Olympic star Chris Boardman opens Saddle cycling lanes

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A major project to boost cycling in the borough has been praised by an Olympic star of two wheels as he helped to officially open the scheme.

Gold medallist Chris Boardman, the region’s cycling and walking commissioner, gave his backing to the £2.1m cycleway at Saddle Junction.

He said Wigan was leading the way regionally for getting people on their bikes as councillors and local pedallers celebrated the opening of the new lanes at the enormous Robin Park roundabout.

The scheme has been delivered by Wigan Council as part of a programme led by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) funded by the Department for Transport.

Construction of the new lanes has been accompanied by social media grumbling from motorists but Mr Boardman had a blunt message for the naysayers as riders saddled up to try out the new green routes yesterday.

He said: “Wigan should be proud of leading the way. My message is to get out there and use it. This provision is there, give it a try. People may be surprised to find it’s a much more enjoyable way to get around.

“Wigan has one of the highest number of short journeys of less than a kilometre in a car in the entire city region. We need to give people an option not to use the car.

“This is one of the hardest junctions to tackle. You can hear and see the traffic all around. It is a massive deterrent to cyclists, so it’s good that Wigan has done this first.

“If you ask people the right questions, about whether they want kids to be able to ride a bike to school, they respond in the same way.

“It is costing us £3.75m a year to travel as we are now, when you bundle up health problems, pollution, congestion and accidents. We can’t afford to stay the same.”

The scheme also received the thumbs-up from Wigan Council and local cyclists.

Coun Carl Sweeney, portfolio holder for environment, said: “We’re excited that this innovative, collaborative project is now open. Thank you to everyone in Wigan for bearing with us while the works took place.

“Offering suitable cycling facilities and lanes will give people more confidence to get on their bikes, which will improve air quality and also promotes an active, healthier lifestyle.”

Peter Hill, founder of men’s mental health campaign Place 2 Place, said: “I’m sure we will see a lot of people using it.

“I will be using it with my kids.”