Pollution and congestion fears over incomplete cycle network in Leighton Buzzard

Andrew Selous MP on his cycling tour of the area
Andrew Selous MP on his cycling tour of the area

Leighton Buzzard is at risk of going backwards with more air pollution and congestion due to incomplete sections of the cycling network.

That’s the claim of cycle campaign forum Leighton BuzzCycles who say progress has faultered since Leighton-Linslade was designated a Cycling Town in 2008, winning £1.8m of funding.

The group took South West Beds MP Andrew Selous on a bicycle tour around Leighton Buzzard and Linslade recently to highlight the problems.

Mr Selous, who has recently been appointed co-chair of the All Parliamentary Cycling Group, 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.

Mr Selous said that he understood their frustration in how things had seemingly stalled and promised to take things up with the Leader of Central Bedfordshire Council.

“Cycling shouldn’t be at the bottom of the pile” he said. “This is not about being anti-car: the bike is the ideal mechanism for short journeys across town, such as taking the kids to school.”

Peter Bate, chairman of Leighton BuzzCycles stressed that it is not shortage of funding that is the stumbling block but lack of political will at a local level.

“Often the policies are there but they are not followed through,” he explained, “particularly when it comes to granting planning permissions.

“This means opportunities to get developers to fund and build the small but crucial links to join up sections of cycle path are missed.”

On a bicycle lent by local bike shop Dorvics (his is kept in London where he regularly cycles) Mr Selous was shown the site of the old toilet block next to the tow path beside the Canal Bridge.

This redundant piece of land could be used to create a new access down onto the tow path from the south side of Leighton Road, something that would benefit pedestrians as well as cyclists.

Leighton Linslade was designated a Cycling Town in 2008 winning £1.8M of funding. Mr Bate said: “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 and the town is left with half routes that don’t join up and those that were completed are now falling into disrepair through lack of maintenance.

The group then rode along the topath to show the MP the White Bridge, with its steps that are a barrier for pushchair and wheelchair users as well as bicycles; 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; and the section of Grovebury Road near the doctors’ surgeries where only part of the pavement has been widened in an as yet incomplete attempt to create a shared-use safe cycle route to schools.