Stevenage cycleways under the spotlight as campaigners call for revival

Reclaim Our Roots is a new pressure group from Cycling UK. Picture: Supplied

Reclaim Our Roots is a new pressure group from Cycling UK. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Archant

Stevenage must take advantage of a “golden opportunity” to revitalise its ailing cycleway network, a new campaign group has warned.

Stevenage’s cycleways have never been busier, with residents making the most of the network for their daily exercise, but a newly created campaign group – Reclaim Our Routes – is calling on the borough and county councils to give the town’s cycleways a new lease of life.

Jill Borcherds, member of Reclaim Our Routes – which is an offshoot of Cycling UK – said: “Local authorities responsible for Stevenage have done little when we should be leading the way for active travel, as we start to emerge from COVID-19.

“To help people make the switch from driving to cycling, we need to reclaim routes and have the high quality, joined-up cycle infrastructure that was our New Town planners’ vision.”

The issue of broken glass on cycle routes has already been raised by Stevenage Borough Council, but the campaign group is also unimpressed with efforts to remove overgrown vegetation and potholes.

Three members of Cycling UK Stevenage were present and asked questions at last night’s meeting of the full borough council. Tina Walker, chair of Cycling UK Stevenage, said: “We would like to ask whether cycling accessibility is to be properly built into all developments including the town centre and Forster Country.

“In every new planning proposal will the existing network be protected? And in line with your declaration of a climate emergency, will priority be given to enhancing the network?”

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Loyd Davies, campaign group coordinator, added: “In many locations it is the hedgerow and surface vegetation that narrows the cycle track creating a hazard. The surface has been reduced by more than half in some areas.

“The short spur link from the A602 down the hill to join Gresley Way – south of Ridlins Stadium – is particularly dangerous because going downhill you are forced onto the wrong side of track.”

Loyd has also highlighted the section at Broadhall Way, near Broadwater Crescent junction. Vegetation on the surface has “narrowed the cycleway,” Loyd says, which means cyclists coming uphill “move into the path of oncoming cyclists descending at speed.”

Stevenage mayor Jim Brown added: “Stevenage is rightly proud of its pioneering cycleway network which came about through a combination of community action and innovation. Even now its grade separated junctions which keep cyclists, pedestrians and cars apart are being used as the model for improvements elsewhere in the country.

“Their continuity has always been a great attraction, but over the last couple of decades, more and more breaks and blockages have been allowed to appear. These crucial routes need to be reclaimed to allow people to travel more easily to where they need or want to be.”

For more on Reclaim Our Routes please contact Jill on 078 166 25901 or Loyd on 079 210 02224.