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Cyclists slam councillors over collapse of cross-Carlisle scheme

Furious cyclists are launching a campaign to shame councillors who they accuse of throwing away a £1 million lottery grant to improve cycle routes in Carlisle.

Dallas Brewis photo
Dallas Brewis

Related: £4.4 million cross-Carlisle cycle route ‘doomed’ as talks collapse

It emerged this week that £4.4m Connect2 scheme for a cross-city cycle path from Kingmoor to Currock is almost certainly doomed.

Connect2 would have linked new and existing cycleways to create a traffic-free network, allowing cyclists and pedestrians to commute to work or school and reach the Cumberland Infirmary.

The sustainable-transport charity Sustrans is behind the project but negotiations with the city and county councils over the route and funding have broken down.

Sustrans had lined up a £940,000 grant from the Big Lottery, which will now be lost to Carlisle.

Dallas Brewis, campaign manager for the group Cycle Carlisle, said: “We were devastated by the news that this isn’t going to happen. We can only conclude that there isn’t the political will.

“The councils have let us down. Sustrans has done everything it could.”

The campaigners hope the project can be saved at the 11th hour and are appealing to Carlisle MP John Stevenson, who is a keen cyclist, to step in.

Members of Cycle Carlisle and Sustainable Carlisle are being urged to write to their councillors asking what they are doing to make Connect2 happen.

The campaigners also plan to raise a petition, set up a group on Facebook, lobby the next city council meeting on March 1, and hold a mass bike ride in early spring along roads closest to the Connect2 route.

Mrs Brewis added: “With rising fuel costs and people losing their jobs and not having as much money, providing a cheap, sustainable form of transport should be a priority – not something to get rid of at the first opportunity.”

The cyclepath would have run from Parkhouse Road, through Kingmoor Nature Reserve, across the Eden on a new bridge, along the Caldew cycleway, then into Currock via a ramped crossing of the Carlisle-Barrow railway.

The council signed a “memorandum of understanding” with Sustrans in March 2009.

However, it told the charity last year that the bridge over the Eden by the Sheepmount was unaffordable.

The council proposed scrapping the scheme north of the Eden but Sustrans and the Big Lottery insisted it should go ahead using the existing Eden Bridge.

Sustrans set a February deadline for the council to carry out survey work.

This has not been done and the city council has not earmarked any money for Connect2 in its 2011-12 budget.

Councillor Ray Bloxham, the council’s portfolio holder for environment, blames Sustrans for the impasse.

He said: “It is dead in the water because every time we come up with something they move the goal posts.

“I’ve been disappointed with Sustrans right the way through. All the way along they wanted to pull the plug on it. We couldn’t get information out of them and we couldn’t get commitments.

“We brought in well over £1m but we haven’t had a penny from them.”

The cycle campaigners say the city council has spent only £45,000 on Connect 2 so far. The county council has pledged £500,000 and the Environment Agency £1m.

They believe some councillors are anti-cycling and cite the county council’s refusal to allow cycling through pedestrianised English Street and changes to the Castle Street renovations, dropping a proposed cycle lane in Finkle Street and Annetwell Street.

Nikki Wingfield, Sustrans’ area manager in Cumbria, said: “We have had no formal notification that Carlisle City Council intends to withdraw.

“If this is the case then we will be expecting a formal withdrawal, which will be received with great regret.”

One part of the Carlisle proposal, an underpass under Castle Way to link the Caldew cycleway to the east-way Hadrian’s cycleway, should still go ahead with funding from Sainsbury’s.

Have your say

Please council make our city accessible by bike. Surely you are able to do better than threw away grant money from Sustrans. We really would like to be able to bike safely so not to bother either car drivers or pedestrians both have shown they have grips with cyclists from earlier comments. So many more people would get out of their cars and walk and cycle if you would help by working to improve things. It would help people spend less money on transport, improve their health and reduce pollution......

Current cycle paths on Eden bridge and Castle street don't work as shared provision as there isn't enough space for both the number of cycles or people walking, especially when obstacles are put in the middle of the path for the street lighting. The surface of the path is also broken up. The cycle routes don't match up so you are dumped into the traffic on the wrong side of the road in several places, but especially near McVites or round Hardwick circus. You also have to stop and start continually along castle way for each entrance or road junction, that cars are able to continue smoothly. No wonder cyclists use the road instead.

Posted by anon on 16 February 2011 at 00:09

Carlisle needs more cycle routes inparticular ones that are joined up, take Eden bridge cycle lane - one i use all the time, you travel along it and then at its northern end it stops and you have to join the road at the cricket gound. Heading South down Scotland Rd you are at top of Stanwix bank having had to cycle on the road suddenly heading down the hill you notice a cycle route on the pavement - too late you can't access it! Try heading west - convaluted route all the way thru underpasses and parks etc.
A safe route North to South, West to East is needed. The excellent route along Caldew is as it should be. A proper route would encourage more people onto bikes and then less cars on road therefor no complaints from drivers.
I also agree woth previous comment the potential from tourism is fantastic and should be encouraged and exploited not brushed aside.
Petition your MP i intend too

Posted by Matthew on 13 February 2011 at 13:30

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