A new ramp now connects the canal towpath to the Lune Cycle Path
A new ramp now connects the canal towpath to the Lune Cycle Path

Cycletopia in Lancaster?

As one of the original Cycle Demonstration Towns (CDT) Lancaster has been trying to move towards the cycling nirvana depicted in CTC’s Cycletopia. So after all the effort and increased spending what have we achieved? Matt Hodges, CTC's representative in Lancaster, gives his views.

Lancaster CDT includes the seaside town of Morecambe and a wide rural hinterland.  Although bypassed by the M6 it had a major congestion problem on the city centre gyratory system and on the two road bridges over the river Lune.  But it also had the opportunity of a railway path linking Morecambe to Lancaster via a cycle and pedestrian bridge built for the Millennium. There were also other railway paths.

The CDT project has improved the railway paths and especially links to them so from Morecambe and the Lune Valley they are the quickest and most convenient way into the city centre.  The Millennium Bridge now carries thousands of cyclists and pedestrians every day.  The canal towpath has also been tarmacked providing a level if rather winding route from Carnforth in the north to the southern outskirts of Lancaster.  Morecambe Promenade has been opened for cycling with a shared footway link to the canal towpath making an excellent circular leisure route.  A number of Toucan crossings have been installed where major cycle routes cross busy roads.

Within the town centres there are lots of cycle lanes and while those on the gyratory system are only suitable for confident riders they do speed up a cyclist’s progress through the centre.

Residential roads are rapidly being converted to 20 mph as part of a county wide program.  The benefits of this are still to be felt but should be considerable.

The Sustrans Bike It officers have done a sterling job in the schools and Bikeability training is now offered in most primary schools.  Size-adjusted competitions between schools for numbers cycling to school have been a major factor in increasing cycling to school.  There is a thriving kids’ cycle club, Cog Set, that meets regularly at the cycle race track.  For adults there is cycle training available and major employers have also been targeted with considerable success particularly at the universities.

Cycle parking is another important contribution towards Cycletopia. While we don’t yet have a Bike Hub the bike lockers at the station are fully subscribed and the extensive bike parking around the city centre is well used.

On the downside we haven’t been able to negotiate cycle access through the pedestrian area even at times during which delivery vehicles are allowed.  This is a significant obstacle for some potential cycle commuters. 

Cyclists are still clearly second class citizens in the eyes of the county council.  They have refused to snow clear or salt even the busiest cycle tracks as all resources are needed to keep “The Traffic” moving.  Also the A6, which is the best graded road out of the city, still hasn’t got cycle lanes because the highway authority prefer to dedicate one lane of this main road to car parking rather than allocate the space to providing a safe route for cyclists.

So yes, Lancaster is making some progress towards Cycletopia but we still have a long way to go.