Monday, 12 May 2014

Dear Bury St. Edmunds

Dear Bury,

My partner and I got the train on Sunday to watch the end of the Womens Tour of Britain. I think you'll agree it was a great event, and quite a coup for your city to host the climax to such an exciting race. A great success. We really enjoyed watching it, but if I may I'd like to suggest a few things that might make future events better.

Firstly, getting to Bury is no fun. We don't drive - we considered cycling but neither my parter or I are as tough as the ladies in the race, and it was hellishly windy, so we got the train over from Cambridge. When we arrived at the station this major event wasn't signposted - at all. In fact signposting from the station to the City Centre is really very ropey. Then there's the crossings, or lack thereof - why do you consider pedestrians less important than every motorist on every single road? Where there are crossings they're very slow, and frequently set back a very long way from roundabouts. It genuinely feels like you're trying to dissuade pedestrians and train passengers from coming.

Then there's how you cater for cycling. Or, rather, how you don't.

Obviously the conclusion of any major road race attracts a lot of roadie cyclists. Great to see that of course, especially so many younger folk. But on arrival its fairly clear that few could find anywhere to store their bikes - the lack of bike locking meant many of them had to find places in the crowd to watch while keeping their bikes with them. Seriously, Bury, you've got to sort out bike locking points - or do you not want cycling trade?

Then there are the roads - lots of high speed junctions in and around the city centre with no cycling provision. Presumably you maintain such low rates of cycling intentionally such that you can then not have to provide anywhere for cyclists to lock up? I recall one very wide roundabout near the railway station where you've got acres of pavement covered in cobblestones - why not have acres of good pedestrian and cyclist routes?

I want to love Bury, its got a lot going for it - but I was surprised by just how many empty shops there are and how awful the roads are for anyone not driving. I won't be going back there for fun any time soon - sorry, but its not a pleasant environment to be in. Its telling that even on a day dedicated to the finest cycling in the world, few of the visitors to your city chose to cycle. We saw very few people daring to cycle near the city centre.

May I suggest that looking through retail and other attractions you've got that your current approach to getting people in and out of the city is demonstrably not working? You need to wise up to the reality that not everyone wants to drive, and that even those who do benefit from the vibrant, varied and exciting environments you get by having more diversity of access and transit?


Just some bloke who's been put off from coming back.


  1. Bury also has a really stupid one-way system with no cycle contraflows. If you're a stranger to the town it's more or less impossible to find your way around by bicycle: you keep finding that the road that goes directly to your destination has a no entry sign, and you have to go round on the horrible gyratory system. Seriously, Bury, put contraflow cycle lanes on all your stupid one-way streets and then we might actually be able to get where we want to go.

    1. I can see why that would be frustrating - one way systems designed to prevent cars going mental that effectively mean you end up directed all round town on a bike or, worse, sitting on a bus for an age as it spends half an hour doing a trip that you later find could have been accomplished with a 5 minute walk between one way streets.

  2. Bury is quite a small market town in reality though,so youve got for sure some quite large scale busy roads that surround it, especially near the train station side that Id think twice about cycling on, but the inner connecting roads are all fairly easily navigable by bike or as pedestrians, so I suspect the feeling has always been theres no need to install distinct infrastructure on most of the roads as the only things coming from the A14, are cars (there is a plan to put a bridge in across the A14 to link the station with the housing on the opposite side to avoid going near that roundabout you mentioned) but of course the problem is youve still got to tell people how to get around and thats Id accept not so easy if you dont know where you are meant to be going, there certainly arent any signs of note.

    but there are bike parking facilities in Bury dotted around, but youve got to allow for the fact the finishing area took over the whole of Angel hill which took out several of the prime obvious locations and even the next nearest was turned into an extra compound for all the tour vehicles,tv vans, logistics. Then the next nearest would probably be up by the Arc shopping centre (which is where all the shops are) that again there arent signs or obvious hints these things are there,and then you are leaving your bike a fair way away from where you are which alot of people wouldnt be comfortable with so understandably people find the finish area,and arent going to start wandering away from where they feel they need to be in an unfamiliar town so hold on to their bikes instead.

    so I dont feel Bury is that bad for cycling, its just they need to do far more in terms of signage so people know how to get about and hopefully holding things like the Women's Tour will give them impetus to improve things like that as it encourages more people unfamiliar with the place to visit.

    personally I got a lift there as there werent any through trains running to Bury that weekend from my part of Suffolk :)