Advertising

Could new cycle lanes transform Shropshire?

By Mark Andrews | Environment | Published:

As cycling becomes more popular amid the pandemic, could Shropshire become Britain's answer to Amsterdam?

A girl unlocks her bicycle parked amidst thousands of others at Amsterdam's Central Station

That is the vision being laid before us as the UK Government prepares for life in post lockdown.

Calls are being made for councils to install miles of pop up cycling lanes – and permanent ones – across the country.

It comes as the levels of cycling have reached unprecedented levels during the pandemic.

People have been forced to go cycling or walking to escape the confines of their home.

But this prolonged period of lockdown - and the restrictions that have come with it - has allowed people to take a deeper look at their lifestyles.

Why can't we use bicycles as an alternative, greener, mode of transport?

It seems the Government is aiming to capitalise on this sudden rise in cycling,

Britain falls behind its European counterparts in terms of cycling infrastructure.

Advertising

Amsterdam, in Holland, has 320 miles of cycle lanes. It is usually as ranked the world's second most bike-friendly, behind Copenhagen, in Denmark.

But the UK Government is looking to plug the gap.

This week, a £2 billion package was announced for councils to install pop up bike lanes with protected space for cycling.

This was among a raft of measures aimed at promoting alternative transport. Others include trials of rental e-scooters, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle and bus-only corridors.

Advertising

It makes sense given Britain is a densely populated country with millions of cars on the road each day.

Cycling UK, a charity which promotes cycling, is also calling for emergency pop up lanes to be installed.

The charity says that a mere 100 miles of cycle lanes – in 10 English cities including Birmingham – could allow for millions of people to travel to work safely.

Councillor Peter Nutting, leader of Shropshire Council, says the initiative is an exciting opportunity for the council, and added that the council would definitely be bidding for a slice of the cash.

"We are looking to do more cycle lanes in all our towns, not just the main ones," he says.

Councillor Peter Nutting

Councillor Nutting adds that site visits have already taken place in Shrewsbury and Oswestry to examine the potential of making the towns easier to access for people on bicycles. He says the opportunity is vast, although he adds that there has to be a dose of realism.

"There is huge potential," he says. "Shrewsbury is a bit different to Amsterdam, we have got a lot of hills in Shrewsbury, which makes it slightly more difficult.

"But there is still a lot we can do around the town to make it more attractive to cyclists."

Councillor Nutting stressed, though, that a desire to get more people into using pedal power did not mean the authority would be backing away from major road infrastructure projects, such as the North Western Relief Road.

"The two go hand-in-hand," he says.

"To get more people to cycle around Shrewsbury, you need to make it safe, and that means clearing the town of the traffic that doesn't need to be there."

Councillor Shaun Davies, leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, says the authority is interested in bidding for a share of the fund, but is waiting for more detail.

"We have got lots of space and potential for widening pavements or verges to turn them in to cycle ways," he says.

Councillor Davies says the authority is also "really interested" in the Government's plans for trials of electric scooter use in towns and cities across the country, and would be looking at the detail of the plans.

Dave Kilby, secretary of Shropshire Playing Fields Association, has written to several councillors asking for them to make the most of this opportunity.

Mr Kilby says the association has looked closely at the work that has been done in Manchester with former Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman, which had proved very successful. He says some of those ideas could also be replicated in Shropshire.

He says the important thing in a rural county such as Shropshire was ensuring that cycle routes linked up with roads and railways, so that people who have to travel long distances could switch between different modes of transport.

'Cycle hubs', where people can leave their bikes and clothing while they access public transport would form part of this, he says.

Dave Kilby

Shrewsbury railway station would be ideal, he says:

"If you go down from the platform, where there used to be the old football ground, you can get down to the river.

"If you can have somewhere to park your car, and somewhere to leave your bike, or pick a bike up, it can all link together, it's an integrated transport system."

Mr Kilby also suggests that Ironbridge would be well suited to a 'park and cycle' scheme, where visitors can park on the edge of town, and either walk or hire a bicycle to get into the town itself.

"You have to think about the disabled as well, you would probably need some sort of electric mobility buggy," he adds.

Mr Kilby says that linking villages

"I live in Bicton, and that could be linked with the town centre along the river, so I could cycle from Bicton to Frankwell," he says.

"They have done it from Minsterley to Pontesbury, they have done it through farms, so if you do it from Minsterley to Pontesbury, why not Bicton to Frankwell?"

Mr Kilby says that while 'pop-up' cycle lanes may make sense during the lockdown, he hopes some of them may become permanent once normality returns.

"At the moment, Covid 19 is acting as a catalyst for the creation of temporary traffic order," he says.

"But the next stage, when it is over, is to look at making them into experimental traffic orders, where they can look at them over 18 months, to see if they are bringing more people into the towns of say, Shrewsbury, Bridgnorth of Ludlow, and if not how they can be altered."

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

Advertising

Top stories

Advertising

More from Shropshire Star

UK & International News