Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Green shoots

Sadly I've blogged quite a number of times about how Plymouth City Council got things wrong when it comes to cycling. As an organisation, I believe they are institutionally anti-cycling and that belief still holds true.

Except perhaps not as strongly as before. No, I'm not being blackmailed, bribed or otherwise coerced by Plymouth City Council - allow me to explain...

The best way would be to look at some previous posts. On 11/04/2011, I posted this video below, entitled An Urban Cycle Ride in Plymouth:


An Urban Cycle Ride in Plymouth from WilliamNB on Vimeo

Have you counted how many sets of useless and utterly pointless barriers there were in the video? I'll tell you - eleven sets of barriers.

Recently I had reason to cycle out to Turnchapel and I followed pretty much the same route as shown in the video above. I was pleasantly surprised to find most of the barriers along the traffic-free path to have been replaced by bollards that made getting past on a bicycle so much easier, simpler and trouble free.

It isn't just along this route where there are signs of change. A rather nifty new East-West cycle route was built, partly funded by Sustrans' Connect2 project. linking Devonport, via Richmond Walk, to Victoria Park. This new route was opened just in time for Plymouth's first-ever SkyRide, in 2012 and it includes the disused tunnel under the junction between Devonport Hill, King's Road, Richmond Walk and Stonehouse Bridge.

For the 2012 SkyRide, the entrance to the tunnel, from Richmond Walk, was obstruction-free, but sadly this didn't last long and the usual bull-trap railings were soon installed.

Those have since been removed and replaced by bollards, making things much easier for cyclists. However, it does raise the question why bollards weren't installed from the start, instead of railings.

Perhaps the most significant move is the part of NCN27, along this section a.k.a. Drake's Trail or just the Plym Valley Path, between Coypool and Plym Bridge. Since it was built along the disused tramway, Plymouth City Council has washed it's hands off the path, expecting instead that all maintenance be done by Sustrans volunteers.

Though I'm not a member of Sustrans, I helped clear segments of the path one Saturday morning. It was hard manual work and progress was slow, purely because what we had to our disposal were shovels and brooms.

Expecting ill-equipped volunteers to be responsible for maintenance is not a good strategy to rely on and that has always been crystal clear. Especially by late autumn, when the path would be in places covered by a layer of mulch an inch or more deep it was clear that a better solution was needed.

Currently, Plymouth City Council is discussing various details about them doing regular maintenance along this stretch of NCN27. After all, NCN27 throughout the city is the lasting impression of Plymouth that most cycle tourists will take away with them, and sadly to date that impression overall has been very negative.

With the council taking on maintenance of this segment of the route, hopefully the impression cycle tourists are left with will change.

Another welcome change is the changes planned, or currently being made along NCN27 where it passes through the Saltram Estate, and also the part between Saltram and Plymouth Road. This includes a section underneath the A38, where for years local kids have been using a part close alongside NCN27 as a BMX track.

There are major changes being made, including outdoor art, path surface improvements and possibly (depending on amongst other things an on-going air-quality survey) a better BMX track. Just to be clear, we're not talking about a competition track, but rather somewhere for BMX riders to enjoy their bikes.

We're not in full bloom yet, but there are definite signs of change. Green shoots seem to be springing up all over.