Plans to extend a shared walking and cycling path, which the government says will increase connectivity and provide safer active travel routes for local communities, boosting their health and wellbeing, have been heavily criticised by residents, with one responding to the launch of the project’s consultation process by branding the scheme “a waste of money when the NHS is in need, families are going hungry, and old people can’t heat their homes”.
Last week, the Welsh government and the Mid Wales Trunk Road Agent (NMWTRA) presented their proposals for phase two of the Llandrindod Wells to Howey Active Travel Route, phase one of which was commenced in October 2022, and which will involve widening and improving the surfaces of the existing pavements to create a shared-use walking and cycling path between the spa town and the neighbouring village in Powys.
According to the Welsh government, the active travel scheme – which also includes upgrading footways to provide pedestrian priority across side roads and updated signal-controlled junctions – will help reduce reliance on single-occupancy car use, protect vulnerable road users, benefit the health and wellbeing of local communities in Powys, and reduce emissions.
By linking Llandrindod with its neighbouring communities towards Howey through safer active travel infrastructure – albeit without segregated walking and cycling routes due to restrictions on the road corridor by adjoining properties – Wales’ Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters says the scheme will “encourage more and more people to regularly walk and cycle for journeys instead of using a car, connecting people with where they live and where they need to go”.
The Welsh government also said that the scheme forms part of its plan, required by the Active Travel (Wales) Act, to foster “significant health benefits for individuals” through active travel.
“Walking and cycling for short journeys can also increase levels of physical activity, supporting both physical and mental health,” the government said.
However, despite its claimed health and societal benefits, the scheme has been branded a “shameful and unforgivable waste of money” by some residents, who claim the funding could have been better spent on the NHS.
Commenting on the local council’s social media announcement of the scheme’s month-long public consultation process, which runs until 14 December, Alison Dale wrote: “What a waste of money. When the NHS is in need, and families going hungry, old people can’t heat [their] homes, but let's put a cycle track in – bloody crazy. I think I have ever seen about two people on bikes on the first bit.”
“They are determined to take our cars off us in the name of a non-existent climate crisis,” added Peter Gilbert.
Meanwhile, Gilbert – who says he enjoys walking and cycling – also criticised the decision to narrow part of the road to allow for the widened shared-use path, which he described as a “a total act of irresponsible stupidity”.
“Widen footpaths/cycle lanes as much as you like IF you use or buy up space in the neighbouring fields,” concurred Rory Johnson.
“But, let's keep it simple: Don’t narrow the existing road! That road is a through road – for people getting through Mid Wales. We have no bypasses, no dual carriageway, no motorways. For most of our journeys it's the only road, and constricting it with bike lanes/wider footpath (which will remain largely empty) will create a problem rather than solve one.”
“Great idea making the pavements wider than the road! I know someone [who has] lost three wing mirrors already,” Andria Davies added.
Another resident, lorry driver Michael Gough, claimed that his company’s lorries have mounted the pavement on certain sections of the new route, and called on Powys County Council to share the results of a safety assessment carried out earlier this year by the Mid Wales Trunk Road Agent.
“I have said on many occasions that there are no issues with cycle paths, but Powys have put this in the wrong place and need to learn from this before any more are built,” he said.
Responding to Gough’s complaint, Lib Dem county councillor Jake Berriman wrote: “I absolutely share your frustration at not being given the stage 3 audit as requested. I accept that puts us in a very poor light, but assure you that I have not seen it, having repeatedly asked officers for it, who have requested permission from the Government to release it.
“It is quite unacceptable the way we are all treated by the Welsh Government.”
Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.