Gate should be opened to create better cycling link between South Ribble and Preston," says campaigner

A cyclist is calling for the opening of a gate on the outskirts of Preston city centre which he says would complete an ideal commuter route between the city and South Ribble.

Tuesday, 11th August 2020, 9:00 pm

Veteran cycling campaigner Matt Hodges wants to see the present restriction removed from the Preston end of a path which runs over the old railway bridge across the river and cuts through Miller and Avenham parks.

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However, riders are currently confronted with an impasse when the route passes beneath the recently replaced East Cliff bridge – and instead have to use what Mr. Hodges describes as an “absolutely tortuous” alternative.

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A locked gate blocks the path for cyclists travelling between Preston and South Ribble (image: Neil Cross)

“Cyclist have to drop down a path into Avenham Park – it’s quite steep and they have even had to put in a chicane to stop people hurtling down there.

“Then eventually you come out on Ribblesdale Place and have to head up the length of Winckley Square to get onto Fishergate. There is a slightly shorter option via Garden Street, but that’s not at all obvious to people who don’t know the area.

“The point is that none of this encourages people to cycle. It would be off-putting to anybody from South Ribble who might otherwise be tempted to ride to the station to continue their commute – or even those whose final destination is the city itself, but who would only come by bike if they had a more direct and less arduous route.

“I just cannot see the logic of not opening this gate,” Mr. Hodges added.

There is no way through beneath the East Cliff bridge for those on two wheels - or two legs

The path under the bridge is shown as a proposed cycling route on a map of the area – but it has never officially been designated as an option for those on two wheels, because the gate leads to a private car park used by railway workers.

Mr. Hodges says that while some enhancements within the car park – like a dropped kerb and a marked-out route for cyclists – would be welcome, all it really needs is for someone with a key to open the gate.

“Even without any additional work, it would be far safer and more convenient than the current situation,” he said.

A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said there had not been a through-route beneath the bridge even before the current gate was installed, but added: “We are continuing to pursue the development of a cycle link between Avenham Park and Preston railway station, and are in the process of arranging a further meeting with Network Rail and Avanti West Coast [the train operator] to take this forward.

“The replacement of the bridge on East Cliff as part of the redevelopment of the Park Hotel means we are now in a position to make further progress.

“We cannot facilitate journeys for pedestrians and cyclists beyond Avenham Park along the existing path under the bridge until there is an agreed right of access across the car park in place.”