I got hold of a map recently – ‘Cycling in Newcastle-under-Lyme.’ It shows many cycle routes in the borough and can be found here. Now as one who loves maps of any sort I decided to investigate, so today I went to ride the Bradwell Woods Greenway and the connecting cycle track, see map: (Points A to I)
The start of this track is in the middle of an Industrial Estate. I was intrigued because the Greenway runs through an area that I explored years ago in the hope of holding an orienteering event there. Point A on the map looks like this:
Now this looks like the beginning of a lovely well-kept cycle path. Unfortunately one soon arrives at this (B)
Not a major problem, but there were signs of minor vandalism all the way along the route, with broken lights and litter to be seen.
Nevertheless this section of the route is a pretty downhill run through the woods (C):
This stretch is isolated and I’m not sure that everybody would feel safe cycling it, especially after dark. Arriving at the bottom near the A 500 one encounters an odd arrangement – were two gates really necessary? (D)
The most tortuous part of this route occurs at the junction with the A500, where cyclists are routed anticlockwise round the roundabout. The result is a succession of road crossings, starting with this at (E):
After passing through the bridge under the A500 you encounter this crossing with fast-moving traffic going left to right to get onto the A500:
followed immediately afterwards by the two carriageways of Chemical Lane:
and finally by the most hazardous crossing of all, where you have to cross here with about 25 metres visibility and vehicles approaching at 40 mph.
How long do vehicles take to cover 25 metres when travelling at 40 mph?
40 mph * 1.6 = 64 km/hr * 1000 = 64000 m/hr /3600 = 17.8 m/s.
25 metres / 17.8 = 1.4 seconds.
So at this point you wait for a gap in the traffic and then hurry across – you have 1.4 seconds to get over safely.
At this point you have crossed six carriageways. Going clockwise round the roundabout would mean crossing one carriageway, the southbound ramp off the A500. It would without any doubt be less hazardous to route cyclists clockwise round the roundabout, on the road, with the traffic, rather than running the gauntlet of all these crossings. There seems to be an underlying determination to treat cyclists as pedestrians who must constantly stop, look both ways, etc.
The next section of the route ( G to H ) is a new stretch with a properly separated cycle path. It was here that I met Jay Russell, who uses the cycle path every day to get to work:
Jay was upbeat about the bike path and has never had any problems on the lonely stretch through the woods. But then he is a six foot three Scouser so he expects to be left alone! Thanks for stopping, Jay, and congratulations on being the first of many interviewees on A Bikeride a Day.
At (H) it is popssible to get onto the canal towpath by going down these steps:
Or you can continue on the cycle path. Both routes meet up at (I). There follows a bit off typical on-off bike path between (I) and (K), where the path through Bathpool Park begins. This section if it were continuous would mean an off-road attractive route from Kidsgrove to Stoke. Interestingly enough the missing section could be completed with a bike path through this new development, the World’s most sustainable distribution Unit!
I’m not sure what qualifies them as the World’s most sustainable. I didn’t see any solar panels or wind turbines. I didn’t even see a railway siding, even though this is right next to the main line. But I did see some lovely new Bike parking facilities, perhaps this is the crucial factor:
I wonder if this development could be persuaded to provide the missing link of the bike route as a public service? Is that hopelessly optimistic? I suppose the best idea would have been to stick it in as a condition for planning permission. Too late!
I realise that I sound like one of those whingeing people who go off on a cruise armed with a video camera and proceed to film all sorts of petty problems to try and get onto Watchdog or some such and get some money back. I’m actually very pleased that Staffordshire are making an effort with bike paths, and I accept they probably have paltry budgets to work with. But I can’t help agreeing with those campaigners who insist that biking won’t become a normal everyday way of getting about for large numbers of people until we have continuous safe convenient cycle paths. My ride today just makes me more aware of how huge a task this is. All the more reason to get on with it.