Are we on the right road to encouraging cyclists in Wigan?

A cyclist uses the revamped Saddle junction
A cyclist uses the revamped Saddle junction

A lot of cash is being spent on getting Wigan folk to swap four wheels for two at the moment - but is it money well spent?

A short usage survey of a new cycle lane installed alongside a busy road would suggest “not yet,” although there is plenty of enthusiasm from the public, while the authorities say such facilities will become busier when the weather improves, the evenings get lighter and they promote them fully.

The new cycle lanes

The new cycle lanes

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Over a two-hour period between 9am and 11am, this writer monitored activities on the recently-installed cycle lane and pavement running from Wigan’s fire and ambulance HQ to Montrose Avenue on Robin Park Road.

During that time 15 pedestrians used the path and only three bicycles were seen, although admittedly there may have been more during the previous 120 minutes of the rush hour.

Other people have told the paper that the cycle lane, put in as part of a Transport for Greater Manchester plan to reduce motor traffic and get more people using pedal bikes (or walking) for the benefit of the environment and their own health, appears little used and on more than one occasion cyclists have been spotted still using the main road and ignoring the lane!

Certainly the lanes are being used more by walkers than cyclists at present, as Chris Lancaster, 36, from Wigan explained: “I don’t see many cyclists along this route, but it is worth having it if it saves lives.”

The green paths keep cyclists away from faster, heavier vehicles on the main road, which is also relatively narrow.

Former Post reporter Greg Farrimond, 29, said he had noticed a lack of cyclists along the new routes, but thinks they are superb in allowing safe places to ride bikes.

“This is the first time I have been on this new cycle path having heard all about it. I think it is about safety.

“It is important that the council promotes cycling now that it has done this work. I live in London now and am back here for a break. The cycling lanes are really good, but it is only good if you have the cyclists.”

A key issue is getting people more active in Wigan and this is the first step to achieving that. It is also a good way to get fit and lead a healthy lifestyle.

Chris said: “I think keeping the cyclists off the main road is important and the pathway is wider, but I have rarely seen people riding their bikes on this stretch of designated pathway.”

Becca Heron, director for economy at Wigan Council, said: “It’s great to hear that people are giving positive feedback about the cycle lanes and the reasoning behind them.

“At the moment, as there are still some small-scale final works to be completed along Saddle Junction and Wallgate, we can’t be sure how well the new facilities are being used, however, we will be working very closely with Transport for Greater Manchester to monitor usage moving forward.

“If cycling along the route appears low at the moment, this could be as a result of recent weather conditions, time of year and the pending final works.

“We hope for these works to be finished in the next couple of weeks and anticipate usage to increase during the spring and summer months. We will continue to work with Greater Manchester to further improve local knowledge of where residents can safely cycle to and from and would like to reiterate our thanks to local businesses and motorists for their cooperation throughout this scheme.”

And a TfGM spokesperson said: “We took the decision not to promote this route until the completion of the works at Saddle junction, which we expect to be fully open very shortly.

“We’ll soon have the new one kilometre traffic-free route on Robin Park Road linked to Wigan town centre and the towpath of the Leeds/Liverpool and Bridgewater canals. This will make local travel without a car a viable option for more people in Wigan and we’d encourage everyone to give walking and cycling a go, to help kick-start a healthy 2019.

“Clearly this route is just one piece of the jigsaw and is part of longer-term plans to create a Greater Manchester-wide cycling and walking network. TfGM will be working closely with communities to promote the new routes as we begin to deliver the network.”