People will soon be asked for their opinion following a review of one of Wirral’s cycle lanes.
Wirral Council is currently assessing the usage of the Fender Lane cycle route that runs along both sides of the road crossing the M53 motorway between Bidston and Moreton. Council officers confirmed this will be followed by a public consultation exercise.
The local authority has been carrying out a road safety audit and monitoring cycling and pedestrian traffic along the route using sensors. It is doing a similar exercise with a cycle route on New Chester Road.
The cycle lane was installed in 2022 using funding from the Department for Transport through the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority for new active travel infrastructure. It has been blamed since for traffic backing up in either direction on the road but also heavily defended by cyclists who say it provides a safe link between east and west Wirral.
During a discussion of Wirral Council’s active travel strategy at an environment and transport committee on 29 January, Moreton West councillor Vida Wilson raised the issue criticising the current state of the route, arguing not everyone can cycle and pointed to issues around the state of pavements.
She added, “What concerns me is not everyone can cycle even if they want to and we have had public money through the Liverpool City Region used for a cycle lane that is on the Fender bypass.
“That is in a hell of a state. It’s full of litter, it’s full of leaves, it’s not maintained even if cyclists wanted to cycle along there. The laugh of the populous is spot the cyclist, nobody uses it. Surely this money from the Liverpool City Region could be better invested to get people more active.”
The council’s approved active strategy outlines its vision for the borough stating that “regular activity can cut the risk of early death from all causes by more than 30%. We will improve equality and the health of our residents by making streets safer and welcoming to all. Our residents want to be active and there is a strong appetite for better cycling infrastructure, which we must act upon.”
The policy said that by increasing active travel, roads will improve for those who need to rely on cars, buses, and emergency services, adding, “People want to be able to access their workplaces, parks and local centres without feeling the need to drive, but in order to do so people need to feel safe and to feel like they belong on our roads when not driving a car.”
The policy was approved by Wirral’s Labour, Green, and Liberal Democrat parties with the environment committee’s three Conservative councillors voting against. Conservative deputy chair Max Booth suggested the policy appeared to be prioritising cyclists over pedestrians with only three mentions of the borough’s 2,000km of pavements in the strategy.
However, the vote against was criticised by Labour councillor Steve Foulkes who called them “a shambles,” adding, “If you don’t want active travel on Wirral, be brave enough to stand up and say you don’t want any active travel on Wirral and turn your backs on it.”
Cllr Foulkes said government policy dictated how much money was spent by the Liverpool City Region and if the council didn’t have a strategy and later turned down money for new infrastructure, it likely wouldn’t get it for projects in the future.
He added, “Build it and they will come and it’s very much about that emphasis on what the future will hold. It might not seem at the moment to be making that impact but these pieces of the jigsaw when they all come together will make a better place for everybody.”
Cllr Foulkes pointed out people who struggle to walk or are elderly may use mobility scooters, adding, “They need a safe passage and places to go. This is another element. I see lots of mobility scooters out on the highway because they can’t do it so we need to build the infrastructure for those as well.
“We can rail against it and make local cheap points about one scheme or another when its popular but if we don’t apply government policy and city region policy then the alternative is that we don’t have an active travel plan and we don’t get any money, turn our back, and pass that money over to Sefton and all the other boroughs.”