People walking and taking their bikes through Mile End Park will get the chance to sample a brand new bridge from today with the official opening of the Sustrans Connect2 Bridge across the Regents Canal in Tower Hamlets. The bridge is part of what will eventually become a two-mile greenway linking Bethnal Green through to Victoria Park and the Olympic Park.
It was voted for by the public as part of Big Lottery Fund's largest ever publicly-decided award and has been developed by Sustrans with its Connect2 partner Tower Hamlets Council.
Sir Clive Booth Chair of the Big Lottery Fund said: "This bridge sums up the spirit of Sustrans' Connect2 and our Peoples' Millions Competition, it is something we know will link communities and help them go about their everyday journeys in healthier more environmentally sensitive ways."
The timber and steel bridge, weighing more than 65 tons, was developed with support from Transport for London and British Waterways and provides a vital link between residential areas in Bethnal Green and Bow, local parks, schools, hospitals and attractions such as the Museum of Childhood.
It also gives a pleasant alternative to the busy Mile End Road and Roman Road. Sustrans and Tower Hamlets Council will work together to complete the two mile walking and cycling greenway by 2013.
Sustrans' London Greenways Manager Matt Winfield said: "This is a great milestone for our Connect2 project in London, our first bridge. Its location means that it will be well-used by hundreds of local people who need to cross the canal to make their everyday journeys.
"We know that attractive, traffic-free surroundings are a major factor in encouraging people to walk and cycle so we hope that this bridge will be used not just by existing cyclists but will tempt many more people to get on their bikes."
Communities across the nation - including people in Tower Hamlets - voted in force in December 2007 for Sustrans' Connect2 to win the TV vote to bring £50million from the Big Lottery Fund to create 79 walking and cycling networks for everyday journeys across the UK.
Abdal Ullah, Tower Hamlets Council's Lead Member for Cleaner, Safer, Greener, said: "This bridge has taken a lot of planning and a lot of work from the council and its partners and I am delighted to see it come to fruition.
"The number of cyclists and pedestrians who already make use of this area is huge so there will be many, many people who benefit from the new bridge."
The bridge and surrounding network of walking and cycling routes will link with the National Cycle Network and form an important part of Sustrans' GOAL project - Greenways for the Olympics and London - which is Sustrans' vision for a network of good quality walking and cycling routes across London.
GOAL has recently been granted the Inspire Mark, the badge of the London 2012 Inspire Programme. The London 2012 Inspire programme recognises innovative and exceptional projects, like Sustrans' GOAL, that are inspired by the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The anticipated cost of the Tower Hamlets scheme is £2 million with £300,000 coming from the Big Lottery Fund as part of Sustrans Connect2. A further £877,000 has come from Section 106 planning contributions, secured from local developments through negotiations with the council.