Recently, there have been a few conversations in the world of cycling campaigning about good and bad infrastructure. Two of the conversations have centred around cyclists having accidents as a direct result of badly planned infrastructure, another has looked at whether a particular path is “quite good” or just “OK”. It’s no surprise that most of the good infrastructure that is discussed and is used as a benchmark seems to come from the Netherlands whilst most of the bad stuff is from the UK. So, with that in mind (and nursing an injured shoulder made worse after slamming it into a narrow “A Frame” barrier!) I went on a quick infrastructure safari around Burry Port and Pembrey.
In many ways I am lucky, I live in a 20MPH area and arrive at a fully segregated though shared use path within 300 yards of my house. The route I chose comprised of a short section of NCN Route 4 that is also a “Safe Route in The Community”, a length of properly segregated next to a road track and part of the Millennium Coastal Path. All these paths are shared with pedestrians. Here’s the route:-
and here’s what part of the first part of the path looks like. It is a good new tarmac surface and runs like this for about a mile.
Unfortunately the access to the path isn’t so good:-
and these gates will become a recurrent theme!
The path continues for about 300 yards until we reach another access point. Although I didn’t use it, I thought it would be worth a picture:-
Although it has an A Frame and anybody with a tandem, disability scooter, laden touring bike or trailer is going to have problem at these points, the installers have kindly left the gate unlocked – but fear not, it only get’s worse!
Shortly after gate No. 2 there is a road bridge – the road that goes over the path is Furnace Road :-
I have tried to show the spilled rubble covering the path – this continues under the bridge. Unfortunately the “under bridge” is used by local kids as a drinking and generally hidden place to mess about – what you can’t see in the photo are the finely ground up Stella bottles!The path then continues in a generally good if slightly overgrown state to the Bridge Under Ashburnham Road and the exit to Randall Square and the Primary School:-
A careful look at the bridge picture will show the dangling bramble snare that has been left to trap the unwary traveler and the ditch running along side the path. The “A Frame” photo doesn’t really do justice to the fiendishly narrow, shoulder damaging gap at the apex. The additional access gate has been conveniently locked.This path forms part of the “Safe Routes in the Community” network and is supposed to help children be more active in getting to and from school as an attractive link between Pembrey to Burry Port and the Secondary school at Glan Y Mor. So, access issues aside, how does it rate?
- Well, it is unlit throughout its length,
- there are three dark bridges,
- it is prone to flooding in the winter,
- a good part of the path is in a hidden gully
- it is littered with broken glass and ankle turning, wheel buckling pebbles in places.
- it is liberally sprinkled with dog muck.
More positively, it is traffic free and direct.
A quick point to note is that this path is the signed NCN Route 4 – a tourist route, Randall Square in Pembrey has a pub and a Spar Shop, would a sign pointing these out be that difficult?
To carry on the ride I exited the path at Waun Sidan and another gate:-
This one is the most fiendish of all as the rider has no alternative but to lift the front end of the bicycle and manhandle it about 600 milimetres to the other side – here’s an alternative picture with a different bike:-
This is not clever design by any standard and I’m surprised that Carmarthenshire County Council haven’t been lambasted by people with disabilities for this.
The route fiddles about for a couple of hundred yards until you get to this:-
Absolutely brilliant! OK, it’s shared use but hey, spot the pedestrian. this road goes all the way down to Pembrey Country Park and picks up NCN Route 4 westbound or turn east onto the Millennium Coastal Path:-
with views like this:-
but surfaces like this:-
To be absolutely frank, most of the time I don’t really notice the issues (apart from the access barriers), I use the paths daily either on my bike or walking the dog and have got used to their failings. When you live somewhere that looks like this:-
it’s easy to forget the mess on the Pembrey – Burry Port Safe Route but maybe for the sake of the children, we should just stop and look with fresh eyes.