Developers could be asked to plug the holes in Leighton Buzzard’s cycling network as a planning condition when housing is approved.
With Central Beds Council’s finances under strain, that was identified as a way of improving bike routes around the town, when the council’s leader James Jamieson met with Leighton Buzzard campaign group BuzzCycles.
Following a visit by Andrew Selous MP last year, this time it was the turn of Councillor Jamieson to be taken on a bicycle ride around Leighton Buzzard and Linslade with BuzzCycles members.
Cllr Jamieson, himself a keen cyclist, was shown some of the best and worst examples of cycling infrastructure in the town in order to demonstrate the challenges the campaign group currently face in completing the cycle network or ‘Green Wheel’ around the town.
The Leader of the Council was interested to see the problems first hand and to meet with the BuzzCycles members who explained that in most cases it is just small gaps which remain in an otherwise reasonably good cycle network.
Cllr Jamieson said he felt there is the political will to support completion of the network, but said in times of financial constraints Central Beds Council is having to prioritise resources. He hopes that through local working with organisations such as BuzzCycles and with the support of Leighton-Linslade Town Council a plan can be developed to identify and prioritise gaps in the network. This will provide a basis to work with developers to ensure that contributions for the network are maximised and hence overtime delivered.
Peter Bate, chairman of Leighton BuzzCycles, said it had been a great opportunity to be able to spend time discussing the issues with Cllr Jamieson.
He said: “It seems that there is a shortage of resources within Central Bedfordshire Council which means they can’t always achieve as much as they would like and that officers may have to prioritise larger projects and this means opportunities to get developers to fund and build the small but crucial links to join up sections of cycle path are sometimes missed.”
Cllr Jamieson was shown the site of the old toilet block next to the Leighton Road canal bridge where a new access down onto the towpath could be created.
The group also rode along the towpath to show the council leader the link from the tow path to the well-used Black Bridge Railway Path and also the grand new Green Bridge at Tiddenfoot, which was designed to be part of a cycle route between the railway station and the new homes in south Leighton Buzzard.
Finally the ride visited the new Central Bedfordshire College site on Chartmoor Road where there are the beginnings of a new shared-use path which is hoped will be completed soon.
Mr Bate explained: “The Cycling Town Project that started in 2008 kickstarted an increase in cycling in the town but we risk going backwards into more congestion and worsening air pollution if we don’t complete the network soon.”
He pointed out that huge amounts were invested six years ago as part of the Cycling Town project to build the main sections of the cycle network, but attention has since turned elsewhere. He said the town is left with half-finished routes that don’t join up and those that were completed are now falling into disrepair through lack of maintenance.