At the launch of the Leeds city centre to Bradford section of the 23km City Connect route today, riders have been encouraged to saddle up and try the flagship segregated cycleway for themselves.
A series of ‘cycle safaris’ and ‘bike bus’ events have been organised to help riders explore the newly-opened 14km section from Church Bank in Bradford to Leeds via Barker End Road, Leeds Old Road, Stanningley, Bramley and Armley.
But in spite of the £29million investment, which is also funding the Seacroft to Leeds section of the route and Kirkstall to Shipley canal towpath improvements, cycling charities and planners have voiced concerns over City Connect’s design – arguing some sections put riders in conflict with pedestrians.
Coun Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s transport lead, said: “We are actually trying to encourage cycling long term. The one thing people say is, ‘I would love to cycle but I don’t like being in the flow of traffic and we don’t have segregated facilities,’ and we have responded.”
He added that City Connect has “bent over backwards” not to make life difficult for motorists, while stating that changes such as the shared space layout at Stanningley Bottom are “revolutionary” for city road design.
“These are path finders. Stanningley Bottom is the way forward for how we will do other road schemes in the city to make traffic flow better,” he said.
“Technically it’s very difficult to do what we have done with an existing road network – coming up with different ways of solving age old problems.”
Coun Lewis explained that a number of safety audits have been done so far and if areas are found to be problematic they will be changed.
Coun Keith Wakefield, chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s transport committee, said: “You don’t have to be a Lycra-clad professional to go out and cycle, you can be all ages and abilities.
“Just try it for a couple of miles and you will find it’s great fun and will keep you fit.”
Earlier this week Leeds City Council’s Conservative group leader Coun Andrew Carter called for an “urgent review” of the project after receiving complaints from residents.
Initially billed as a “highway to health”, the route is a major part of the £29m Government-funded City Connect scheme approved as Leeds hosted the Tour de France Grand Depart in 2014.
Coun Sarah Ferriby, of Bradford Council, said: “I think it’s fantastic for both Bradford and Leeds cyclists and great for the rest of the area.
“The more vehicles we get off the road the more we improve air quality and CO2 emissions – that’s got to be a good thing.”
The remaining Seacroft to Leeds section of the route is due to open next month. Visit cyclecityconnect.co.uk for details.