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Leeds: Don’t let ‘cycle city’ plans ride all over walkers

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A planned £30m ‘cycle superhighway’ between Leeds and Bradford - dubbed a Highway to Health - could become a “highway to hell” for many pedestrians and towpath walkers unless action is taken now, council chiefs have been warned.

Councillor Andrew Carter, opposition Conservative group leader at Leeds city council, raised the issue at a recent meeting of the authority’s decision-making executive board.

The region has recently been granted an £18m Cycle City Ambition grant, as part of the overall £29m project.

The planned route set to be completed by September 2015 - will link Seacroft to Bradford.

However Coun Carter believes that the ambitious proposals, while bringing significant benefits, could create problems for pedestrians who regularly use the canal towpath between the two cities.

He said the stretch of towpath between Kirkstall in Leeds and Shipley in Bradford already throws up regular cases of “irresponsible cyclists causing havoc and threatening pedestrian safety”.

Coun Carter is now calling for early measures to ensure that any impact on pedestrians is mitigated before the proposals come to life.

Speaking at the meeting, Coun Carter said “the law of unintended consequences could come into play here” and that had not been taken into account in the planned delivery of the major project.

“People are subjected to the equivalent of road rage by cyclists and it’s not acceptable,” he said. “We need to get some sort of protection for walkers.”

Responding to the concerns, development and economy portfolio holder Coun Richard Lewis admitted some cyclists can “behave stupidly...and we cannot be encouraging people to be stupid”. “If we are putting this investment in cyclists, they are beholden to behave in a reasonable manner,” he said.

Speaking further after the meeting, councillor Carter urged the council to “take steps to ensure that this does not become a ‘highway to hell’ for families and walkers who could be inundated by cyclists”.

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