A cyclist who visited the Lake District this summer, riding along a storm-damaged road which the council recently proposed to shut permanently, has spoken out about the "totally unnecessary" delay in repairing the route.
The quiet route alongside Thirlmere reservoir, part of the National Cycling Network and "one of the only safe road cycling routes leading towards Keswick", was badly damaged during Storm Arwen in 2021. Having been temporarily closed for two years, it now faces permanent closure.
Last week, we reported that Cycling UK had launched a campaign in response to Cumberland Council's consultation on closing the road, the cycling charity objecting to the proposal that would see cyclists forced to use the A591 instead, "a narrow section of busy A-road, hemmed in by walls with fast traffic and HGVs".
Furthermore, it was revealed that the council's diversion route "only stipulates suitability for vehicular traffic; therefore no diversion route is provided for pedestrians and cyclists at this time", something Cycling UK branded "ridiculous".
The story prompted road.cc reader Dave to get in touch with his own first-hand experience of riding in the area during a cycle tour in June. With "no knowledge" of the closure and deciding it was "much safer than going back and cycling up a busy main road", he joined a local rider who told him you could get through, the pair clambering past the gates and fallen trees to slowly and carefully continue along the closed road.
"He also had some fairly critical comments about the council and their indifference to the situation," Dave recalled. "I am very much a law-abiding citizen and I take responsibility for my own actions and safety. Although I do not like having to do things like this, I consider it was much safer than going back and cycling up a busy main road.
"As you can see by the position of my bike it was possible, with difficulty, to get the bike, the panniers and myself over the wall and the fences. I even climbed back to get the photo. It was fairly obvious that other people had done the same and there was a difficult but manageable route past the fencing."
The damage to the road is mainly fallen trees, as seen in one of the photos Dave took, but the council also says there is a risk of falling rocks however, as pointed out by Cycling UK, "there are plenty of roads around the country where falling rocks remain a risk without resulting in the extreme solution of permanent closure", notably the A591 on the opposite shore.
"Again, there was an obvious route through and evidence of plenty of use," Dave said of the way through the damaged section. "The final obstacle was the next fence. very similar scenario to the first one with clear evidence of a route past it.
"It seemed clear to me, and the other cyclist I met, that: "There has been a totally unnecessary delay on dealing with this route. If it had been important for motorised traffic it would have been done very quickly.
"The blocked off route appeared to me as being used as a very convenient free and spacious timber yard for getting the trees cut up, out and probably sold for a good price. No time pressure or costs either.
"It is such a good alternative route that I would imagine whatever they do to try and permanently close it, people will find a way through on foot for sure and on bikes for riders who can lift them high enough. Two closed-off, dead-end routes in this quiet location will lead to all sorts of problems.
"It should be obvious, for all the reasons you have pointed out, that this route should be kept open and if not as an open road at least as a restricted byway or bridleway for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders."
Cycling UK has urged people to email Cumberland Council before the consultation closes this week (15 September) and has drawn up a template objection listing its criticisms.
"The council is opting to close one of the most enjoyable and atmospheric cycling routes in the Lake District," the charity and campaign group said.
"Crucially, any risk assessment seems to have been focused solely on the risk of falling rocks on this road, without looking at the bigger picture of cycle safety. Closing this route forces cyclists onto a busy, and arguably much less safe, A-road up the eastern bank of the reservoir.
"We think it's more than just a local issue: it has a much wider impact. The closure shifts cyclists, horse riders and walkers from a safe, quiet road, to a busy, unsafe A-road, without any comparative safety audit. That disregards the Traffic Regulation Act criteria for making an order, and is a flawed decision-making process."
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.