Disability groups celebrate open access on cycle route
Throughout the summer Friends of the Fallowfield Loop worked with Sustrans to open up barriers and monitor behaviour along the path and peoples’ responses to the improved access for all sizes of bicycles.
The six mile linear park, which runs from Chorlton to Gorton along the old Manchester Central railway line, was converted to a cycle and walking route in the 1990s. Guidelines at the time stipulated regular barriers along its length as well as at access points to roads, to deter use by motorised vehicles.
The Friends of the Fallowfield Loop surveyed of over 300 people, including face-to-face interviews on the Fallowfield Loop and online feedback. Of the responses, 279 were positive about the lack of barriers along the path, while 41 were negative, and a further 19 were uncertain or positive (but with reservations). Their report recommends that the barriers along the route remain open.
Seth Ormsby, who cycles with the ability cycling community Simply Cycling, said:
“The Loop is fantastic for me now as I am unable to walk far, so once I am strapped into my Hase Recumbent I can just get on the loop straight from my house and go. I have only had my bike for about six months which has coincided well with the removal of some of the gates and barriers. Being able to cycle has given me a new lease of life and got me moving again.”
A representative from Friends of the Fallowfield Loop, added:
”In the light of the findings we are unanimous in our view that the open barrier policy should be continued indefinitely. The overwhelming response of cyclists is that the experiment has proved positive and has in many cases increased their use of the Loop. This includes not only those who use a variety of wide or long bikes, but also many using ordinary cycles who have found negotiating the internal barriers extremely difficult.”
Karen Brenchley, Network Development Manager for Sustrans in the North West commented:
“The new open access along the Fallowfield Loop has proved extremely popular with all types of bicycle users. While the barriers were originally installed for understandable reasons to improve safety, in reality they blocked many of the people who most benefit from using this traffic-free path. We will continue to work with the police and the local community to help reduce anti-social behaviour and promote good practice on a shared path.
“Around the country there are several examples of where barriers are being removed along the converted railway paths, which encourages everyone to access the paths and makes them busier. By helping to create a vibrant route we hope the Floop will continue to develop as a healthy travel option, avoiding roads, for people to walk and cycle around Manchester.”
Some respondents said motorbikes have been spotted on the path since the barriers were opened – but others said that there had been no increase in motorbike numbers relative to those observed before, with the barriers in place.
Other interviewees expressed concerns about people cycling too fast along the path since the restrictions were removed.
The report also noted that the path was busier and now attracted different types of non-motorised vehicles, including wheelchairs, recumbent bikes, trailers for children and cargo, and tandems. Interviewees also said there were more standard bicycles using the path as a route to work and school.
Sue Blaylock from the ability cycling community, Simply Cycling said:
"We have a range of adapted bikes, trikes and recumbents which allow people with disabilities to cycle. As they are much larger than standard two-wheel bikes there are very few traffic-free paths where we can take the group. Now the Fallowfield Loop has open access people who live nearby can use the route to travel around the city as part of their everyday lives. It would be fantastic if there were more routes like this with open access as they allow people with disabilities to remain mobile and active and healthy."
Sustrans and the Friends of the Fallowfield Loop will continue to keep the barriers open and work with the local community to monitor the path.
For more information on the report or to get involved, head to: www.fallowfieldloop.org/news/
Contributed by Gabriele Schliwa
Contributed by Steve Connor