Have your say on 2.3m Downs loop path proposal
A PUBLIC consultation on a proposal for a 2.3m loop path on the Downs has been launched by the group behind the annual Cycle Sunday event.
The proposal has been co-developed with the charity Greenways and Cycleroutes. It includes a zebra crossing on Stoke Road near the Water Tower to improve access to the Downs, and traffic calming along Circular Road, which will take the form of speed tables that are designed as continuous raised crossings.
In addition, accessible paths will also be created from Stoke Road to the Sea Walls, some of which will be built on an existing route over well trodden grass. There will also be a new path to replace the narrow and uneven one alongside Ladies Mile, and the paths will be 3m wide and designed to be wheelchair, buggy, scooter and bike friendly.
Vicki Cracknell set up Cycle Sunday in 2015. Speaking about the plans, she said: “Since 2015, families and less confident cyclists have come to Cycle Sunday events to safely explore the Downs by bike. Our events have demonstrated a huge interest in cycling around the Downs, with over 3,000 participants at our last event. That’s where we started from, but this is about more than just helping children learn to cycle.
“We’ve spent a lot of time designing this route keeping everyone who uses the Downs in mind. This means there is a strong element of compromise in this proposal.
“With its 400 acres of beautiful flat parkland, the Downs is such a special place. By creating accessible paths for leisure and exercise and encouraging considerate use of them, many more people could enjoy the area.
“We are looking for a solution that provides a smooth, even surface that would mean that people could arrive by bus at Stoke Road and get all the way to the Sea Walls in a wheelchair or pushing a buggy. We hope that, during the consultation, people will remember that everyone should be able to access the Downs, whatever their age or level of fitness. We are delighted that the Downs Committee has given us approval to move to the next stage of public consultation.”
Robyn Strange, aged 11, has participated in several Cycle Sunday events and commented: “Children need to feel safe on their bikes, they need to enjoy it. Parents should not feel stressed because of cars and other dangers on the road when cycling with their children. Cycling is something for everyone to enjoy and that is why this is so important.”
Keen cyclist Eleanor Hewitt also added: “I also use a wheelchair so feel an accessible path is a much needed amenity for everyone to enjoy the Downs area and its natural beauty. There are many and varied uses for the proposed path and I am fully in support of the benefits for all."
Councillor Paula O’Rourke sits on the Downs Committee and added: “I’m pleased I was able to use my position on the Downs Committee to persuade members of the benefits of cycling on the Downs and that, as a result, they now support this application.
“We still need to show that there is public support for the Downs Loop, so we’re urging members of the public to complete the survey.”
The plans state that the paths will have a ‘natural look in keeping with the landscape’ and if the proposal is successful, then the group will approach large charitable foundations for funding. The public are being asked to comment throughout August and September and the full proposals can be found at: www.thedownsloop.com