The Princess Road roundabout is one of number of large busy junctions on Manchester’s inner ring road. Since it was built as part of the Mancunian Way in the 1967, somewhat unsurprisingly, it’s been dominated by motor traffic. It has also had a poor safety record, which has included the sad death of Jaye Bloomfield in 2014, who was killed by a speeding driver while she was cycling across one of the slip roads.
I have to say I was quite sceptical when the plans for the scheme were shared. Work recently done on some of the other inner ring road junctions has been pretty mixed at best. While the changes at Deansgate Interchange are generally okay, the same can’t be said for the Regent Road / Trinity Way junction, where walking and cycling has been given a pretty poor deal.
So let’s take a look at the work that’s been carried out. Starting on Stretford Road, there’s a newly installed parallel zebra crossing. This takes you from the Manchester Metropolitan University Birley campus side, over to the new cycleway that links up to the Princess Road roundabout. This is a very welcome addition, both for walking and cycling.
Stretford Road carries quite a bit of traffic, with traffic speeds higher than appropriate for the location. Since the opening of the university campus and student halls, there’s a lot more people walking and cycling around here. It was quite a distance to the nearest crossing from here, so the new parallel crossing makes a big difference.
I was a little wary cycling over the new crossing. Traffic was approaching quite quickly and I wasn’t 100% sure whether it would stop for someone cycling across. It makes me wonder whether drivers need educating about parallel zebra crossings, as they’re something of a rarity in these parts.
Once across the zebra, you join the new two-way protected cycleway that runs parallel to Princess Road. This is a decent width and very smooth, with forgiving splayed kerbs on either side. With the new housing development on the left, which looks very Dutch, you could almost be forgiven for thinking you’re in The Netherlands. We’re just missing a bit of width on the cycleway and the customary red asphalt.
It is great to see splayed kerbs finally being used in Greater Manchester. For some time, we’ve been asking why they’ve not been included in other recent schemes in the city, while London has had them for years. Is this due to the influence of Chris Boardman’s team at the Mayor’s office on this scheme?
Once at the junction, you reach the first of many cycle traffic lights. If you’re going straight onto Medlock Street, there’s three sets of lights you need to get across in total. If you’re wanting to go right, expect a few more.
The number of crossings was my biggest concern when I first saw the plans. Given how often walking and cycling takes second place to motor traffic, I was expecting long waits. I have to say what’s been implemented is better than I was expecting.
There’s a bit of waiting at some of the crossings, but overall I’d say it’s manageable. It’s certainly not up to modern Dutch standards, where you’d get a green wave, but it’s better than Deansgate Interchange and the Regent Road junction.
There is a lot to like with the new Princess Road junction. It’s a big improvement on what was there and it sets the standard for similar sized junctions in the city. There’s one or two issues that should be addressed though.
The cycleways and footways look the same
A decision has been taken to not colour the cycleway. Instead, there’s bicycle and pedestrian symbols painted to differentiate the cycleway from the footway. I think this is a bit of mistake. Without clear visual clues like the colour of the path, people often don’t know which side they should be on. Particularly as the painted symbols don’t repeat that often.
This is made worse at many of the refuges and crossing points, where the cycleways and footways meet up. If you’re not paying attention, it’s all too easy to end up on the wrong side.
There’s some slightly convoluted routes for people walking as well, which don’t follow desire lines. This is probably best illustrated on the Medlock Street side as you head towards the city centre. The footway crosses the cycleway for no apparent reason, not long before both merge into a shared use path. People will ignore this and just walk along the cycleway.
So whether it’s green, red, blue or any other colour, making the cycleway a different colour to the footway would make things easier for everyone. They could probably get away with just painting a section at the start and end of each cycleway, with some repeater sections along the way.
Dangerous demarcation kerbs
For some reason, a slightly odd choice of kerb has been used as the demarcation between the cycleway and footway, not a more forgiving demarcation block with sloping sides. There’s examples of demarcation blocks being used in Greater Manchester, so this is a bit of an odd choice here.
It’s quite a danger though. If you accidentally hit the kerb at the wrong angle, you’re likely to end up coming off. It’s a trip hazard for pedestrians as well, who could easily end up falling over the kerb.
It’s particularly bad at the crossing points, where space is limited and the angles are tight. At these locations, it would be all to easy to misjudge the turn and clip the kerb.
I’m guessing it’s too late to address this properly by replacing the kerbs. Though maybe something could be done to make the kerbs a little safer. Could additional asphalt be added to the edge of the kerbs to make them more forgiving?
Traffic speeds are still high on the slip roads
The slip roads on and off the Mancunian Way and the stretch of road to the Cambridge Street junction have always been pretty dangerous places to cross, with the ridiculously high speeds of some drivers.
Most of the surface crossings have now been moved closer to the junction, and so should be safer. Though you still need to be vigilant when crossing, even if you have a green.
As you can see from the following still from the video, a speeding driver decided not to stop at the red light on the road from the Cambridge Street junction. Fortunately, I spotted the car and held on before crossing.
Limited connection to other cycle routes
While the new junction makes it easier to get across to the city centre and the new connection to Stretford Road is welcome addition, it doesn’t really link to any safe cycle routes beyond there, which will limit its usage.
On the Medlock Street side, the separate cycleway and footway turn into a shared use path, before coming to an abrupt end at a busy turning for the hotel. Protected cycleways need to continue along Medlock Street and Lower Mosley Street, plus CYCLOPS junctions at Whitworth Street West and Great Bridgewater Street should be added. We’d then have a safe and pleasant route to the city centre from Princess Road.
It’s a similar story on the other side of the junction. While there’s the new section of cycleway connecting up to Stretford Road, there isn’t any safe cycling infrastructure on this section of Stretford Road. Without a significant amount of work, the Princess Road junction could easily be connected to both the Oxford Road Cycleway and Stretford Cycleway, just by completing the cycleway along Stretford Road.
There doesn’t appear to be any immediate plans to improve any of the connections to this junction, which is disappointing. There is a lot to like with the new Princess Road junction, we just need to see it linked up to the rest of the network, so we really get the benefit out of it.
More photos of the junction improvements in the photo gallery.
One thought on “Princess Road and Medlock Street roundabout improvement scheme – February 2021”
I work for the City Council and we would like to use one of your photos on our website. Could you drop me an email to discuss? Many thanks, Kate