to the scenic Blows Downs and into Dunstable.

P1150431

Approach to Luton railway station

Heading west the route quickly climbs out of the town centre and this avoids an area which is normally heavily congested with tightly packed small streets, each with their traffic lights and a number of really serious hazards for the cyclist (taxi drivers are, in my view, often very poor drivers).

P1150433

Leaving ugly Luton behind. Note the narrow barrier and stony surface

P1150432

Looking west from central Luton with the Bus Way still very quiet

 

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The main difficulty so far is the quality of the cycling surface.  While the surface for the buses is smooth concrete, cyclists have to ride along a track which is mostly level (there are some badly fitting drain covers etc) which is covered in stone chippings.  In my view these chippings are simply too large and rough for ordinary bicycle tyres.  It does not lend itself to a safe and smooth ride, not to mention the scope for tyre damage.

P1150434

Rough stony surface is not very good for road bicycles

I suppose it is possible that these stones will gradually breakdown and become more grit-like over time.  In the meantime it is pretty awful to ride on.  I have 700x28c tyres: these are a fairly medium width for many bicycles.  The cycling surface is better suited to hybrids or MTBs.  And then after a short distance, the surface changes again and becomes an ultra-smooth tarmac as the track runs alongside Hatters Way.

P1150442

Difficult design challenge; not leaving much room for cyclists to pass each other

If I were being cynical, I’d say the tarmac has been specified as cyclists need to be extra careful and control their bikes with precision along here.  The hazards include a very narrow stretch, cars and the Bus Way either side without a fence or a barrier; Hatters Way is normally very busy.  Additionally there is not sufficient width for two cyclists to safely pass each other.  The designers have, owing to the physical width of the space available – the the road, cycle track and busway – had to compromise on the cycle track width but they have not made it safe enough for the entire length in my view.  It needs looking at again chaps!

P1150439

Another hazard – the end of a fence. Easily seen and navigated at night?

And then a little further along Hatters Way where there is a bridge, there is a sudden bump down-and-up over the original road.  Maybe this is for some engineering reason?  To me it seems unfinished and un-cycle friendly.

P1150444

Unfinished section over a bridge – engineering issue or on-the-cheap?

And after these hazards have been survived and coped with, it’s back to the bone-shaking stony surface…..

P1150438

ultra smooth tarmac changing into rough stones is a bit of a shock!

The cycle path area now starts to become a little more residential and pleasant in leaving Luton behind.  There are a few interesting little bus stops where clearly some thought has taken place to ensure a user-friendly design.  These have a number of indicative features such as CCTV.  As you can see, the drivers are being trained.

P1150443

At one of the thoughtfully designed bus tops

Once I had progressed towards Dunstable it seemed more of an interesting journey.  I reminded myself that despite the dreadful surface, it was traffic free and there is a considerable benefit in this.  Then it was a matter of, once again, squeezing through the barrier and I can tell you, I am pleased I am not a 15 stone bloke wearing a bulky winter coat trying and a ruck sack trying to get through the barrier!

P1150402

I’m not fat and I had to squeeze through this barrier!

Conclusion

Please bear in mind that, at the time of writing, the official opening is a few weeks off and therefore there is scope for continued some tidying up to be done.  In brief, this is my view:

  • The whole project is costly but is a considerable investment for the future.  The local towns are in need of improved infrastructure for a number of reasons
  • The cycle track running alongside could be seen as a bonus for cyclists – what has been commissioned is a Bus Way, not a cycle track
  • Alternatively, the cycle track maybe seen as having been done “on the cheap” with a surface which is completely wrong for most of the route.  It is far too rough and stony for a newly constructed, high profile urban route
  • Limited in how cyclist-friendly it really is
  • I am not sure if there is a standard specification for cycle paths like this; if so it is disappointing
  • In spite of these short comings, it is a real asset and good for local cyclists to use and it will connect other cycle routes together (joined-up thinking at last!)

What’s your view?  Please leave me a comment below no matter whether you think it’s the best thing since the bicycle was invented or if the whole thing is a dreadful waste of money.

P1150392

My daughter found the surface very rough on her road bike – no fast cycling here!

 

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81 Responses to The Luton and Dunstable Busway

  1. Roger Stroud says:

    The overall standard of the cycle track reflect the lack of professional standards within our Council.

    • doug says:

      That’s a shame, Roger. The Council should be pressing the contractors for a first class job.

      Hopefully there’s still time for improvements, especially if we all shout loud enough!

      Kind regards, Doug.

    • Dave says:

      Complete rubbish, having worked on this project for over 5 years the input from both councils has been first class.
      You obviously have no respect for public sector workers doing their job to support you the public.
      You also clearly do not understand the workings of a design and build project because that was the contract that was let.
      Any changes cost money.
      I would suggest if you have no constructive comments to make silence is the best response. !!

  2. julia says:

    waste of money now dunstable will be a ghost town as everyone will be going to luton

  3. Phil says:

    This was a design and build project where Bam Nuttall decided on the surface dressing without and regards for cyclists.Luton council have agreed on the design so I,m not sure who will pay to have it finished to an acceptable standard. the normal finish for a limestone finish cycletrack is 3mm to dust instead of the up to 25mm gravel used in various places… I hope Sustrans do not give it the NCN network number they had ready.

    • doug says:

      Phil

      Sounds like you’re speaking with a professional insight on this. I wonder if there is a set ‘standard’ for what a newly constructed cycle track should be like – any ideas?

      Regards, Doug.

      • Dave says:

        Doug
        I expect this Phil is the Phil who has been using every opportunity to post garbage to promote negativity for this project.
        He pretends to know everything there is to know regarding this project when infact he knows nothing, and is simply voicing his uneducated opinion.
        I have worked on this project for over 5 years and been involved in every element of it.
        Bam Nuttall didn’t decide on the surface the 2 councils did with input from a number of groups including Natural England, The Wildlife Trust, both planning depts and others, Black top was never considered in the pallet of finishes presented to us by the design JV.
        Hatters way is black top because it is on highway not on private land through a SSSI site.
        To address the point you raised regarding Hatters Way and the piece of tarmac missing, This is adjacent to Kingsway Bridge and the height of the existing bridge parapet would not have complied to DMRB had the tarmac continued at the same height, so it was either spend more money or save a bit so we chose the latter.
        Some of the comments we have received fro the cycling fraternity have been helpful and constructive and some just people jumping on the bandwagon to diss the project.
        Cambridge had a similar issue and gave in and black topped the whole route, but of course they have a much larger number of cyclists commuting into the city and back.
        Will we look at it yes we will, we will we change it, watch this space.

  4. Alan Winter says:

    You flagged up some snags that I hope can be fixed in a short period; although the biggest snag of all, the surface, will probably need to be budgeted again for if that’s what everyone is moaning about;

  5. Mark Hurst says:

    I ride a mountain bike and I agree that the surface is questionable. There are a few stretches where it’s almost gravel-free, more like hard-packed earth, which is a better cycling surface although I have yet to see what wet weather does to the surface. I can see that skinny road tyres are going to be hard work. I do like the rustic look of the track, though, which was a justification I read somewhere for the granite surface.

    I agree with all your comments about the Hatters Way stretch, especially around the skinny football ground chicane. I’m at a bit of a loss why the track here is outside the busway fence rather than inside as it is for the rest of the way. Oh, and ccount yourself lucky that your bars fit through the barriers – many (most?) don’t!

    Finally, I was disappointed to find the the busway ends just around the corner from the White Lion stop. I had hoped it was going to connect up to all the tracks and bridleways out towards Dunstable Downs 🙁 All that said, I think the cycle path is a fantastic addition and it’s realistically the only way I’d be prepared to cycle to Luton.

    • doug says:

      Hi Mark,
      Many thanks for your comment. Going to work I rode along the track, both ways in the rain. I think the rain has helped things settle down quite a bit so that’s a real improvement. There are some stony patches which are still too bad.

      The more I think about the Hatters Way stretch by the football ground, this is the most dangerous part but it’s possible there is still some further work planned (he says hopefully!).

      Thanks again,

      Doug

  6. Els Tallett says:

    I cycled on a part of the track with my 7 year old daughter, she came off her bike due to cycling problems on the rough surface and grazed her leg very badly. Tarmac please! Even I found it a challenge.

    • doug says:

      Els, thanks for your comment – oh dear – that’s awful for your daughter and hope it doesn’t put her off cycling. I think the track surface will improve as it is used more but that’s me being the “ever optimist”. Yes I agree with you, tarmac all the way please!

      Regards, Doug.

  7. Bob Grinyer says:

    Cycle track???

    My understanding is that the multi-use track was originally only planned for the sections where there is no adjacent alternative access (e.g. the section along the foot Blows Downs) and was intended to be used by emergency vehicles in the case of accidents or maintenance vehicles in the event of a breakdown.

    I suspect the idea of a cycle track was nothing more than an afterthought intended as a small sweetener to try to distract from the extortionate cost.

    • doug says:

      Hi Bob

      Many thanks for your comment. You might well be right, in which case having any kind of a cycle track is a bonus but in the scheme of things it is a small cost within the overall project (I would have thought). We need some people power!

      Regards, Doug.

  8. Nick says:

    Apart from the safety issues, a crushed limestone surface will quickly degrade a bicycle’s transmission. Small particles of dust and grit will find their way inside bushes and bearings and turn your pride and joy into an expensive liability.

  9. Stephen Lawrence says:

    This is not a cycleway. Put any amount of bike traffic on it and those chicanes will become like queues on the M1. They have to go. A single bollard in the middle of a 2.5m wide track should be fine. Don’t allow them to put two bollards in either – that doesn’t allow bikes to pass at any speed. Goes without saying that tarmac must be laid down.

    Also that picture of the narrowing where the bridge goes over – that is really dangerous. Put your bike wheel anywhere near the edge an your handlerbars will overhang onto the busway and will be hit by a passing bus. Or a little confusion between two riders in opposite directions causing one to wobble and put their foot down for balance. Fatal accident waiting to happen. I’m surprised the counil would allow themselves to be opened up to such serious liabilities, but they appear to have done so.

  10. David says:

    Indeed the surface is questionable, and the comment about the degrading of transmission is correct – however the barriers have clearly been installed by someone with ‘arm chair knowledge’?

    With respect, have any of the folk responsible for this actually ridden the bus way cycle track and tried to negotiate the barriers with a fully loaded cycle ?

    Linking the bus way up with route 6 should make present a 13.40 mile circular ride for all, only to be spoiled for a lack forethought sadly.

    The crossing under Chaul End Lane is less than satisfactory, but difficult to arrange in another way possible.

    Arm chair knowledge is all very well for those sitting in armchairs !?

    A shame really.

  11. David says:

    Hi Doug,

    Please don’t hold you breath waiting for a response !? As you stated above it is a “poorly executed add-on” sadly.

  12. Stuart says:

    Rode it this AM, I think I passed the writer, surface is much better and I think it will come into its own over winter when tarmac would need gritting.

    Plenty want to moan about but what was there before? Is this better, yes 1 million times better.

    The biggest issue for me is it sits in isolation form other cycle paths and facilities. If you stuck to the letter of the law you would exit the path at Luton and have to ride all the way round the town to Midland road to get to the station or get off and push your bike up the bus interchange.

    The bike path is a massive step forward for non car use in Luton and Dunstable, so lets hope it continues.

    • doug says:

      Hi Stuart,

      I remember I did get over-taken by someone on a road bike, did you get on at Jeans Way? Sorry, I was still waking up!!!

      Yes a finishing touch would be some signs, information boards etc showing how the cycle track connects with other cycle friendly routes.

      You are absolutely right that the cycle track is a real step forward compared to having nothing at all.

      Onwards and upwards….

  13. There’s been a lot of criticism of the crushed limestone path finish aimed at LBC but i think this is a little unfair – not because it isnt a perhaps unsuitable surface but because for some time this sort of finish has been an agreed acceptable finish for segregated cycleways, as implemented by sustrans, for example. The difference is perhaps that this is more of a commuting route than a leisure route but it strikes me that LBC have specified a finish that has now been rejected by cycle users and campaigners and as such are just a little behind the times. who knows whether when the design was produced (which would have probably been years ago), this was deemed acceptable by consultees which might have included CTC and/or Sustrans? i recommend contacting the local rep to see if they had involvement and what the principle was behind the chosen surface. It also should be remembered that there is a significant difference on visual impact (to my mind at least) between a stretch of tarmac and limestone. has anyone contacted LBC to find out their reaction and whether there are any plans to resurface in tarmac?

    • Having experienced riding the Luton Town centre to Chaul End roundabout section last week, it’s clear the surface is poorly specified and poorly laid. Aside from a range of enhancement measures for safety, including edge segregation from road traffic at pinch points created by bridge abutments, I’d like to see the surface being tarmac with a tar spray and chips finish, which is an excellent compromise for those walking and cycling along a shared use route. See what is being done on London towpaths on the Grand Union Canal (Paddington Arm) in Ealing near Southall or on the River Lee in Tottenham and you’ll see the benefit.

      I also think there seems to be a complete failure of the commissioning team to consult locally with cyclist in the area rather than just lazily defer to national specifications that don’t necessarily address local needs.

      Luton has miles to go to promote good cycling infrastructure and this is a very poor start .. although it is a start!

      • doug says:

        Thank you Tav, always good to compare with other facilities elsewhere and the towpaths you mention sound great. Could you post some photos on twitter some time? I’ll follow you and keep an eye out….
        Regards,
        Doug.

  14. Len says:

    The track is much better than riding on the road when it’s busy as some drivers get a bit close. Now it’s dark we have other problems. Walkers wearing dark clothes and walking in the shadows. Cyclist with no lights and again wearing dark clothing. The lack of lighting on certain sections is dangerous and will lead to a major incident very soon..

  15. Jenny says:

    Just used the cycle way as art of a mainly off road cycle ride from Stanbridge to Harpenden and back. Think that the cycleway by the bus route it is brilliant, well designed and a great asset to the locality.

    Congratulations to all the organisers and local council.

  16. doug says:

    Thanks Jenny, isn’t it great to cycle that route and distance mostly traffic free? Glad you had some decent weather.
    Nice to get such a positive view so thanks again!
    Regards
    Doug

  17. Deb says:

    I tried to join the “cycle path” on Sunday afternoon. I was really looking forward to enjoying the traffic-free hard-topped route that the council had mentioned in the weeks running up to going live. I have a heritage bike with very wide handlebars – it wouldn’t pass through the gates at the Mill Street entrance in Luton. So, I can’t use the busway as a passenger – it doesn’t take me anywhere I need to go; and I can’t use it for a leisurely weekend ride. But having read the description of the surface from others, I’m not sure I want to now. I just hope that it lives up to the hype and eventually reduces car traffic through the town. Judging by the jam I was stuck in at 6pm last week it’s got a long way to go to.

    • doug says:

      Deb, Many thanks for your comment and I’m sorry you’ve not had a good experience. You’ll see there are some mixed views expressed in the comments above.
      I’m going to forward a link to this post – with the comments – to Luton Council and ask for their response and if there are any plans to improve the cycle track or leave it as it is.
      Regards, Doug.

      • Deb says:

        Thanks for the action Doug. This route has the potential to be a great asset to the town. It looks like a few “tweaks” could sort it out, but I’m sure there will be budget constraints now. It’s such a pity for something so grand to fall short.

    • Dave says:

      OMG
      “it doesn’t take me anywhere I need to go”
      What a ridiculous statement.
      Oh and there is no entrance in Mill Street so maybe thats where you went wrong (-:

  18. doug says:

    This is a little update for Deb (above) and all of the other people following this post. I wrote to Luton Borough Council on 13 November, via their ‘contact’ screen on their website – this was to ask about various remedial works on the cycle track.
    At the time of writing, 30 November, I have received no reply. To give LBC the “benefit of the doubt” I have written again, quoting the original reference number. I have made complete certain that I have correctly filled in my email address etc just in case I made a mistake first time.
    I hope to share their comments in due course……

    • Stephen Lawrence says:

      Suggest you form a “Luton and Dunstable Cycle Campaign”? – the “Cambridge Cycle Campaign” is taken very seriously by Cambridge City and Cambs County Councils (and their officers). Start by ptting out a couple of well-researched papers, then the press start to notice you, etc etc…

      • doug says:

        Thanks Stephen, an interesting thought.

        The last thing I want to do is undermine the role of the Luton & Dunstable Cycling Forum – I’m not a member (perhaps I ought to be?). I think they have quite a good voice for this kind of thing.

        Please feel welcome to use the Contact page so we can pick up each other’s email address if a conversation would be a helpful way forward, exchanging views on this. I’d be interested to know more of your thoughts on this.

        • Dave says:

          Cambridge vs Luton
          Hardly a cycling comparison is it.
          Yep, lets see a campaign and whilst you’re at it perhaps you should start a campaign to raise the £500K to surface it because LBC don’t have it.
          Any more bright ideas let us know !!

          • Stephen Lawrence says:

            Dave, you might be interested to know that Cambs County Council decided to properly surface the final stretch of the Cambridge busway cyclepath out of their own pocket. Cambridge to Swavesey had already been done (paid for by govt, along with the main busway)so they paid for Swavesey-St Ives and also for solar lighting studs. So maybe lobbying by enough people is the answer to the Luton situation.

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  20. doug says:

    Okay everyone, here’s a couple of points:

    Firstly I have nudged Luton Borough Council to look at the queries I submitted via their website – this is asking if there are any plans to carry out any further work on the Busway.
    In order to be transparent, I did say in my original email that I would like to publish their reply. I hope that hasn’t put them off replying!
    So there’s no reply so far, not even an acknowledgement which I think is a poor show. I will continue in seeking a reply with a view to publishing the response.

    Secondly – please keep the comments coming but let’s keep comments respectful towards each other. I don’t want anyone to feel inhibited in any way; everyone is equally welcome.

  21. Pingback: Reply from Luton Borough Council re Busway

  22. doug says:

    Please see the Luton Borough Council response to the remaining snags:

    http://thecyclehub.net/reply-luton-borough-council-re-busway/

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  26. Art Mooney says:

    Hello Guys,

    Could you help me who to contact regarding the traps on the Dunstable – Luton bike road? The current setup is too narrow, I have a normal size male bike and every time I reach a trap, I have to stop, get off, turn the handlebar, lift the bike, push through, put down, balance, push the bike out, hold steady, grab handlebar, get up, bike… I have a bad back, still trying to cycle to work every day, 2 x 10 miles but this procedure is really killing me. I’m very disappointed and it’s not against motorbikes, it’s against bikers. If you know who I could contact with my complaint, maybe I’m not alone that would be great. It’d be great to adjust it with +5 cm on each side.

    Cheers

    Ps.: I’ve sent this msg to 2 other communities,

    Luton and Dunstable Cycling Forum | Facebook
    Busway News Luton – Dunstable | Facebook

    • doug says:

      Art,

      Many thanks for your comment, also for the comment below.

      I contacted Luton Borough Council via their website but I have since learnt this email address might be more useful:

      busway@luton.gov.uk

      It sounds as if you are making the most of the cycle track and understandably getting frustrated about the barriers. While I understand the reasoning for the barriers, it does seem that they are trying to solve a problem before its happened – and making life difficult for all genuine users, like yourself.

      The barriers do not solve the problem as I have seen a couple of motorcyclists riding around. They got through somehow. Besides, there’s absolutely nothing to stop motorbikes getting onto the Busway itself, they can get passed the car traps easily.

      If you do contact the Council and get a reply, please let me know if you have the opportunity.

      Thanks and kind regards,
      Doug.

  27. Art Mooney says:

    Well, I’ve just read the response from the council. Here are my comments on that:

    ” The issue of the barriers is a tricky one
    particularly as they were installed at the request of the Police in
    particular to prevent motorcycles accessing the track next to the
    busway. We are looking at alternative systems but we must find the right
    balance between access for cyclists etc and prevention of unauthorised
    access.”

    It’s not a tricky one, I could go there right now with a screwdriver and change the angle in 5 minutes / trap – which of course I will not do. Since I’m also driving a motorbike, I can safely say that with that adjustment, the motorbikes would still be unable to go through, also this whole reasoning is crazy in my opinion! Also, install CCTVs on a couple of points along the route and police can have it’s security problem solved.

    Again, this is a punishment for the cyclist community and not for the motorbikes.

    • Dave says:

      You had better borrow your screwdriver from Dr Who then because your comment is ridiculous.
      For a start they are bolted and you can’t just take the bolts out and spread the frame because the holes will no longer line up. You also have to spread the bottom of the frame so that means digging it out.
      So I suggest you go have a look before posting factually incorrect information for others to read.

  28. Art Mooney says:

    Okay Dave, my mistake. Ridiculous it is than.

    Thanks Doug for the info!

  29. doug says:

    Just posted some fresh news from my contact in Luton Borough Council which will be of interest to cyclists:
    http://thecyclehub.net/luton-dunstable-busway-latest-news/

  30. Art Mooney says:

    Excellent news, thanks for sharing!!

  31. tallsmall says:

    I can’t believe the negative comments written on here. I have used the cycle way. Any hybrid will easily manage the track. It is mainly traffic free and a joy to rode. There has to be a cost considered in any development and I think a good choice has been made.

    • doug says:

      Hi Tallsmall
      Glad you like it, I do too! I reckon the cycle track’s surface has settled and improved considerably since I wrote this article. Yes it is a good investment for our communities.
      I wonder if we have spoken sometime ago?

  32. Ash says:

    Thanks for this. I recently rode the cycleway and also found it uneven, rough and energy sapping. Have challenged Council here :
    http://bftfblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/bftf-loves-cycling-2014.html#busway

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  34. Hayley says:

    I found this article really useful so thank you 🙂

    I wanted to find out if there’s a map of the busways cycle route. It would be really useful to see how the route links to others and what parts are on and off road.
    Do you know if anything like this exists?

    Many Thanks 🙂

    • doug says:

      Hayley,
      I don’t know if such a map exists. I think I raised something similar last year with the Council.
      I will ask the local Cycle Forum (a nice group) as often they’re well informed on these developments.
      Many thanks
      Doug

      • Hayley says:

        Thanks for your quick reply, fingers crossed there is some sort of cycle map. It would be super useful, especially with summer round the corner! 🙂

  35. Dave Davis says:

    Google have yet to update the busway cycle track on their mapping – it shows the route meandering off onto public roads around the middle section where I assume the track was last to be completed. Getting Google to update would be a great way to encourage more cycling, since people are less likely to attempt that route if they don’t know it exists!

    Still, it would appear that the buses don’t know the route exists either, since I rarely see more than 2 or 3 buses passing me by on my 30 minute cycle trip. Given that constructing the cycle track was just an after-thought, one has to question how it was ever intended to provide value for money as a bus route, alone.

    More than one and a half years on since the original post, and still that awful surface of large gravel remains. My bike doesn’t have great suspension, and the first time I cycled along it from Dunstable to Luton and back, I found I had numb, tingling fingers for the next 2 days.

    I had no choice but to cycle the same route occasionally for the next several months, and I soon found my hands got used to it and no longer suffered afterwards. However, that first experience would have been enough to deter me from using the track again if I had any other option, and I can only imagine what proportion of other cyclists have themselves decided not to use the track again because of that surface.

    I’ve also noticed that in warmer weather, when it hasn’t rained for several days, the surface becomes extremely dusty. I’ve found that my bike, and more importantly my clothes, become dusty and grubby in a way that just wouldn’t happen if I’d cycled on a road or similar hard surface. It’s made it necessary to drag around a change of clothes and is extremely inconvenient when going to certain destinations.

    Finally, another downside to this gravel surface is that it is very hard to spot broken glass from a distance – with punctures being a cyclist’s worst enemy. Furthermore, once broken glass is spotted, the gravel surface makes the glass very difficult to sweep away and remove.

    When compared to the multiple benefits of a hard surface like tarmac, the choice of this surface seems like a false economy and one which is more likely to disccourage people from cycling rather than driving to work.

    I love the fact that we have a cycle route linking Luton and Dunstable, and it’s really not too bad. It’s just that, well, it could have been so much better. Well done council et al, another missed opportunity. Keep us dependant on cars so that you can tax the hell out of us.

    • doug says:

      Dave
      Much appreciate your comment and covering a number of points. You’re right we are fortunate to have the track in the first place but it is not perfect.
      Recently I have become a little out of touch with the latest planned developments but I hope a dose of ‘continuous improvement’ might apply. Hopefully I will post something if I hear anything new and which seems reliable.
      Have you noticed around Dunstable, lots of blue signs have been appearing? These are for cyclists and very welcome indeed!
      Regards,
      Doug.

  36. Pedal Pusher says:

    I rode the entire length of the Busway cycle track last Summer as part of a 145 mile long-distance ride. The surface was OK for my Marathon Plus tyres ( heavy duty road tyres, not lightweight racing tyres).
    The gates were rubbish. My handlebars wouldn’t even fit through – resulting in me having to dismount, lean the bike at an angle, then lift and twist the bike through like a child’s puzzle.
    I assume the point of the gates is to keep tearaways on mopeds under control, but they will just do what I resorted to – dodging the gates wherever possible by using the grass bank or any gaps in the fence.
    I couldn’t believe my bars (North Road ” touring” style) would go through!
    Not every one has the “compact” drop handlebars these gates seem designed to accommodate.
    It was a really great idea, just let down by the implementation.
    If there is to be an upgrade, sort the gates first, then the surface.
    Thanks for trying, anyway.
    It is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.

  37. Dave says:

    Good news and not so good news, the access track will be blacked in places between now and Christmas.
    The contractor has started at the Houghton Regis end will work through to the bus off slip at Station Road Dunstable installing concrete edgings and tarmac.
    Sections from Chaul End Lane into Luton will also be blacked. It may also be possible to black some of the surface from Chaul End to the M1 but this depends on the available funding.
    The A frame gates will be removed by the contractor as they go, and these will not be replaced with any other style of motorcycle deterrent, We tried, it doesn’t work so cyclists won’t need to dismount.
    Where the black abuts the guideway beam there will be a yellow safety line to keep cyclists and walkers within the confines of the track.
    2 new bus stops will be added to the busway, One at Chaul End and one at Jeans Way.
    Upgrades to access points will be made along the route.
    Of course this will mean that there will be some inconvenience whilst the work is carried but that’s a small price to pay for what will be a more practical surface.
    The work is scheduled to be completed before or by the end of March.
    I’m happy to take on board and respond to any constructive comments, if you have any negative comments keep them to yourself or perhaps Doug will moderate.
    I’m also happy to keep you updated on the works.
    The works have been pre notified albeit all the notifications were torn down within a day.
    Both Councils have used social media to advertise the works.
    You may come across some closed sections over the next few weeks, so apologies in advance for this, but as the old saying goes “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”
    Hopefully you’ll be pleased with the result.
    Regards
    Dave

  38. Adam Bell says:

    Luton Borough Council are being very disingenuous. If they have used social media to notify people, it must have been only been on the North Korean internet. The usual contacts had not been informed at all, and there’s nothing on Facebook nor on the council web site. Central Beds hadn’t even been told of the date that work was starting. On the security barriers around the sections being worked on, there aren’t any contact details or comments about how long each section is likely to be closed for. Why close off College Drive to Sainsbury’s on a Friday afternoon, leaving it closed all weekend with nothing happening, as work would only start on Monday at the earliest? Whilst it’s excellent that the funds are finally being spent on this long overdue work, it could have been communicated in a proper way.

    • Dave says:

      Oh here we go.
      1st response and someone goes into print with what can only be described as complete tosh.
      I’ll pick one item to comment on and then that’s it from me Doug I’m afraid.
      As far as CBC not being told, its their project they are in control of the funding, they are raising the purchase orders for the works, but they didn’t know the work was starting, please do me a favour.
      Anyway Doug, I tried but I won’t be posting on this notice board again.
      Thanks and regards
      Dave

      • Adam Bell says:

        That comment doesn’t actually address anything and is not what I said. It’s quite clear I was referring to being not being told of a date for the work commencing, not stating CBC didn’t know anything about the work at all.
        There is nothing about the works on either CBC or Luton Council websites or Facebook pages, or Travel Choices. Bearing in mind the Busway path is now closed from Blackburn Road to Sainsbury’s and there’s no comments on the temporary barriers about how long it will be closed or any alternative routes, there are lots of very unhappy pedestrians, dog walkers & cyclists. There’s only 1 small sign which merely has a phone number for Luton Borough Council.
        Bearing in mind the specific details of the work to be done have been known since August, if this information had been put into the pubic domain it would would have helped people plan in advance, rather than turn up to a closed section with no details about what’s being done or for how long.

    • Dave says:

      for the record these green barriers are all down to CBC, designed by them, procured by them and installed their contractor.
      Nothing at all to do with LBC.
      And yes, CBC are aware of the poor and incorrect installations because I photographed them and I notified the officer concerned when I met with him at Chicksands last Thursday morning (-:

  39. doug says:

    Many thanks of the recent comments from Pedal Pusher, Dave and Adam. By coincidence I was thinking I ought to do a blog post about the latest Busway developments i.e. road testing them before posting. With these comments I feel spurred on to do this.
    Concerning comments and what is/isn’t allowed, I have been fairly accommodating and only block a small handful of ranting comments, especially if they are a bit personal, plus the usual spammers which get caught by the Jetpack plug-in.
    I have said before we are fortunate in having the Busway as a transport link for cyclists, walkers, runners and, naturally the bus passengers themselves. However, it is not perfect. The handful of examples of Council-cyclist cooperation I have seen have been ‘variable’ but having the right dialogue is so important.
    Regards,
    Doug

  40. Adam Bell says:

    Contrary to what was stated by Dave, there are replacement barriers to try and deter motorbikes. However the new green offset barriers put in on College Drive sadly don’t follow the excellent original version installed off Cemetery Road in Houghton Regis. Unfortunately the contractors have installed the new ones too far apart – they should be 1.2m apart but are wider. In addition when looked at from the front, the arms don’t overlap at all, so the combination of these 2 factors means that there is a large gap you could almost get a bus through! Central Beds have been notified, so that they can get the contractors to correct this.

    • doug says:

      Adam, not sure I have referred to replacement barriers within the recent comments. Nevertheless I am hoping to see the latest Busway work next weekend.
      Regards, Doug.

  41. Adam Bell says:

    No problem Doug. I’d only mentioned the new green barriers because you’d stated in your first post of 15th November: “The A frame gates will be removed by the contractor as they go, and these will not be replaced with any other style of motorcycle deterrent, We tried, it doesn’t work so cyclists won’t need to dismount.”

    The original green barrier, trialled on NCN6 off Cemetery Road in Houghton Regis, is much more user friendly to both cyclists and anyone in a disability scooter or with a buggy. That one does seem to stop motor bikes, so it’s good that the concept is being replicated along the Busway, although as we’ve both pointed out, they need to be installed correctly. Last week, one cyclist commented to me by College Drive that you could almost get a bus through the new gap!

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