‘GRAVE concerns’ have been raised over a proposed cycling and walking network in Whitehaven – with fears it would make the traffic situation in the town ‘untenable’.
Cumbria County Council has published a local cycling and walking infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) for Whitehaven, which puts forward a proposed network of key cycling and walking routes.
At a Whitehaven Town Council meeting held last week, councilors considered the plan and raised concerns about the impact it may have on traffic in the town.
Members also discussed cyclists’ reluctance to use the C2C route and the backlog of traffic on the A595 at peak times. The LCWIP aims to “encourage more people to make journeys on foot or by bike” and “improve the routes used for everyday shorter journeys”, such as to work, school or the shops.
Key aspects of the network include connections to the town center and railway station, links to education sites including Whitehaven Academy and St Benedict’s Catholic High School and links to Westlakes Science and Technology Park.
Speaking at the meeting, Brian O’Kane, who represents Whitehaven Central North, said: “I have grave concerns about this. I can’t imagine for one second how you could prioritize cycling down Victoria Road, when both sides of the road are parked up.
“The traffic situation now is bad. Any cycling priority is going to make the situation almost impossible.
“I can’t imagine anything going down Victoria Road, allowing cyclists priority over vehicles. I’m afraid this is something I regard with great skepticism, with how it’s going to affect the locality.”
Gaile Stevens, who represents Whitehaven South, said: “Having moved from areas where there are cycling networks, one of the things I’ve noticed is the number of cars that are starting to drop off the roads because of the increased cost of fuel. People are starting to think twice.
“I think we should be encouraging our young people and people in general to get out of their cars and where possible, not drive to school.
“We have a duty to make it as safe and easy as possible for young people to move about the town independently.
“I cycle most days to work. There is no cycle network or infrastructure here unless it’s on the C2C.
“We’re very fortunate to have the C2C route but I find that because drivers aren’t used to dealing with cyclists round here, they are quite intolerant.”
Johnnie Carr, who represents Mirehouse West, said: “The problem is we’ve got all these cycle paths and none of them get used by cyclists. They still want to stick to the roads.
“It’s only dog-walkers that are using them. There are miles upon miles of them and they don’t get used.”
Cllr Stevens said: “One of the bug bears I have is cyclists coming out of Sellafield on the A595 or taking the back roads at Beckermet. They hold up everything on the A595.”
Cllr O’Kane said: “Having driven from Sellafield and being the 50th or 60th car behind what you think is two buses or a farmer – it’s one guy on a bike.
“If cyclists want to be treated on the road like everybody else, road cyclists should pay road tax, should be identifiable, insured and trained.
“If you’ve got 60 cars in a line behind one bike – how much petrol are they using? It must be phenomenal.”
Councilors decided not to endorse the document, as requested by Cumbria County Council, but voted to ‘note’ it instead.
A spokesperson for Cumbria County Council said: “The Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) is a document that identifies and prioritizes cycling and walking routes within Whitehaven.
“It sets out an approach for developing the prioritized routes over the period of the Plan (2022-2037), with the aim of encouraging more people to make journeys on foot or by bike. The LCWIP is a live document and will continue to be updated to reflect changes in priorities.
“For Whitehaven, the LCWIP is the first stage in the process and following the approval of the plan by Cumbria County Council and endorsement by Copeland Borough Council and Whitehaven Town Council, further work will be needed to ensure that we make the best plans for the area.
“We will be addressing this in the future through the development of improvement designs for routes identified in the LCWIP and we will consult with key stakeholders before making any decisions. This work will be subject to securing funding.
“The focus of the LCWIP is the improvement of routes used for everyday shorter journeys, such as to work, school or the shops.
“The LCWIP looks to deliver on the governments ambition for cycling and walking to be the natural first choice for many journeys with half of all journeys in towns and cities being cycled or walked by 2030.”