Tributes paid to Preston's Guild Wheel creator Peter Ward
Brian Cookson described the former international racer as “one of the most influential people in my life.”
Peter, who served as a Preston councillor for more than 30 years and was a magistrate for four decades, passed away peacefully in the Royal Preston Hospital surrounded by his family.
He had been ill since April, but looked to be improving when his condition suddenly detriorated.
“He had even been talking about getting back on his bike,” said his wife of 62 years, Nora, a former chair of Lancashire County Council.
“I was so proud of him. I couldn’t have wished for a better husband and a better life. The whole family was with him at the end, even the grandchildren. That’s how much he was loved.”
Peter, who was awarded an MBE in 2013 for his services to cycling, was half of the inspiration behind the creation of the Guild Wheel. His co-designer, fellow cyclist Mike Atkins, died in 2013.
Brian Cookson, president of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), said: “We had great times on the bike, training and racing, and many fascinating discussions on the way to and from races. Although it is many years ago now, those were part of my formative years and I will never forget them.
“Peter helped me to raise my aspirations in life because he always had the attitude that that if you wanted something improved or changes then it was up to you to contribute to that change.
“So I can say in all honesty that I would never have begun the journey that has ended in me becoming UCI President if I hadn’t known Pete. It was a privilege to have known him.”
The nationally acclaimed Guild Wheel was created as the legacy of the 2012 Preston Guild. The 21-mile orbital greenway around the city had been years in the planning and is now used by more than 100,000 cyclists, runners and walkers every year.
But five years on Peter found himself fighting an exhausting campaign to prevent users being put at risk by traffic being created by housing developments springing up across the north of Preston.
“In recent years the Guild Wheel gave him too much stress,” said Nora. “His main aim throughout had been the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and children – that’s why he designed it – and what they are doing now hurt him deeply.”
One of his three children, daughter Cerise, said: “It was a real battle for him, really difficult. We all helped him with the campaign, but it was just draining.
“We all hope the Guild Wheel is a legacy to my dad – and for the whole of Preston – because it meant so much to him.”
Her sister Marie added: “Dad will leave such a big hole in all our lives.
“He was such an inspiration to us, such a role model for all our children. We are all so proud of him.”
Peter, who became a Guild Burgess in Preston in 2012, served the council in two spells and was a former housing chairman.
As an international rider he was nicknamed “the Stirling Moss of cyling” because of his fearless riding style which brought him more than his fair share of spectacular crashes.
He won more than 30 first class events and rode for England three times. He continued cyling for pleasure until his illness in April this year, often riding up to 70 miles a day, even in his eighties.
Away from sport and civic duties, Peter was a dedicated trade unionist at British Aerospace at Warton, eventually being elected as national president of TASS, now Unison.
In 1992 he was involved in commissioning the sculpture of the 1842 martyrs in front of Preston’s former Corn Exchange.
Councillor Peter Rankin, Leader of Preston City Council said: “It’s very sad to hear that Peter has died. He has been a marvellous ambassador for cycling in Preston for many years and well deserved his MBE in 2013 for his work on the Guild Wheel.
“Not many of us will leave a lasting legacy; Peter has.
His enthusiasm, determination, drive and commitment to cycling were instrumental in seeing through the achievement of the fantastic Guild Wheel. Peter of course was a man of many parts. He had been a staunch trade unionist when he worked at BAE, and whilst a Councillor on Preston Council was a focused and enthusiastic Chair of Housing.
“But it will be the Guild Wheel that Peter will be most remembered for. His vision made it happen. “