Cumbria's elected bicycle mayor has spoken of the dangers cyclists face on Carlisle's busiest roads, and has called for a sea change in how highways in the county are used.

Richard Ingham, who has served for more than a year as the globally-recognised bicycle mayor of Cumbria, said his "heart would be in his mouth" if he saw his children cycling along Botchergate, one of the busiest routes into the city centre.

The bicycle mayor position is part of an international campaign to transform cities into environments more suited for cycling, something Mr Ingham says is vital for addressing the growing carbon footprint produced by transport in the UK - and encouraging a healthier society.

Mr Ingham said Botchergate is made more dangerous for cyclists by the obstruction of the cycle lane by parked vehicles, something he says happens daily and forces cyclists back into the often busy road.

"It's double yellow lines and there's a cycle lane there - though the lane itself is substandard," he said.

"Practically every parking rule in the Highway Code is being broken, and they get broken every single day.

"There's a lack of consideration among some road users. We need to remember that it's not my road, it's our road."

Mr Ingham said that between 2015 and 2019, there had been 11 cyclist casualties injured in accidents from the top of Botchergate to Halfords on London Road, and 42 pedestrian casualties.

He stressed that there are "lots of streets and lanes in Carlisle where cycling is perfectly safe", and that he was confident that "Carlisle has good potential for cycling."

"But the main arterial routes into the city are not safe," he said.

"They need improvement, they need further measures in place to protect cyclists.

"I would not recommend anybody except experienced cyclists to ride along Botchergate and London Road.

"Here is where the investment is needed. Motor vehicles might have to take a little less space if we're going to be serious about change, because what we've got now isn't sustainable."

Cumbria County Council is currently awaiting word from the Department for Transport as to whether it will be given a total of more than £1m for investment schemes to promote walking and cycling in the county.

Mr Ingham said he wants to see the county's roads transformed with "ambitious" solutions to promote cycling and walking.

"We need cyclists to feel safe. To do that, on the main roads we need protected cycling space," he said.

"That doesn't just mean putting cyclists on the pavement - neither pedestrians nor cyclists want that.

"We need more cycle lanes, and we most definitely have space for that on our roads.

"We have just gotten used to having acres of tarmac on our roads, which we don't actually need for a traffic lane."

The Government is on board with promoting cycling and walking over cars, having earmarked £2bn for schemes across the next five years.

Mr Ingham said there was now a recognition among Government that "transport is the biggest single contributor to our carbon footprint and deteriorating air quality in our high street".

"There is no option but to change the way we travel," he said.

"Switching to what you would call 'active modes' of transport, such as cycling and walking, would provide the answer to so many of the nation's problems.

"We're an unfit nation as a whole; obesity is a rising issue.

"But also, overuse of the car is also contributing to worse air quality in our streets - we know what sort of damage that does to people, particularly children."

The growing threat from climate change is a third incentive to further embrace cycling, Mr Ingham added.

Mr Ingham expressed his frustration over the inability to use Botchergate's cycle lane via social media on Friday, sharing a picture he had captured showing a number of vehicles parked across the lane, rendering it useless.

"It just captured everything that is wrong with the way we should be travelling. It showed why we can't travel more actively," he said.

"There was a cycle lane there, and I couldn't use it.

"The wider point is that for a lot of people, they are not going to cycle if they don't feel safe cycling along the road.

"You do get plenty of people cycling along roads like Botchergate, a lot of children.

"But if it were my children, my heart would be in my mouth."

The Covid-19 pandemic has provided "lessons" demonstrating the effect of reduced motor vehicle use on the roads, Mr Ingham said.

"We've seen huge numbers of people cycling and walking when the roads are empty of traffic," he explained.

"I'd say this is proof that what is holding back a switch to better modes of transport is traffic.

"Now that traffic is coming back, I'm seeing cycling declining again."

To prioritise the needs of pedestrians and cyclists in town and city centres would also help ailing high street businesses, Mr Ingham suggested.

"High streets are suffering now - the whole viability of the retail sector is being called into question," he said.

"There are so many examples now where access given to motor vehicles into town centres has been restricted, and you get a blossoming of those town centres, a return to vibrancy.

"We have got to create spaces where people actually want to spend time.

"It's no longer enough to just say it's a street full of shops - because people are not shopping as much in person now, they're going online, especially because of the pandemic.

"We need to reinvent our high streets so that they're nice places to be, in order to attract people to come to them."

One example in Carlisle city centre he offered was Lowther Street, just outside the pedestrianised central area.

"There are many people, older pedestrians in particular, who say they will not cross Lowther Street," he said.

"Any activities on the wrong side of the street suffer as a result.

"That's just one example - there are many others."

He added that, in his view, a perfect opportunity to demonstrate this on a wider scale had arisen in Penrith, when temporary road closures were briefly introduced to encourage social distancing along a number of more narrow town centre streets.

"There were certain sections of the Penrith community who protested as a result," he said.

"I and others thought it was a missed opportunity. It should have been given a fair trial.

"We could have had a tranquil town centre. That opportunity was lost.

"For the sake of the town centre's existence, you need to create a vibrant town centre.

"That is achieved by getting rid of unnecessary traffic.

"Footfall and revenue increases over time once you pedestrianise an area, there's plenty of examples out there to show that."

The council’s on-street parking enforcement resumed in late July following a temporary easing of restrictions due to Covid-19.

Prior to the disruption brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, Botchergate was patrolled on a regular basis by traffic enforcement officers, and was a key location for late evening patrols.

This will continue to be case as the county council's traffic enforcement service returns to full capacity.