STRONG opposition to linking a bike route through Ambleside to the national cycle network was expressed at a Lakes Parish Council meeting.
But councillors were told the move must be put in a ‘strategic context’ as the town was central to a cycle network and the development of sustainable transport was essential.
The Lake District National Park Authority’s sustainable development director Steve Ratcliffe said consultation exercises showed a majority of residents in favour of a cycle route through town.
But opinion was split on whether a shared route – pedestrians and bikes – through Rothay Park to the Under Loughrigg road was favourable to a route via Stoney Lane.
Residents’ views on all sides of the debate were heard at the meeting and there was strong opposition to the Rothay Park option because of dangers posed by speeding cyclists to primary school children in Vicarage Road, and to people of all ages walking or relaxing in the park.
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“Making Rothay Park part of a national route will have cyclists forging through,” said Dr David Earnshaw. “Our park is a carefree wander zone and this mustn’t change. A change of use would be required for a shared path.”
Harry Manning, chairman of Ambleside Civic Trust, said his committee had fully supported the initial plan for a Stoney Lane cycle route, which involved crossing land owned by the Kelsick Foundation but leased to Cumbria Cumbria Council.
The meeting was told this plan had fallen through, and although Cumbria University was now keen to adapt part of its playing field to create a new Stoney Lane route, short-term funding was insufficient.
Mr Manning added that the trust did not see the need at all for a cycle route. But he said Rothay Park would pose fewer risks with new signage, possible widening of the path and flashing amber warning lights on either side of the school.
Parent and cyclist Barry Porter said the parish council should back a cycle route to promote children’s fitness and health and support Ambleside’s three bike shops. Coun Anne Sowerbutts described Ambleside as being under ‘terrific siege’ now that Sainsbury’s were coming. She said the town also faced the impact on trade of the introduction of parking meters, and a possible two new hotels.
Mr Ratcliffe said although he had every sympathy with local views, they could not try to stop discussion about Ambleside’s future. He said central government had funded a three-year, £3m visitor-focused project to enable GoLakes to develop sustainable transport.
“Cyclists using Google looking for local routes are already using Rothay Park, so let’s step in and manage it now,” he said.