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“The church is under threat”: Vicar fears cycle lane outside church car park will drive away the congregation

“Our bells have been ringing out since the mid-1800s… Now we face extinction simply because of a crazy traffic system”

The vicar of a church in Altrincham, Greater Manchester claims the very existence of the 170-year-old institution has been put in doubt by the construction of a new walking and cycling lane outside its car park. 

St Margaret's Church has stood beside the A56, on Dunham Road, in Altrincham, Cheshire, since 1854. However, Vicar Reverend David Murray doesn't have faith in a new 20-metre cycle lane that he believes goes nowhere, but will force the people driving to the church to take a circular detour.

The 'walking and riding lane' was installed on Gorsey Lane to make crossing the Dunham Road easier for both pedestrians and cyclists. However, the entrance to the church car park is also situated on Gorsey Lane, meaning that parishioners and churchgoers can no longer access it from the main Dunham Road, and instead have to drive down a narrow one-way system around to get to the car park, reports the Daily Mail.

> 20 of the most hysterical Daily Mail anti-cycling headlines

Reverend Murray said that many of his congregation had already been put off attending services since the cycle lane was installed and he now fears his historic church could close unless the local council reconsiders the plans.

"The church is under threat for a 20m stretch of cycle lane," he said. "We had a carol concert last week and were down by about half the usual numbers."

"Our bells have been ringing out since the mid-1800s and we've served this community through two world wars. Now we face extinction simply because of a crazy traffic system that closes access from the A56."

He added: "This plan pushes church traffic to a dangerous turn on a bend further up the A56 one way or indeed past a school the other way – that area is already very busy at school drop off and pick up times.

"It's madness. All for the sake of a 20m cycle lane that goes nowhere and actually takes cyclists straight into the headlights of oncoming traffic."

> Enforcing cycle lane would prevent drivers from parking (illegally) outside Presbyterian church, claims Dublin elder

St Margaret's Church, Altrincham (Google Maps)

St Margaret's Church, Altrincham (Google Maps)

Ironically, the construction of the new walking and cycling route was spurred on by the actions of the church. Rev Murray and his congregation were among the many locals who had signed a petition calling for changes to the A56, after a young schoolgirl launched a campaign for a pedestrian crossing there.

However, the plan originally submitted by the Reverend didn't include a dedicated cycle lane, but only traffic lights which would have kept Gorsey Lane open both ways. He said that this alternative scheme was passed by Transport for Greater Manchester and the local council, but then blocked by the Green Party.

He added that he has repeatedly asked for an explanation as to why have they "persisted with this awful plan" but has heard nothing.

"I can't get an answer," he said. "We have elderly and disabled parishioners who can't walk or cycle and many of them are now choosing not to come. It's discriminating against them."

Now, the Reverend believes that the scheme being implemented is not just damaging to church services, but also impacting local youth groups and food banks that the church supports.

> “A flagrant act of vandalism”: Council agrees to move “ugly” bike rack after churchgoers say it will “block access for hearses”

Richard Nickson, Programme Director for Active Travel at Transport for Greater Manchester, told road.cc: "The Dunham Road scheme is being delivered by TfGM and is funded through the Bee Network Crossing scheme, as approved by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. A consultation was carried out in November 2021 and the scheme was approved by Trafford Council in September 2022.

"TfGM has been speaking regularly to representatives from Trafford Council and St Margaret’s Church to address the concerns raised and following a site visit, we have agreed to make some minor modifications to the scheme design to ensure that the church is accessible.

"The new crossing on Dunham Road will enable people to safely cross a busy road, while the new signalised junction with Gorsey Lane will make it easier for vehicles to leave the vicinity of the church. The crossing scheme is part of a wider ambition to build the Bee Network, a fully-integrated London-style transport system that will make travel safer for all road users."

Dunham Road, A56, Altrincham (Google Maps)

Dunham Road, A56, Altrincham (Google Maps)

However, Rev Murray said that a few inches had been cut off a traffic island which separated the cycle lane from the road following his complaints but "the work hadn't solved the problem".

road.cc reported on a similar incident two years ago, when a Presbyterian church in Dublin criticised plans to segregate an existing cycle lane from traffic, claiming that it would prevent worshippers from continuing to park – illegally – outside the church.

Church elder Michael Sparksman said that the proposed bollards would mean that "the right to worship is being overtaken by the right to cycle." He added: "The council suggested people walk, cycle or take public transport but that is really not viable given our age profile and the distances people come from."

However, the scheme was praised by town councillor Laurence Plant, who argued that the new route would encourage cyclists who lacked confidence on the road or young families to ride their bikes safely.

"Henley is quite difficult to navigate not using the main arterial routes", he said. "This is a good attempt to make Henley safer and easier to navigate."

And just last year, a church in Bristol became the site of Armageddon between cyclists and churchgoers, after the council agreed to move the planned location of a cycle rack – originally intended to be positioned outside a city centre church – after churchgoers and opposition councillors branded it a "flagrant act of vandalism" and claimed the bike rack would "block access for hearses".

Jonathan Price, the Master of Music at Christ Church with St Ewen, said that the installation of an "ugly" bike rack would "spoil the view" of the building and restrict accessibility to the church.

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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77 comments

Avatar
Alty Commuter | 2 months ago
0 likes

There are so many inaccuracies in the original Mail article. Rev Murray didn't sign the petition (he wasn't vicar then) but 619 people did - not "scores" but hundreds. Only one of the four approaches to the church now takes longer by car and the two minute detour has no dangerous bend. Anyone who would struggle with the alternative route should not be driving a car. The church (under a previous vicar) responded to the consultation when the scheme was approved and its objections were taken into account by the Council executive. Lastly, Rev Murray's suggested changes were not blocked by the Green Party - it has no power to do so.

 

 

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eltonioni | 3 months ago
2 likes

Thoughts and prayers.

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Benthic | 3 months ago
4 likes

Presumably, the church has no qualms about cars being illegally parked on the pavement outside of it (see article's photo).

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eburtthebike replied to Benthic | 3 months ago
3 likes

Benthic wrote:

Presumably, the church has no qualms about cars being illegally parked on the pavement outside of it (see article's photo).

Their god forgives them.

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Cyclo1964 replied to Benthic | 3 months ago
3 likes

So where I live there is close by villages that when you cycle through them generally on a Sunday the road one side is effectively blocked with parked cars outside their respective churches forcing you on to the other side of the road. One church is on a blind bend and the other is on a part of the road with a restrictive view. In both instances there is a village hall less than 50 metres away with empty car parks 🤷.  These village halls are always empty at time in case anyone asks . 

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mattw | 3 months ago
5 likes

On churches in NL, is it customary to provide dedicated cycle parking at churches, or would cycle parking be provided as a matter of course on the street outside by the city / town?

Looking at the church I used to attend in Nottingham some (!) years ago, at the time I was on the PCC there were around half a dozen cycle stands.

Judging from Google, there are now 14 Sheffield Stands, plus one of the City's card controlled cyclehubs round the corner, plus (I assume) the facilities at the adjacent Sixth Form College if they still have use of the car park on Sundays.

Given that nearly every church (especially CofE) is a hub for the whole community, I can see no reason not to have cycle parking at all of them.

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OldRidgeback | 3 months ago
0 likes

....because Christians don't ride bikes....

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hawkinspeter replied to OldRidgeback | 3 months ago
3 likes

OldRidgeback wrote:

....because Christians don't ride bikes....

It used to be common in tv and films for clergy to be shown riding bikes. As much as I dislike organised religions, I think the anti-Christian sentiment on this thread is a bit misplaced as I could imagine any religious group having a similar car-brain attitude.

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Backladder replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
3 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

It used to be common in tv and films for clergy to be shown riding bikes. As much as I dislike organised religions, I think the anti-Christian sentiment on this thread is a bit misplaced as I could imagine any religious group having a similar car-brain attitude.

I'm hoping its not anti Christian but anti religion, it just happens to be a Christian church that the article is about. 

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hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
8 likes

You can't spell "vicar" without "car"

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mattw | 3 months ago
3 likes

I've quite enjoyed reading around this. 

St Margaret, Altrincham (actually Dunham Massey) seems to be a normal suburban CofE parish, well supported and underpinning all kinds of community organisations - albeit one in a wealthy area.

The Revd has gained a cycling, walking and wheeling signal controlled crossing over a 20k vehicles/day A-road right outside his church - a road which scythes through the middle of his parish, which will mean a lot more foot and cycle traffic and a big chunk of population who can now walk to church without a risky crossing ro a long detour.

I'm particulary unhappy with the kneejerk "but disabled people" trope, when far fewer disabled people have driving licenses than the general population. TBF there is also no shortage of kneejerk comments in this BTL section.

Is there anyone here who lives near there, and can contact the Revd to explain the benefits - including to elderly and disabled, that he can very likely get somebody who will give his church a grant for cycle parking - as a community organistion, and that he really needs to stop circling the wagons around the 1970s? 

There's even an ideal "learn to cycle" 150m tarmac track round the church. 

It's an opportunity, not a threat - and time for some cycle parking and a wayside pulpit in the churchyard next to where all the thousands of people wait to cross the road.

Maybe it's time for a letter to the Church Times.

History is always interesting - one of the former vicars was the "Red Dean", Hewlett Johnson, who swallowed Soviet Style 'Socialism', as merketed by Stalin, hook, line and sinker, without it touching the sides, and was given preferment by Ramsay McDonald to be Dean of Manchester. Not quite Conrad Noel of Thaxted, who flew the Sinn Fein flag on his church on St George's Day alongside the St George's flag, but definitely a character.

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Car Delenda Est | 3 months ago
1 like

Priests make the worst Christians..

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eburtthebike replied to Car Delenda Est | 3 months ago
4 likes

Car Delenda Est wrote:

Priests make the worst Christians..

Were you perchance thinking of Paula Vennells?

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mattw replied to eburtthebike | 3 months ago
5 likes

I'm waiting to hear from Paula Vennells on her part in the PO scandal.

I expect NSMs (non stipendiary ministers) to be better than other managers, because they should be using their theological training to reflect on their workplace. They are not specialist Industrial Chaplains, who are specifically trained and resourced, but she most definitely needs to explain herself.

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hawkinspeter replied to mattw | 3 months ago
8 likes

mattw wrote:

I'm waiting to hear from Paula Vennells on her part in the PO scandal.

I sincerely hope she'll be stripped of her honours and dumped into prison now that the MET have decided, after many, many years to actually investigate the blatant fraud: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2024/jan/05/post-office-criminal-investigation-potential-horizon-accounting-fraud

However, my cynical side says that they'll just focus on lower status Fujitsu employees instead.

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levestane replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
6 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

However, my cynical side says that they'll just focus on lower status Fujitsu employees instead.

... which would be just the same as the previous focus on prosecuting sub postfolk. The PO should loose it's legal powers and all prosecutions go through police/CPS where (am I really saying this) there is more scrutiny.

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mattw replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
7 likes

I can't call it, though I suspect gross dereliction of duty through not paying attention. Whether it was deliberate gross dereliction is for the police.

Last time I looked the petition for removal of her CBE had gone beyond 600k.

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eburtthebike replied to mattw | 3 months ago
3 likes

mattw wrote:

I can't call it, though I suspect gross dereliction of duty through not paying attention. Whether it was deliberate gross dereliction is for the police.

Last time I looked the petition for removal of her CBE had gone beyond 600k.

currently 729,387, but it is shooting up rapidly.

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Stephankernow replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
6 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

mattw wrote:

I'm waiting to hear from Paula Vennells on her part in the PO scandal.

I sincerely hope she'll be stripped of her honours and dumped into prison now that the MET have decided, after many, many years to actually investigate the blatant fraud: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2024/jan/05/post-office-criminal-investigation-potential-horizon-accounting-fraud

However, my cynical side says that they'll just focus on lower status Fujitsu employees instead.

I agree people have committed suicide, bankrupted, reputations destroyed, made homeless.
This started under Bliar, the Brown, Cameron and Clegg, May and eventually Johnson ordering the enquiry in 2020.
They all knew and ignored it, Their tenacity, a few papers like Private eye, Micheal Crick and few others have finally got to the truth.
Its a disgrace they have not all been recompensed and all charges dismissed.

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belugabob replied to eburtthebike | 3 months ago
5 likes
eburtthebike wrote:

Car Delenda Est wrote:

Priests make the worst Christians..

Were you perchance thinking of Paula Vennells?

A.K.A. the Lance Armstrong of the post office world (just trying to keep things cycling related)

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chrisonabike replied to belugabob | 3 months ago
3 likes

At least Lance admitted it, though (even if he minimised things).

After it was long clear that the game was up (their efforts to bypass judges who spotted they were basically lying were rejected etc) she did a "sorry not sorry", then after pretty much all organisations she was involved with were suggesting she leave she did another "sorry - for the ones who won in court".

(Private Eye etc. worth reading for the full "totally happy to throw employees in prison if there's a threat to our company / bonus")

Clearly she was just the tip of the iceberg (and the PO is *still* trying to dig its heels in now), but I think we could be a bit more like the US in not rewarding failure here.

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 3 months ago
1 like

'Our bells have been ringing out since the mid-1800s and we've served this community through two world wars. Now we face extinction simply because of a crazy traffic system that closes access from the A56."

and there were no cars in the mid 1800s or during ww1. During WW2 there would have been very few cars and right through the 1950s and 60s.  So how come the church didn't go 'extinct' then? It seems as if the church can only survive if attendees can drive along the  A56.  But how did they do that in the 1800s? 

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don simon fbpe replied to BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 3 months ago
5 likes

They got through two world wars eh? Perhaps if the Germans had used bikes instead of tanks, they might have had more success.

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hawkinspeter replied to don simon fbpe | 3 months ago
4 likes

don simon fbpe wrote:

They got through two world wars eh? Perhaps if the Germans had used bikes instead of tanks, they might have had more success.

Bikes were used in the wars by all sides, I believe.

There's lots of interesting bicycle/gun combinations shown here if you're interested in that kind of thing (I bought their "Bad Teeth No Bar" book which is excellent but unfortunately now out of print): https://onlinebicyclemuseum.co.uk/

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Rendel Harris replied to BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 3 months ago
3 likes

BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP wrote:

'Our bells have been ringing out since the mid-1800s and we've served this community through two world wars. Now we face extinction..."

A very revealing sentence, subtext, subconscious or otherwise, "These cyclists are just another bunch of Huns attacking us..."

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robbo6600 | 3 months ago
1 like

It's because it doesn't allow vicar to park his Harley directly outside.

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chrisonabike replied to robbo6600 | 3 months ago
1 like

Rumour has it he's worried about crowds of other cyclists taking his space.

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Backladder replied to chrisonabike | 3 months ago
2 likes

chrisonabike wrote:

Rumour has it he's worried about crowds of other cyclists taking his space.

Indeed, local clubs used to meet opposite the church in the seventies and eighties for club runs out into Cheshire, I don't remember much in the way of church traffic back then.

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chrisonabike replied to robbo6600 | 3 months ago
2 likes

Meanwhile in The Netherlands:

(Joking - of course both are in NL.  The first was illustrating a nice Pastoorfiets, the second - well, read about that story yourself.)

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mattw replied to robbo6600 | 3 months ago
2 likes

I spy local knowledge.

A previous vicar Jerry Sutton was a biker with a Harley, who toured around Cathedrals on it to raise money to repair the spire.

https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/local-news/heavens-angel-ri...

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