Published December 29, 2016 at 10:36
Work will resume to create a major cycle route linking towns in East Lancashire following a consultation on what people would like to see from the routes being developed in Rossendale.
The East Lancashire Cycleway Network aims to transform cycling in the area, making it easier for people to use their bikes to access opportunities by improving links to workplaces, schools, shops and services.
The largely off-road routes have also been designed to be suitable for a range of users, including walkers, horse riders, runners, wheelchair-users, and people pushing prams or buggies and using mobility vehicles.
The £5.68m scheme is part of the £234m Growth Deal to support economic growth secured by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership’s successful bid to the government’s Growth Fund, and will also receive contributions from Lancashire County Council and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.
Two of the main routes connect Accrington to Stubbins, and Rawtenstall to Whitworth, mostly following disused railway lines to create safe and attractive off-road paths. They will feature two parallel paths along most of their length – one with a tarmac surface, and another softer surface alongside which is better for horses.
Earlier this year Lancashire County Council paused work after horse riders raised concerns about narrow sections, where it was not possible to construct two parallel paths, and the original design specified a tarmac-type surface. Riders said this could cause horses to slip where the gradient rises or falls.
A consultation was held in May and June to seek people’s preference for the new surface, as well as to gather information about how the paths are currently used, and seek feedback on proposed features such as signage, seating, artwork and play facilities.
Based on the results of the consultation exercise and the surface options that were presented, tarmac came out as being the surface that most people preferred. Over half of respondents also said they would not like crushed stone to be used, saying they would find it harder to walk on and for wheeled transport such as cycles, prams, and wheelchairs.
However, concerns were expressed that using tarmac particularly on slopes could be slippery for some users including horse riders and walkers, especially during the winter months.
Within the responses to the consultation, another material – ‘flexible paving’ – was suggested as a suitable alternative surface for narrow sections of the route. Flexible paving is a mix of aggregate and recycled tyres which is bonded together by polyurethane. It is porous and as a result not as susceptible to frost damage, it drains naturally and because of the rubber content it is softer to use than other surfaces.
As a result of the feedback received and after further investigations into the suitability and cost of the material, it is now proposed to use flexible paving on approximately 3.5km of the route where there is not enough width to provide a 3m-wide tarmac surface alongside a softer verge.
The findings of the consultation are contained in a report to County Councillor John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport. He said: “The consultation has been very successful, with around 1,200 responses, and I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to give us their views. We now have a better idea of how these routes are used, and how people would like us to develop them now and in the future.
“It’s clear from the responses we’ve received that most people use these routes for walking and cycling, and support the use of a tarmac-type surface to improve them.
“However, some sections of the route have bridleway status, and having listened to the horse riders’ concerns, we’ll be using a ‘flexible paving’ surface to ensure better grip on sections where there is a slope and not enough room to create a parallel softer surface.”
“Use of this material should create a surface that is acceptable to all users and will help to create a continuous network from currently disjointed routes. It will also help to achieve the overall aims of the project which include improving access to places of work and education.
“The feedback from the consultation also indicated that people support the work to improve these routes to create better connections, and that they would like to see more seating and better signage put in place.”
As well as the consultation that has taken place, Mid Pennine Arts are working with local communities over the next few years under their ‘Scenic Route’ programme to look at developing new features and possible new links along the routes. ‘Explorer Days’ were held in Stacksteads and Whitworth over the summer where visitors could enjoy free art activities, whilst learning about the Greenways and putting forward ideas about how they should be developed. Further activities and events are planned for 2017. Please visit Mid Pennine Arts for further details.