Alistair Brownlee backs campaign for new crossing at Skelton Grange Road Bridge on Trans Pennine Trail
Leeds Olympian Alistair Brownlee has backed a campaign to create a more accessible crossing for walkers, runners and cyclists on the Aire and Calder canal.
The Leeds Cycling Campaign (LCC) say the steep steps at Skelton Grange Road Bridge make access to the towpath difficult for anyone with a bike and impossible for people in wheelchairs or with chronic health conditions.
Recent improvements to the traffic-free route between Leeds and Wakefield, plus the impact of Covid on outdoor activity, have seen more people using the area.
Around 500 people use the major green highway every day for leisure or commuting, avoiding the crowded and dangerous roads into Leeds city centre from the south.
But many riders with e-bikes, families with buggies, mobility scooter users and others with disabilities are prevented from using the route, which is part of the Trans Pennine Trail and Sustrans' National Cycle Network.
In 2006 a feasibility study, Leeds City Council recommended a new pedestrian and cycling bridge at Skelton Grange, but this has not happened.
LCC said the steps have been an obstacle for at least 30 years and must be replaced, with a rerouting of the path through the council-owned Thwaites Mill museum another option.
Gold medal-winning triathlete Alistair Brownlee said: “The Aire and Calder canal tow path has just been resurfaced and is a fantastic active travel corridor.
"It makes up part of the Trans Pennine Trail and the Sustrans’ National cycle network and is a great commuter route into the city centre.
"It is a quiet and traffic free path that winds its way through natural and green habitats even though the user is never far from habitation.
"Promoting and increasing its usage are fantastic causes.
"Unfortunately, at the moment, access to it is restricted to users who can make it down a steep and narrow flight of steps."
Brownlee said a new bridge would help attract more people to the area.
He added: "We all know the importance of health and activity, especially in the current climate.
"This project would be of real benefit to all parts of the local community."
Gerri Kostrzewa, chair of Leeds Cycling Campaign, said: "We believe that both potential solutions need to be explored as a matter of priority, in the interest of public health and active travel.
"Funding needs to be found to undertake further feasibility work and deliver the best option for everyone as soon as possible.
“We believe that providing access for everyone at Skelton Grange Road Bridge is a major test of our ambition, in Leeds and West Yorkshire, to create a sustainable, safe and socially just city.”
LCC is working with Leeds City Council, Leeds Local Access Forum, Leeds Civic Trust, Sustrans, the Canal and Rivers Trust and the Friends of the Trans Pennine Trail to explore both these options.
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