CYCLING ROUTES: Calls to improve routes in South Staffordshire
South Staffordshire community leaders have called for improvements to cycling routes in the district as part of county council plans to encourage more people to get on their bikes.
Staffordshire County Council is currently revising its local cycling and walking infrastructure plan and a public consultation closed earlier this month.
Concerns have previously been raised that the plan did not include specific proposals for South Staffordshire, instead focusing on more urban town areas such as Stafford, Cannock and Newcastle, where improvements could include new segregated cycle lanes, wider pavements and more crossing facilities.
On Tuesday members of South Staffordshire Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee were asked for their views on what could be done to improve cycling and footpath provision in the district.
Annabel Chell, senior strategy officer for transport at Staffordshire County Council, said: “There were a number of representations from South Staffordshire residents noting that the policy draft did not include South Staffordshire.
“It focused, in line with Government guidance, on six main areas – Burton, Lichfield, Cannock, Newcastle, Tamworth and Stafford. It covers the whole of Staffordshire but doesn’t include any network planning or appraisals of costed schemes for South Staffordshire.
“The Government has recently announced some funding and there may be possibility to extend appraisals for South Staffordshire. We have to submit this bid for funding in April and I’m keen to find out what the issues are at a local level in terms of walking and cycling.”
Committee members highlighted the interest in cycling during the coronavirus pandemic and the district’s proximity to Cannock Chase, which will be hosting mountain biking as part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Councillor Bob Cope, one of the members who called for cycling and walking provision in the district to be considered, told Tuesday’s meeting (March 23) concerns had been raised by Councillor Bob Spencer last year about the lack of funding going towards network connections in South Staffordshire.
He said: “Things have transpired since that funding was specifically for urban areas, Cannock being the closest area to us.
“I came across the Starley Route and did some research. The West Midlands group of authorities have done a lot of work to put cycle networks in from Coventry to our boundary in South Staffordshire.
“Cycling is a very big business – Halfords have had record sales of e-bikes during the lockdown. I know it’s early days but we need to start looking to encourage leisurely cycling because it’s going to be a big thing for the future of South Staffordshire.”
Councillor Victoria Wilson suggested a link between South Staffordshire and Cannock Chase for those wishing to cycle to the Commonwealth Games event being held in the forest.
She said: “Instead of having people driving to Cannock Chase we could have cycling lanes from our area to go to Cannock Chase, which would help the environment and parking.
“I have contacted someone at the county council with regards to increasing the quality of the towpath from Kinver to Stourbridge.
“On the other side of the border the towpath is pristine because the Black Country Museum managed to get some funding from the Canal and River Trust to improve the cycle path. I wonder if we could do something on our side of the border because when you hit our side the quality decreases significantly.”
Councillor Ian Sadler said: “We need routes that lead people from where they live to where they need to be. Routes we should be looking to make better use of are the towpaths on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire and Shropshire Union canals out to Wolverhampton one way and Brewood and Penkridge the other.
“I’m not happy about the shared nature of the cycle lane along the A449. I think we need to be trying to segregate walkers and cyclists, especially when we are getting e-bikes there travelling at 15mph with power assistance. They’re quite dangerous to pedestrians if not properly controlled.”
Councillor Isobel Ford raised concerns about the narrowness of many of the district’s roads.
“If you look at the number of large sized buses that are frequently used on the bus routes, to have cycle paths is nearly an impossibility”, she added.
And Councillor Penny Allen spoke of the challenges faced by students travelling from Perton to Codsall High School, including narrow pavements.
“She said: “I wondered if any finance is available to create new cycle and footpaths that could be used. I’ve very interested in sorting this problem out for our community.”
Words: Kerry Ashdown, Local Democracy Reporter
Watch the channel on TV