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Towpath bike route could be pedestrian hazard, Leeds councillors warn

£29 million scheme will create cycle superhighway between Northern cities

A planned cycle route between Leeds and Bradford could become a safety hazard, opposition councillors on Leeds City Council have warned.

Earlier this year West Yorkshire was awarded an £18m Cycle City Ambition grant to improve cycling provision in the area, including a ‘cycle superhighway’ between Leeds and Bradford. The remainder of the £29 million funding will come from local government.

The scheme includes a largely segregated east/west cross-city route in Leeds which will provide a direct link between the cities, and the resurfacing of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal towpath between Shipley and Armley. There will also be secure bike parking areas, and 20mph zones for vehicles.

Upgrading the 14 miles of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal towpath means it will become the longest continuous cycleway in the north of England.

But Councillor Andrew Carter, opposition Conservative group leader at Leeds City Council, believes that the plan could create safety hazards for pedestrians who currently use the towpath.

According to the Yorkshire Post, Councillor Carter said the stretch of towpath between Kirkstall and Shipley already throws up regular cases of “irresponsible cyclists causing havoc and threatening pedestrian safety”.

Routes that mix cyclists and pedestrians have a history of causing conflict if they become highly used. Earlier this year, transport charity Sustrans called for riders of fast road bikes to slow down on shared use paths “where their use was never foreseen or catered for”.

The details of the towpath and cross-city routes have not yet been decided, so there is still time for the needs of all types of cyclists to be taken into account. Transport consultancy Steer Davies Gleave is currently advertising for members of a consultation team that will sound out local people’s opinions on the scheme.

Councillor Carter’s comments are not the first time Leeds and Bradford opposition councillors have complained about the plan. When the grant was announced Councillor Glen Miller, leader of the Conservative group on Bradford City Council, told the Bradford Telegraph and Argus: “It is yet another pie in the sky idea brought forward – and yet again opposition parties are not involved.

“We must remember road users pay a lot in petrol and road tax. And there are more road users than cyclists.”

But Councillor Val Slater, Bradford Council's executive member for Transport, said: “This funding is fantastic and is a great boost for us to create a high quality cycle route between Leeds and Bradford. 

“It is an exciting initiative that will help encourage more people to make safer cycling journeys for both work and leisure. It should also give children more confidence to cycle and improve their physical activity and health."

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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