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On May 21st I attended a meeting in Unstone, NE Derbyshire, about the proposed cycle route along the B6057 and linking up the Peak Resort bridleways with Dronfield (although the planned route doesn’t quite reach Dronfield) This would be a major plank in the completion of a Sheffield to Chesterfield Cycle Route – the current route is described here.
The views expressed in this blog post are entirely my own.
Currently the cycling experience along here is pretty bad. When the A61 bypass was built nothing was done to rebalance this road in favour of walkers, cyclists, disabled people or horse riders. As a result most riders you see are youngish, male, wearing lycra helmets etc – the confident cyclist”. There is a steep gradient to the north of the route which attracts fast riding. There has been some criticism of the scheme from cyclists and this has mostly come from this type of cyclist. There would be nothing to stop this type of cyclist from continuing to use the road except that the carriageway would be narrower. As a fairly confident cyclist myself I think I would tend to stay on the road in the down hill direction and use the shared use path when climbing.
The village is blighted by what is in effect a major road running through it. The Post Office is the only local business left along the road. Although the Post Office is being provided with 3 parking spaces as part of the scheme (currently people park illegally outside or park on side roads and have to cross the road without a crossing the postmaster complained bitterly about it. Local people commented that if he sold anything that was worth having other than stamps they would use it more.
There were a lot of deaf people in the room. Some were genuinely hard of hearing, others just didn’t want to hear what council officers and others had to say. One gentleman had to be taken out by his daughter after he constantly interrupted other speakers.
The council officers knew their stuff and did their best but didn’t come over particularly well.
The plan is for a shared use route, 1.4 miles long. mostly 3 metres wide, but will be 2.6 metres wide in places because there isn’t enough road space for the full width. The cost is £900k. from ring-fenced govt. funding.
The Railway Bridge is a problem, it has a narrow separate footbridge the current proposal is for Cyclists Dismount signs. This bridge would have to be rebuilt for electrification (the HS2 spur will run along here) so this would be the solutrion to that in the long term. Actually if you dismount on a narrow path you double the width you are taking up making it impossible for others to pass you – “Cyclists Dead Slow” would be better IMO.
Narrowing the road would bring down traffic speeds, a major cause of concern for everyone. However, the officers didn’t really provide the evidence for that.
The Business Case shows £5.95 return for every £1 spent.
The scheme would involve the Closure of Church St & Old Whittington lane, removing some rat-running.
There is some doubt as to whether the peak resort is going ahead? – as far as DCC knows it is, but if it doesn’t, the bridleway asset as well as the access road network is in place for whatever replaces it.
At the south end a link to Chesterfield is in the planning stages.
There was some talk about using the disused railway between Dronfield and Unstone instead (who know there was one?) I have my doubts about this as it doesn’t really connect the two communities but could make a good leisure route. You need to get across the railway to access it which would make it expensive. I plan to go and take a look
The meeting concluded with an informal vote which went against the scheme. However, I don’t feel that this in any way demonstrated local democracy – people didn’t seem to understand what they were voting about, and had no inkling that they were turning down a £900k investment in their community. I think it has been poorly marketed – it should be marketed as a traffic calming scheme with a shared us path included, not just a cycle route.
The attitude amongst attendees then was that they had a major problem with the road running through their village but weren’t prepared to allow anyone to do anything about it. I hope the scheme goes ahead.
*This refers to a catchphrase invented by Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters in the ’60’s. The were fervent advocates of the use of marijuana and LSD, and when discussing politics were adamant that the alleged heightened consciousness effects of these drugs should be brought into play. Tom Wolfe reported this in his seminal work, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” which inspired young people all over the world to adopt the alternative lifestyle advocated by the Pranksters. Marijuana production and use is now legal in many US states. Tom Wolfe died on May 14 2018, aged 88. R.I.P.
One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey is on at the Crucible, 8 Jun – 23 Jun.
Just south of Dronfield, a new bridleway route is emerging through Unstone: At the moment, you can access it along Sheffield Rd but when the works are complete you’ll be able to use it to avoid a busy section of the road completely. This is on the back of the Peak Gateway resort, a Center Parcs – type complex to be built in this area.
There’s a gap in the bridleway where it goes across a field but when complete it will enable you to get to Hill Top and hence across the A61 and into the Peak District.
Meanwhile a bit further West, the Rowsley – Matlock route is being officially opened this week.
Also S. Yorks police starting to use electric vehicles – up to 20 vehicles.
My question, which didn’t get asked, was: I see a lot of well-intentioned crossing schemes at major road junctions as I cycle around the UK. However a lot of these are poorly maintained, over-grown and strewn with broken glass and litter and if not unusable are highly unwelcoming, What measures are you taking to ensure that these schemes are kept open and clear for use?
(Examples: Crossing of the North Circular/A104 (Woodford)
Scammonden M62/NCN68 Crossing )
Another question did address this:
Will designated funds continue to be capital only (Relates to my question) – They are looking at resource being included in RIS2 which would allow for maintenance.
Advisory group includes Sustrans (Jason Torrance) & CBT (Bridget Fox)
Mike Wilson RIS2
(Road Investment Strategy 2)
Mike set out the decision making process
Consultation Jan 2018
RIS 1 included Trans-Pennine Links – See this doc:-
We’re having an e-bike tryout session on the 19th November at the Meersbrook Human Powered Vehicle Centre (head down the alley between 13 & 15 Lismore Rd to find it) Interested in trying out an electric bike, but not sure where to start? We’ll have a range of electric bikes to try, along with expert advice on hand, a wood-burning stove on the go and tea, coffee and cake (of course!) Drop in any time between 12 & 4.Sign up at https://www.facebook.com/events/138941903391660/
Last year some pals of ours moved to rural France and we thought we’d show up our friends who thought it would be too difficult to go and see them by travelling down by train and bike. On that trip we included some of the Canal du Garonne and we enjoyed it so much we thought we’d do some more of the canals this year. So, we planned a trip from Montpellier.
Leaving work at lunchtime we were on the train to London (1st class naturally – there are some benefits to being over 60) with the bikes travelling 2nd class of course. Dropping the bikes off at Euro despatch and meeting an old friend by chance in the departure lounge, we were on to Paris. We stayed at the brand new Citizenm Paris Gare de Lyon, popped in to our favourite craft beer bar nearby and on the morning were set for our train from Paris Austerlitz to Toulouse (you can’t book bikes on the direct train to Montpellier so we changed at Toulouse – a long day’s travel on the inter-cité) Checked in with Marie Noelle at the airbnb and with the bikes stored in her son’s flat downstairs set of to explore the city. We found a cool area with a good bar and restaurant and returned home to sleep.
Montpeliier – Sete 45k
The next day started with a ride down the river to the coast, where we tried out the track that runs along the canal that passes through the lagoon – water on all sides but the track was poor quality and soon ran out, so we headed inland and made our way towards Sete on a mixture of roads and tracks, guided by Google. Just outside Sete we had an encounter with a mad motorist who overtook someone in the middle of town, practically creaming me. Calmed down from that, then on Sete which we did not like one bit. Often first impressions of a town can be telling and the way that we found ourselves dumped in an industrial area on the outskirts of town, favoured by youth doing wheelies in motorbikes in an intimidating fashion, should have told us all we needed to know, We found a litter-strewn unsigned route under the motorway and the railway that brought us in via the old and somewhat derelict dock area.
Our accommodation, another AirBnB, was poor. We had a crap experience in a tourist restaurant and the evening was only saved by the nice people in the Jaipur curry house. We’re not going back to Sete if we can avoid it!
Sunday 3/9 Sete to Mirepeisset 95k
The next day was our longest. Following the cycle route out of Sete, (not sorry to leave) this takes the strand along which the road, railway and cycle route stretch with easy access to the beach. We’d left early enough to get a swim in and see the traffic jam as we left the beach area and headed alongside the road toward Agde, getting a bit lost en route but using the Garmin to guide us in.
There are some very poor bike routes and terrible signage in this area. Crossing the river at Agde we had reached the start of the Canal du Midi. A short ride along the towpath confirmed our suspicions that the towpath was not going to be good for riding in this area, so we worked out a road route which mostly worked pretty well, taking us through some nightmare theme parks. Further along we reached a good quality stretch of path and that took us for about 20k towards Béziers. The flight of locks at Béziers has become a real tourist attraction with cruise boats, a restaurant etc. Beyond that the towpath is crap again so we took to the road, using Google to navigate as Garmin is a bit too fond of busy roads. Stopping for a late lunch at a country house where very attractive young women were being delivered in limousines, we rolled on but made the mistake of using Garmin to navigate in for the last section, thereby ending the ride on busy D roads instead of trundling romantically along the canal.
We arrived at the nights accommodation, a Houseboat, actually a Norfolk Broads cruiser, moored at Porte La Minervoise close to Mirepeisset. We were in time for basic tapas & beer in the canal side and enjoyed our nights stay on Bella Mia, moored just up from the junction of canal du midi and canal du Robine (that heads towards Narbonne).
Mirepeisset to Paguignan (about 10 k)
A short but very pleasant ride past Bize to Paguignan to stay in a friend’s grenier (converted grain store) good to see Ralph who lives and works nearby, for B&T seeds. A good evening at La Grange.
Tuesday 5/9 Paguignan – Carcassone
The hottest day, temps up to 33C. and with a strong headwind that did at least cool us a little. Did some of it on the towpath but the surface still too poor for distance cycling. Noticeable that many of the diseased limes have been cut down giving the Canalside a very different feel. Some good road riding today even with the headwind . In Carcassonne we stayed in an apartment complex, made our way down to the town centre for bagel burgers, and Leffe.
Carcassone – Castelnaudary 40km
We visited Decathlon before leaving town which meant a great tour of the industrial sector.
Leaving Carcassonne the route was barrée, and we had a spot of bother finding an alternative. A road that looked as though it would take us in a straight line out of the urban area turned out to be the gated entrance to a private chateau. Eventually we bumped our way along the footpath on the other side of the canal, until we were able to cross at some lock gates.
We also had a spot of rain, but otherwise another hot & windy days cycling and I slip-streamed a tractor for a while which was very satisfying. Whatever. Castlenaudry is a very pretty town with a lake formed from the canal harbour. Saw coypus & ate burger (not coypu burger – don’t think so anyway!) on the canalside.
Thursday 7/9 Castelnaudary – Toulouse 66 km
About ten klicks out of Castelnaudry the dirt track towpath turns into tarmac, at the boundary with Haut Garonne. The landscape starts to change too, with the motorway and the railway following the canal, lets be clear about what was here first, and vineyards replaced with sunflower and wheat fields. On a good surface our speeds started to increase, it had been noticeable that people heading east had not been in a good mood and you could see why when they were forsaking traffic free tarmac for a bumpy dirt track. But after a tree rooty start we were rolling well as we made our way into Toulouse past Matabiau and out the other side without having to contend with city traffic. Our apartment was in the cool Minimes area and we found a decent bar with craft beer, a great local restaurant and local boulangerie although the bio Coop couldn’t get its act together early enough for us to use it for lunch provisions, a pity as we were getting a bit tired of cheese.
Toulouse – Moissac 85km
Our second longest day but with good surfaces, clear signing and a generally downhill direction, the Canal is of course flat except for the écluses , locks, we sped along. As you leave Toulouse you see the seamy side of the town, a lot of homeless people have found places to pitch camp on the land between the motorway and the canal. They didn’t bother us however, and after leaving behind the largest railway yard I have ever cycled past we were out into the countryside again.
At Dieupentale, I suddenly got a hankering for sausages – you know how it is, as we came under a bridge, suddenly, a miracle! – a restaurant with saucisses on the menu. We parked our bikes and approached, slavering – well I was – only to be told – “Vous avez réservé? C’est complet! Désolé.” Oh well, bread and cheese for lunch again!
We did get a bit lost in Moissac, having visited the town the bike route weirdly takes you around the town and you get your first view of the Garonne, a very wide river at this point. As you leave Moissac the river and the canal stay close together with the railway and the road. We stayed at Chambres D’Hotes at Pugnal, a lovely place run by Brian and Jenny, a very nice couple from Hertfordshire like me. www.pugnal.com
Saturday 9/9 Moissac – Agen
Our final day and we enjoyed the spin along the canal, again with the Garonne beside us. On arrival I was determined to see the aqueduct that takes the canal over the river, so leaving Patrice at the station I sped along to take a look. It is indeed an impressive structure and when I got halfway along it the heavens opened so by the time I got the half km back to the Gare I was soaked! This lasted for the rest of our time being driven to our friends house.
After a very pleasant sojourn we were deposited back at the Ibis Agen for a night before the early train back to Paris. A note to fellow travellers – if you;re looking for somewhere to eat in Agen you can do a lot worse than the Grande Brasserie at the station. Dinner was fab and breakfast wasn’t bad either.
Agen – Sheffield
And another note to fellow travellers – if you’ve booked your bikes on the TGV be assertive about getting them on. By the time we’d finished being nice to our travelling companions they had stuffed all their bags in the rather paltry bikespace. We did just about manage to squeeze them on-
There only remained to cycle across Paris (this train went to Montparnasse, not the easiest station to cycle to Gare Du Nord from, but once you get to Bastille you can follow a segregated route along the canal, although if it’s market day there will be a bouchon) book the bikes in to Euro Despatch, go for a slap-up lunch and get the Eurostar home. Arriving back in Sheffield in the rain took the edge off things!
Some of you will have enjoyed holidays at Pen-Y-Mynydd and may have enjoyed some cycling there into the bargain.
However, now we have a new concept for you – a fully catered cycling week with guided rides everyday.
Our catering consultant, Alex Lee, will provide nutritious meals especially geared to cycling every day. Meanwhile, your humble self will provide the rides. I am a certified Cycling UK Group Leader with over twenty year’s experience of leading rides.
The start date for this trip is 7th October.
If you’d like to be reminded what a fab area this is for cycling Click Here and Here.