Cycle path gets thumbs down at community meeting

A new Council-proposed cycle scheme in Uplands and Sketty has been given a thumbs-down at a public meeting arranged by Swansea West MP Geraint Davies to ensure residents have their say during Council consultation which ends on February 4th. Mr Davies was surprised at the strength of feeling which shows how important it is for local voices to be heard.

Geraint Davies MP’s public meeting this week at St.Paul’s Parish Centre was packed with Sketty and Uplands residents keen to discuss the council-proposed cycle path along Gower Road, Sketty Road, Uplands Crescent and Walter Road.

Swansea Council are currently considering whether to submit a bid to Welsh Government in early 2024 for multi-million pound funding to narrow the highway and to create a new bidirectional 2-3 metre wide cycle lane to encourage active travel including fewer right hand road turnings, one way roads, displaced parking and more pedestrian crossing . If the Council is successful in obtaining funding, they plan to start construction works later in 2024, with the scheme taking three years to complete.

Those attending the public meeting gave a mixed response to the current council proposals with the overwhelming majority against the scheme.

Concerns about the proposals raised by the Sketty and Uplands residents included the narrowing of the road leading to potential tail-backs from those turning right or buses and delivery lorries stopping, a potential increase in pollution due to idling cars, the loss of main road parking spaces meaning the loss of residents parking – all making it more difficult for businesses, shoppers and commuters. However, the 20 mile per hour limit makes cycling more attractive and attendees wanted active travel made safer by investing in filling in pot holes and improving pavement surfaces with safer pedestrian crossing plus a strong demand for public funds be to spent instead on more buses.

Speaking after the meeting, Geraint Davies MP said “We’ve had a fantastically attended public meeting, with residents raising vital points concerning the Council scheme. This is clearly an important issue for many living in Sketty and Uplands and beyond as this is is an arterial road to and from the city.

“There are many factors that need to be considered when creating an active travel route namely the impact on the local economy and businesses, how it affects other transport options, the local environment and its impact on pollution, as well as the potential active travel benefits. It’s important that all these are carefully considered by the Council in the consultation.

“Whilst residents may support cycle schemes generally, there was a strong negative response to this scheme in particular by those attending with 80% against 12% in favour and 8% having mixed feelings.

“There were concerns raised around increased local parking difficulties for residents and shoppers, safety concerns over crossing the track and cycle collisions and tailbacks from narrowing of the highway. There is a risk that the road narrowing will particularly impact on traffic flows and emergency vehicles access in the area during road diversions for the increased number of big events being planned that would close Oystermouth Road. There is a need to engage more with local businesses on these proposals

“A main alternative to the proposed scheme raised by residents was improvements to the cycle route through Singleton Park to link to the cycle path along the beach front. I have long supported the need to improve lighting in the park and a more clearly segregated pathway may help to enable more and safer cycling. It is essential that we consider all options moving forward.

“Concerns were raised that the business case for proposals has not yet been made as the number of vehicles and bicycles travelling along the route before and after the scheme and during the three year construction is not yet known.

“Safety concerns were raised about bikes going in different directions colliding, in particular if they are fast-moving e-bikes in dark, slippery conditions with people opening parked car doors onto the two-way cycle track.

“It was pointed out that from a train-user point of view the current cycle track proposed ends before arriving at the train station. Such routes need to help potential user groups, such as students and school children, cycle to and from where they need to go with cycle racks at the destinations and this has not been clearly demonstrated.

“It is important that the Council fully appreciated the level of local interest and strength of feeling about this scheme. As someone who in principle supports good active travel scheme, I believe that every effort needs to be made to ensure that any active travel scheme carries the support of local residents and makes both economic and environmental sense.

“I will be feeding back all of the thoughts presented by my constituents to the Council, who I am sure, will be grateful to hear the views of so many residents in the area. The public meeting is just one part of my enhancing and enriching the council’s consultation as the Swansea West MP and I am actively encouraging my constituents to feedback online to the Council and via me. All responses to me will be carefully collated and provided to the council. It is important that this scheme is not merely assessed on the criterion of encouraging active travel but factors in the impact on our local economy, environment and well being.

It should not be viewed in isolation but within a wider vision of greener transportation – that might include for instance a tram connection from the railway station to the seafront and onto Mumbles – with the seafront cycle path linking through Singleton Park into Sketty and Uplands.

“Overall my conclusion from listening to residents and evaluating the proposals is that this scheme does not represent good value for money for the taxpayer, will not bring significant benefits to cyclists and could cause significant inconvenience to residents whilst being detrimental to the local economy and environment. It is not part of an integrated vision to enable people, including those too old to cycle, to choose greener travel options including new and affordable public transport. As their MP I will continue to listen and represent my Sketty and Uplands constituents and put the interests of Swansea first in trying to help the Council invest wisely.”

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