A group of around 50 members of the local community of all ages enjoyed a safe and pleasant cycle ride on the new Fender Lane cycle route on Saturday morning (18 June.)
Work on the protected cycle lane between Bidston and Moreton started in March this year and was completed May. It was funded by central government through the ‘Emergency Active Travel Fund.’
It not only provides greater safety for cyclists but also provides extra safety for pedestrians via the one-lane break between motor vehicles and the pedestrian pathway.
Ed Lamb, who organised the event said, “Myself and friends from Merseyside Cycling Campaign wanted to say ‘thanks’ to Wirral Council for getting the scheme across the line and completed.
“It’s a bold, ambitious design that deserves praise. It’s a route that was previously off-limits to all but the most experienced of riders so it’s wonderful to see a key cross-Wirral route opened up for existing and future cyclists and micro-mobility users.”
Ed says the benefits of this project for the local and wider community will be huge; “The cost of living crisis is biting hard so this and other schemes like it allow for virtually free, quick travel across this part of Wirral.”
Additionally, there are the environmental benefits; “We have a huge job on our hands to hit our environmental targets so we’ll need to build on this success to make cycling the easy and natural choice for short trips,” he says.
The ride attracted quite a number of people and Ed said it was amazing to see cycles of all kinds on the ride – road bikes, cargo bikes, e-bikes and hand cycles. “There really is a cycle for every occasion.”
“The public health benefits are huge,” Ed said, “so it was fantastic to see people of all ages and backgrounds on the ride. Age is no barrier to cycling if you provide the right infrastructure.
“We had over 50 people join the community ride which was amazing, but it was also notable that many others came through the route while we gathered. Word is getting around that it’s open. I’d encourage all Wirral residents to give it a go and join the push for more schemes like it in the coming months and years.”
Simon O’Brien, Liverpool City Region Active Travel Commissioner, and actor and presenter told birkenhead.news, “The thing about Wirral is that it’s fantastic for riding your bike if you go up and down, but getting across has always been a tricky thing!
“Fender Lane bridges that gap, across the motorway, it’s a direct route, it takes you straight to Bidston station. So all in all, it’s a well thought out, good piece of infrastructure.
There have been concerns from some local residents about emergency service vehicles being delayed because the cycle route has taken one lane away from each side of the dual carriageway, with the road now being a single lane for motor vehicles in each direction, where before there were two.
Simon addressed this by saying, “The funny thing about cycling lanes is that emergency vehicles have the right to use them. So, if an emergency vehicle ever gets stuck in traffic and there’s a cycle lane next to it, well, it’s a quick way out! So anyone who worries about emergency services being held up, in actual fact cycle lanes help them get to where they need to get. It’s like a priority lane for emergency vehicles.”
birkenhead.news contacted Northwest Ambulance Service (NWAS), Mersey Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS), and Merseyside Police for comment on the claims of delays to their emergency vehicles on Fender Lane, since the introduction of the cycle lanes.
Unfortunately, at the time of publication, Merseyside Police had not responded.
However, Sector Manager Roger Jones from NWAS said, “We haven’t received any major concerns regarding the new cycle lanes from our staff.
“Ambulance crews are well trained and practised in driving […] we are grateful to all road users for taking safe action to assist all emergency vehicles in their journeys.”
A spokesperson for MFRS said, “There are no reports of MFRS vehicles being held up due to the new cycle lane.”
The poles, or ‘wands’, are flexible and allow emergency vehicles to join the cycle lane at any point along the route, should they encounter traffic.
Concluding, Simon O’Brien said, “We all used to think for years that this kind of infrastructure was something for the continent or maybe London.
“Well, I’ve just been travelling around the country to places like Leicester, Halifax, Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, and this is what’s happening there. Sadly, in the Liverpool City Region we’re way behind.
“This [the Fender Lane cycle route] is now playing catch up. And if we put this kind of infrastructure in, it will get used.
“People say ‘not enough people cycle for this kind of infrastructure to be worth while,’ but I always say ‘in 1834 no one got on the train because there were no train lines!”
Echoing the sentiments of the line in the Kevin Costner movie ‘Field of Dreams’: ‘If you build it, they will come,’ Simon said, “Yeah. So if so if you put the infrastructure in, over time people will get used to it and feel safe to start using it.”
Danny and Harry
Brothers, Danny and Harry, have matching e-bikes and they both use them for commuting to work. When the new cycle lane opened, Harry sold his car and bought an e-bike, as it is now safe to cycle along Fender Lane, making for a healthier, greener, and more pleasant commute.
Harry told us, “I live in Moreton and work at Bidston Moss, so I use this route every day.” Of the new protected cycle lane, Harry says, “It means I can cycle to work in my uniform and don’t have to wear any special equipment. I can arrive at work very relaxed and not worry about the dangers of riding in a main road.”
Danny said, “It’s fantastic to see the council bringing in something like this, because it shows that by providing proper infrastructure and encouraging cycling you get people like me and Harry cycling to work instead of driving.”
Ellis Palmer is a journalist who lives with cerebral palsy, a condition that affects his coordination and balance, both in his upper and lower body. He started using a handcycle for both work and for pleasure during the pandemic and it is his primary method of getting around.
Ellis told us that the new route is “miles better” than it was previously when there was no provision for cycles. “Let me be candid with you, I would have never used that route because it was too dangerous. There is no way I would have cycled along that road.
“Now if I have to cycle from my home in Birkenhead to Moreton or West Kirby, I’ve got a very easy way of doing it,” Ellis explained. “It’s a very pleasant route, because you’re not squeezed in and you can cycle alongside each other and have a chat. It’s much more sociable.”
Ellis is keen to point out that there are many people who can’t afford to run a car, with more people likely to be in that position as the pressures of the cost-of-living crisis increase. “Infrastructure like this opens up walking and cycling to people who might not be able to drive or maybe don’t have the money to run a car,” he says.
This infrastructure is “a good step forwards” he says “the lanes are wide enough that you don’t put yourself at risk, or in harm’s way.” But, “there’s a way to go yet when you just want to get from A to B” when cycling is the only means of transport available to you.