It will come as no surprise to hear that Peter Ward first came up with the idea of a Preston cycleway while he was on his bike.
The former international cyclist thought it would be a great way to mark the city’s Guild year in 2012.
That was back in 2005, and it took until last August to see his dream turn into the Guild Wheel.
One year on from the opening of the 21-mile circular route around the city, he is confident it is a real asset that has touched the lives of thousands of people,
Now 79 and still covering about 100 miles each week, Peter had a vision to create a route that would be safe, away from busy roads and both accessible and attractive to all. And it seems he has achieved his goals.
Carefully designed to take in as much as possible of the River Ribble, the route also runs through Brockholes Nature Reserve, two sites of special scientific interest, parks and leafy lanes.
It lies within just 1.5 miles of the majority of Preston’s population, making it a popular choice for commuters wanting a greener journey to work.
“It’s been a heck of a lot of work but it’s amazing and it received the most significant community support of any project previously designed in Preston,” says Peter.
The reasons behind that are varied, but a quick look at the profile of those using the route shows that it really has captured everyone’s imagination.
Primary school children have created an audio trail or musical collage, accessible through smart phone swipeable codes along the route, groups walk sections of the wheel to keep fit, commuters use it to get to and from work, and fund- raisers see it as an ideal challenge to complete.
The Guild Wheel has also had a knock-on effect that has swelled the ranks of Red Rose Olympic Cycling Club on Bartle Lane, Preston.
“There’s been a real influx of young cyclists who are really keen,” says coach Colin Humphreys.
“We’ve probably seen a 20 per cent rise in membership because of the fact that the kids can now go out cycling with mum and dad. I think it’s brilliant, it’s been a great investment and has proved very successful for our club.” In total the Guild Wheel project cost £2.7m, with Lancashire County Council contributing £2m and the Guild Wheel Users Group, of which Peter Ward is chair, a further £600,000.
Money from the group helped in a variety of ways, including with the installation of a Toucan crossing on London Road.
More work is scheduled to take place in the coming months with a diversion away from one busy stretch near Bluebell Way.
County Coun Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for environment, planning, and cultural services, said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response to the Guild Wheel.
“Some of our officers who have spent years working on similar environmental projects tell me the number of people who have taken the trouble to write or email about their experience of using the route is completely unprecedented.
“Many of the emails are from new cyclists or people who used to cycle but have not done so for a long time.
“In all cases the opportunity presented by the Guild Wheel to ride on an attractive, traffic-free route close to where they live has inspired them to get on a bike.
“Cycling is currently undergoing a revolution in popularity so the timing of the Guild Wheel opening couldn’t have been better, but it’s also something that is a permanent feature of Preston and will be enjoyed by future generations.”
As for Peter Ward, he couldn’t be happier about seeing his germ of an idea transformed into reality and he is optimistic about the future of cycling in the city.
“When I designed it I thought we might get up to 1,000 cyclists using it each week, but recent figures have recorded four times that number.”
In fact a count during June logged 1,000 people using the route on one day - the highest number to date.
“At the time talking about investment in cycling was like being a voice in the wilderness,” says Peter.
“At least now that voice has started to be heard. Things are improving at last.”