Riddle of the sands - cyclists want cycle path redesigned so they can cycle on it

Windblown grains leave £7 million cycle path in North Wales unusable, say Sustrans and CTC

by Simon_MacMichael   December 7, 2010  

Sand dunes (picture credit Wingchi, Wikimedia Commons).jpg

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans and national cyclists’ organisation CTC have joined bike riders in calling for changes to be made to a £7 million cycle route that is being rendered impassable in parts due to fine sand being blown across it.

According to a report on the website Wales Online, Conwy Council has increased the frequency with which sand is cleared from a section of the route at West Shore in Llandudno from once a quarter to once a month at an annual cost of £6,000.

However, that still isn’t often enough to resolve the problem, and Sustrans Cymru wants alterations made to prevent sand ending up on the cycle path in the first place, which it says is deterring cyclists from using the route, which runs between Llandudno and Conwy.

As well as the risk of slipping on a sandy surface and the unpleasentness of sand whipped up by the wind stinging you when it comes into contact with the skin, there's also the issue of fine grains causing untold damage if once they come into contact with a bike's moving parts.

Once they get mixed up with chain lube, a full strip down is needed to get rid of them, and if they get into your brake pads, it's a quick way to ruin a set of rims.

Sustrans area manager Glyn Evans told the website: “We know cyclists stay away from the route because of the sand, which is a shame because the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) ploughed a lot of money into it. It’s just a dog walkers’ route. It’s a wonderful route but it’s unusable at the moment.”

Conwy council has attempted to use fences to keep the sand at bay, an initiative welcomed by Mr Evans, but he added: “That hasn’t worked. There’s even more sand accumulated around the fences. The time has come to look at the route again to see what longer-term measures can be implemented.”

There are also fears that a second route planned on the other side of the Conwy estuary, which would take cyclists and walkers away from the busy A55 Expressway which has a speed limit of 70mph, may also fall victim to the same problem since it, too, is located close to sand dunes.

Wales Online reports that council officers were instructed seven months ago to hold talks with the WAG regarding “on-going maintenance costs associated with clearing blown sand,” but there has still been no agreement reached for the council to build the path at Morfa Conwy.

Roy Spilsbury, of CTC Cymru, was quoted as saying that the costs of maintaining the path would be minimal. “This isn’t the time to be tight-fisted,” he insisted. “The council should consider the benefits to local traders and people, and the holiday industry.
“The most unlikely individuals are on there, travelling some distance.

“It’s not unusual to hear people say: ‘It’s 40 years since I’ve been on a bike and I feel I’ve missed out for 40 years.’ Sometimes you see toddlers, parents and grandparents out together on their bikes. They’re thrilled.”

He added: “The biggest drawback is people in wheelchairs have difficulties with the sand. Their needs should be taken on board as well.”

Mr Spilsbury’s proposed solution was that netting be put in place over the sand, or that vegetation be planted to help prevent the dunes from being eroded.

In May this year, council officials said that they expected to receive funding to build the Morfa Conwy bike path, but warned that “It is likely that the authority will come under pressure to remove wind-blown sand as soon as it accumulates.

“Because of the unpredictable nature of sand accumulation, it is not possible to produce definitive costs for its removal at this stage.”

In 2009/10, around £4,500 was spent removing sand on the West Shore route, but the council says: “This is likely to rise to some £6,000 in 2011/12 because of the need to increase the sweeping frequency to monthly.”
 

9 user comments

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I didn't know there was so much sand in Wales. That pic reminds me of when I was in the Sahara earlier this year.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
7th December 2010 - 15:38

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I rode about 100km on cycle route LF1 through the dunes in the Netherlands in August. There were plenty of places where the path was covered in sand. There were a couple of places where the path was just soft sand.

Much of northern Holland is reclaimed sand dunes. It's a wonder that they can cycle there at all with the ever present dangers of sand!!

vorsprung's picture

posted by vorsprung [289 posts]
7th December 2010 - 15:50

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OldRidgeback wrote:
I didn't know there was so much sand in Wales. That pic reminds me of when I was in the Sahara earlier this year.

Disclaimer: pic may not actually be wales Smile

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7258 posts]
7th December 2010 - 16:06

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vorsprung wrote:
Much of northern Holland is reclaimed sand dunes. It's a wonder that they can cycle there at all with the ever present dangers of sand!!

Ah, but this is Britain. Like snow, we have the wrong kind of sand Wink

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [7933 posts]
7th December 2010 - 16:10

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OldRidgeback wrote:
I didn't know there was so much sand in Wales. That pic reminds me of when I was in the Sahara earlier this year.

Pic used for effect and is not actually Wales, surprisingly enough.

In fact, it's the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, to give it its "does what it says on the tin" official name.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [7933 posts]
7th December 2010 - 16:13

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Is the pic a generic one of the wrong kind of sand then?

I can email you some nice pics of the Sahara.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
7th December 2010 - 16:14

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Used to ride many miles along sandy paths in Nigeria - out in the bush tar roads were few and far between - just needed to clean the chain a little more regularly.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
7th December 2010 - 16:17

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we do have one dune that is pretty big in Wales
Merthyr Mawr, Near Bridgend CF32

The dunes claim fame to the highest single sand dune in Europe, known locally as the 'big dipper'. Scenes from the famous film Lawrence of Arabia were filmed at the dunes Nerd

for me - The ride is about adventure, camaraderie and the sense of accomplishment that comes after a long day in the saddle.

Mountain-Nic's picture

posted by Mountain-Nic [119 posts]
7th December 2010 - 18:19

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Not a dune as such - but Pendine Sands was used for various land speed record attempts over the years. Wonder if sand in the chain played a role in the fate of Parry Thomas?

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
8th December 2010 - 15:20

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