For the past few years, the council and Metro have been collaborating under the name “Connecting Leeds.” It’s like New Generation Transport, but with cycle lanes instead of trolleybuses. To fund the cycle lanes, they have money that was originally earmarked for the trolleybus scheme, plus money that the government has made available to local authorities to create cycle lanes.
The latest consultation1 is being carried out by a company called “Commonplace.” It proposes cycle lanes along the A660 from the junction of the A660 with Shaw Lane to Leeds University. The consultation runs from the 30th January to the 5th March.
In 2021, Commonplace won two awards in recognition of the huge number of responses it gets to its consultations in Leeds.2 They’ve said that the secret of their success in Leeds is to keep consulting the same database of 30,000 dedicated people.3
The current consultation can be completed by any of the 30,000 people on their database. They don’t have to be living near the A660.
A similar scheme was put forward in 2018, and it was rejected. It was rejected despite the fact that prior to it, Connecting Leeds held numerous meetings with interested groups from across Leeds, including two meetings with Leeds Civic Trust.
Commonplace consulting the same people over and over again, and Connecting Leeds having meetings with selected groups before Commonplace put their consultations together, risks creating consultations with “selection bias.”
Commonplace state that Connecting Leeds want to make “better use” of the space in front of the Arndale Centre. Who would object to something being made better use of? And when someone uses their initiative to drive down a side road, they describe it as “rat running.” But when Connecting Leeds direct drivers down side roads, Commonplace describe it as “re-routing.” But they’re effectively the same thing. As part of the consultation, Commonplace tell us about proposed infrastructure changes to reduce the number of accidents at points along the route. They tell us the number of accidents, but not their cause. So, it’s impossible to know if their solutions are the best ones. No mention is made of all the establishments located along the A660 which sell alcohol and how this contributes to the number of accidents.4 5 And Commonplace don’t mention that Connecting Leeds want to remove almost a metre of grass verge inbound adjacent to Woodhouse Moor in order to create a two metre wide segregated cycle lane. Instead they expect people to be eagle-eyed enough to spot this on the small scale drawings that are included with the consultation.6 In addition, Connecting Leeds want cycle lanes to run behind bus stops. This would effectively turn bus stops into traffic islands. Whilst the advantage of this is that bikes wouldn’t have to wait behind buses at bus stops, it would also make bus stops dangerous places for pedestrians. But Commonplace don’t mention this. And Connecting Leeds want to turn the outbound tarmac pavement across Woodhouse Moor into a cycle lane shared with pedestrians. Even though shared cycle tracks are considered by some to be dangerous, this is not mentioned by Commonplace. These are just a few examples from many of the use by Commonplace of biased language and the selective presentation of facts. This is known as “response bias.”
Commonplace state that it’s good practice when consulting to include a mixture of open and closed questions.7 But responses to their current consultation can be submitted by responding just to closed questions. In addition, they state that consultation forms should not include biased language. But their consultation questionnaire contains several examples of it.
The proposed changes affect two wards, one of which was former councillor Neil Walshaw’s ward of Headingley and Hyde Park. Neil Walshaw resigned from the council on the 13th January to enable him to join the Commonplace board.8 His resignation occurred just two weeks before the current consultation went live.
There are drop-ins about the proposals as follows:
- Tuesday 21 February 2023, 3-7pm, HEART Headingley Enterprise & Arts Centre, Bennett Road, LS6 3HN.
- Saturday 25 February 2023, 1.30-4.30pm, St Augustine’s Wrangthorn Church, Hyde Park Terrace, LS6 1BJ.
- Tuesday 28 February 2023, 10am-3:30pm, Room 6, Leeds University Union, Lipton Place, LS2 9JZ.
- The latest consultation. ↩
- Interview with Mike Saunders, CEO and co-founder of Commonplace. ↩
- Interview with Commonplace where they state that they receive large numbers of responses in Leeds through repeatedly consulting the same database of 30,000 people. ↩
- Paragraphs 7.35 and 7.36 of Appendix F of Leeds City Council’s Statement of Licensing Policy 2014-2018 (amended). This document no longer exists in this form. The current document doesn’t even mention the A660. ↩
- The Road Safety Unit of the council used to publish a list of “Sites for Concern”; about 150 sites across Leeds where the number of accidents and injuries merited further work. Every major junction on the A660 was on it, and most minor junctions. Unusually there was an addendum to the figures noting that most of the accidents involved young people under the influence of alcohol. ↩
- Drawing showing the intention to remove almost a metre of grass verge. Bear in mind that the A660 is at its widest here between the city centre and West Park, and that two metre wide cycle lanes are intended for Headingley Hill, without any encroachment on adjacent pavements or property. ↩
- Commonplace statement of good practice. ↩
- The Commonplace board. ↩