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A ‘great way forward’ or a ‘huge green elephant’? Locals have their say on recently installed cycle superhighway

The two-way segregated cycle lane opened in December, as part of a continuous active travel route linking Penwortham town centre and Broadgate in Preston

As South Ribble Council is expected to give the green light to a new leisure greenway in Penwortham, another of the town’s attempts to encourage active and sustainable travel has been criticised as a ‘huge green elephant’ in the local press.

Members of the borough council will today confirm that £314,000 will be allocated to completing the ‘Penwortham Loop’: a ten kilometre, three-metre-wide track for cyclists, walkers and runners, which will run alongside the River Ribble between Priory Park and Howick Green.

This latest active travel scheme follows the installation of a cycle superhighway which, once fully completed, will allow for a continuous active travel route between Penwortham and Preston. 

The first phase of the project, along Liverpool Road on Penwortham Brow, was completed in December.

The proposals initially intended to introduce a one-way system for motor traffic on part of the route, but following a public consultation, Lancashire County Council decided to keep the existing two-way flow (though the section on Penwortham Hill has still been reduced from a dual carriageway to two lanes). 

The revised scheme features a segregated two-way bike lane and, according to the council, “has been designed with the safety of walkers and cyclists in mind”, with a parallel crossing on a road hump and a central refuge island installed to allow for safer crossing.

The council hopes the cycle superhighway will capitalise on the potential demand for safe cycling along the route and build on the success of the John Horrocks Way bypass, which has reduced congestion in Penwortham by removing an estimated 14 million vehicles from the town centre during the two years of its existence.

> Multi-million pound cycling investment for Preston as part of City Deal 

While the council claims that the new road layout improves safety for pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users, encourages sustainable transport between Preston and Penwortham, and improves local air quality, some locals aren’t as convinced.

When quizzed by the Lancashire Post on the new scheme, one resident said the two-lane track was “too wide”, while another criticised the supposed lack of cyclists on the route, describing it as a “huge green elephant”. 

The newspaper claimed that they only counted 12 cyclists using the route in one hour earlier this week – though the reporter failed to clarify the time of day those numbers were recorded.

There have also been anecdotal reports of motorists, unaware that the previous dual carriageway system was abolished, driving in the wrong lane towards oncoming traffic.

“It's happening all the time,” one local said. “There have been a few bumps with cars driving up the second lane and coming into contact head-on with vehicles coming down. It's a mess.”

Martin Wilkins said: “I think the cycle lane is a great idea, I just think they have over-cooked it on this one with the width. This is taking out quite a bit of road space and has made it a little bit more congested [for vehicles].”

“I'm here a lot and I don't see too many people come down here,” Joe Shackleton told the paper. “It is quite a large cycle lane and I don't think it warrants that.

“You might see two or three people go past [on bikes] in an hour or so.”

> Could UK first CYCLOPS junction be "slam dunk" for cycling? 

However, Heeran Rathof, who was cycling on the bike path with his wife Sarah, said: “I think it's a good idea. It needs to be safer for pedestrians and cyclists who are using this road.

“I think if people can reduce their costs in fuel by cycling then that's a great way forward.”

A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: “We want to get more people travelling sustainably between South Ribble and Preston and it is vital that we have the right infrastructure in place to provide a viable alternative to using the car.

“To make more space for cycling and walking, the road has been reduced from a dual carriageway to a standard width single carriageway.

“The existing central reservation was utilised to separate vehicles and cyclists, improving safety for active travel users and helping to encourage more people to cycle and walk both now and in the future.”

Broadgate Junction Preston (via Lancashire County Council)

The next phase of the cycle superhighway project will feature a new CYCLOPS junction where Fishergate Hill meets Strand Road and Broadgate. CYCLOPS junctions – first installed in the UK in Manchester in 2020 – aim to protect pedestrians and cyclists by separating them from motor traffic and reducing crossing distances, while also cutting journey times for motorists. 

As well as forming a key feature of the cycling superhighway, the remodelled junction is also part of the existing Preston Guild Wheel route.

“Currently, pedestrians and cyclists have no option but to cross the traffic, making conflict with vehicles and often creating a barrier to active travel,” the council said.

“We want to provide safety improvements in this location that will encourage more people to leave the car at home, bringing wider health and environmental benefits.”

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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