The Sublime and the Ridiculous

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:-

http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=6339695

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.

phone pics june 2014 259
The start of the route

Unfortunately the access to the path isn’t so good:-

Gate No. 1The First Barrier

 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:-

Unlocked Access Point!

Unlocked Access Point!

Gate No. 2

 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 :-

Bridge Under Furnace Road 2
Bridge Under Furnace Road 2

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:-

phone pics june 2014 262
Bridge Under Ashburnham Road
Gate No. 3
Gate No. 3 to Randall Square
phone pics june 2014 264
Padlocked Access gate

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:-

Waun Sidan Gate

Waun Sidan 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:-

Duh!

Duh!

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:-

The Road To Cefn Sidan - OK Factory Road Pembrey!

The Road To Cefn Sidan – OK Factory Road Pembrey!

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:-

MCP going east

Millennium Coast Path

with views like this:-

phone pics june 2014 271

but surfaces like this:-

Ouch!

Ouch!

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:-

Home

Home

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.

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11 Responses to The Sublime and the Ridiculous

  1. Bob Andrews says:

    I have to agree with those A frames. My road bike goes through but the straight bars on the hybrid do not. Presumably whoever places these is not a cyclist.

    We do need to report all problems with furniture or overgrown vegetation to the local council/Sustrans and keep on at them. Another bugbear is the trash left after hedge cutting. Carmarthen CC have told me that they will not chase this. However if numerous cyclists report every instance they may change their attitude.

    Having had a grumble we are fortunate to have some excellent traffic free routes

  2. geoffrone says:

    Totally agree Bob. At the end of this week (Bike Week) all the comments Carmarthenshire Cycling Forum have received will be used to help formulate a plan of action to try to persuade CCC to improve the situation.

  3. Great write-up! I’m still baffled by these A-frames. What’s the reason for them? Is it to keep out kids on mopeds?

    And is it the local council that have insisted on them being installed? Surely they must have some FoI-able decision-making document!

    If they’re a barrier to people with bikes (or wheelchairs, etc.) then they’re completely at odds with the purpose of the path. It’s like putting a 4-foot high wall along the path somewhere. Sure, it’ll keep motor-scooters out, but it’ll keep out people walking too!

    • geoffrone says:

      Yup, kids on mopeds but more realistically nutters on trials bikes. There are alternatives and even the A frames pictured can all be widened. many times it is the landowner who insists on them so Sustrans fit them but here, it is council land and the highways dept firmly to blame.

      • alstorer says:

        Anything that can keep out motorbikes will make life difficult for wheelchairs, mobility scooters, trikes, long bikes, bike trailers and even some standard bikes. If there’s an issue with trails motorbikes and scooters it needs police action, not discriminatory barriers.

      • geoffrone says:

        Yup, but when the police can’t even stop the pi## heads on a Saturday night from having a “smashing time” we have a problem.

      • alstorer says:

        We do indeed have a problem. But these barriers are in no way an answer.

      • Tim says:

        My understanding is that Sustrans generally feel the cure is worse than the disease in these cases. On my local converted loop-line they tend to have low level “baffle” barriers for the same reason – we have A-frames on cycleways nearby.

        I much prefer the barriers – I only have to slow a bit for them – but I would rather have neither, and I’m not even trying to get a cargo bike, a kiddy trailer or a trike through them.

        Who knows whether trials bikes would be an issue without them – it seems crazy that kids (or parents) buy these things which can’t be used legally anywhere! But we do get a few around.

        I think on balance I’d rather see the barriers gone altogether, and if motor-bikers become a problem then they should be easy enough to catch occasionally, and a few motorbikes put in the crusher should be a good deterrent.

      • geoffrone says:

        Thanks Tim, a few crushed trails bikes may well “encouraeur les autres”! In the meantime we’ve recently had the tragedy of a dad being killed and his seven year old son being critically injured whilst riding their motor bike on one of our local cycle paths. Rather than use this as an example of how dangerous these paths are for motor bikes I expect the council will increase the number of barriers.

  4. Ryan Grimm says:

    If you place a rubbish bin near the bridge that looks deliberately like a target (with bullseye and everything), perhaps the inebriated can do their best to pot the bottles at it instead of the bridge walls…..the act of getting people to have fun doing things has been shown to work quite well.

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