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Need to find the balance between walkers and cyclists
1:00pm Thursday 20th February 2014 in Opinion
CONCERN expressed over plans to widening a woodland footpath near Grasmere raises a controversial question - should cyclists be allowed to share the same space as pedestrians?
Certainly Lakes parish councillor Paul Truelove doesn’t think so.
He believes widening the footpath through Penny Rock Woods would encourage cyclists and put pedestrians and disabled users at risk.
However, a Lake District National Park Authority survey as part of the GoLakes Travel project resulted in more than twice as many local respondents in favour of the proposed cycle route than were against.
There is no doubt such a route is vital if a key aspiration of GoLakes - to provide a safe route for cyclists of all abilities which avoids the busy A591 - is to be achieved.
But concerns should not be dismissed lightly.
Mr Truelove raises a fundamental point about the relationship between pedestrians and cyclists that ought to have a resonance in towns as well as the countryside.
In Kendal, for example, cyclists are allowed to ride ‘the wrong way’ along Highgate and Stricklandgate against the one-way flow in a largely pedestrianised zone. Should that really be allowed?
The cycling fraternity might justifiably argue that such a concession is necessary to encourage more bicycle use. They probably also believe that a bike is not as dangerous as a car.
Yet cyclists surely know what it’s like to feel intimidated by more speedier modes of transport.
In other words, a cyclist can be as frightening to a pedestrian as a car is to a cyclist.
Ultimately, it is a question of balance. While it is right to encourage more cycling, cyclists must be prepared to accept justifiable criticism - and perhaps even punishment - if they ride dangerously or without due care.
Meanwhile, pro-cycling groups argue that the perception of conflict between cyclist and pedestrian is greater than reality.
Let’s hope they are right.
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