On 26 September, under grey skies, Matt Hodges and Tim Dant from Dynamo did some blue skies thinking with a team of planners, consultants and engineers from Lancashire County Council, Lancaster City and Lancaster University. Eight of us set off from the Millennium Bridge on bikes (with a further two in a car) to ride through Lancaster and scope out cycle routes from the University and the proposed Bailrigg Garden Village into the city. We had a thoughtfully planned route that included stops to look at and discuss the possibilities at key points. Penny Street Bridge, the Pointer Roundabout, the ‘Monkey Rack’ of Belle Vue terrace, Addle Street, Bailrigg Lane, Burrow Bridge, Lawson’s Bridge, Dorrington Road, Beeching Close, Deep Cutting and Aldcliffe Triangle were all stopping points where there was much looking, talking and pointing. The highways engineers had large scale maps showing the existing cycle routes that were pored over to see where possible new ways through could be found. Particular attention was paid to the Dynamo proposal for a shared-use path along the east side of the railway line from the new Health Innovation Campus entrance to Ashford Road. It seems that the University have planning permission for a student block that would interrupt this route – but sending it down the west side of the railway looks doable, as a link to Ashford Road. From there, there was no feasible direct route other than going down to Ashton Road (and the canal).
The ongoing conversation between everyone was friendly and the professionals were keen to hear from and work with Dynamo. Many of the stopping points were on routes already used by cyclists but the idea was to think of new ways to join them up that would attract more cyclists and reduce the burden of motor traffic on Lancaster’s crowded roads. The group were encouraged to consider everything: building bridges, compulsory purchases, bans on street-parking, cycle and bus only routes and so on. It is intended that the moving site visit will inform the emerging LCWIP for Lancaster which should lead to improvements to existing cycle routes and may propose a route for a ‘cycling superhighway’.
It will be interesting to see how the blue skies thinking gets translated into an Infrastructure Plan that stands some chance of political and financial approval.