I was glad to read in last week’s Courier that the council intends to rebrand Calderdale as a cycling hub.
With the Tour De France visiting and the Mr Cameron’s rhetoric about a ‘Cycle Revolution’ it seems that there has never been a better time to encourage people to take to two wheels. However, as a wise man once said, ‘You can take your cat and call him a dog, but I bet that won’t make him bark’. As someone who cycles and drives on the roads of Calderdale on a daily basis, I can assure you that the major roads in the area cannot in all conscience be labelled as cycle friendly, particularly during the weekday traffic melee. This is particularly true of the A646 (a main artery linking the honeypot bike climbs) which is notoriously narrow, congested, poorly maintained and often choked with roadworks. A situation that perhaps adds to the impatient and dangerous behaviour of some car drivers, and dare I say it, renegade behaviour by some cyclists as they try and stay safe in the chaos. So Calderdale, you will need a good deal more than branding and spin to promote the area as a safe environment for cycling. As recognised by the all-party ‘Get Britain Cycling’ group in Westminster, road systems needs redesigning and managing in order to encourage cycle use. Things like speed control, cycle priority junctions and crossings, CCTV monitoring, etc. Is there the stomach for this in Calderdale? It seems that we’ve missed out on the 148 million pounds that was announced to promote cycling only yesterday, this will go to cities and national parks, so I’d be interested to know what funding plans exist to make our roads safer? A cycling friendly area is more than a café that will let you leave your bike outside! Some time ago the lauded initiative to this end was an off road cycle route running the length of the Calder Valley and beyond, all the way from Todmorden to Elland. Whilst the Sowerby Bridge to Elland section was given a decent surface and still serves well for slower cyclists and families, the Todmorden to Sowerby Bridge section remains largely constructed of mud and water and is impassable for at least eight months of the year. Is this indicative of our ability and will to promote cycling? I wonder.