The Problem with Friends of the Abbey Fields…..
The Friends of Abbey Fields AGM minutes, 3rd September 2020, records this proposal put forward by a member:
“We must have a clear policy of ‘encouraging cycling TO the AF but not IN them. If we support linking the Greenway, at Bridge Street, with the path in Borrowell Lane for passing cyclists, then we would agree a dedicated cycle track passing Inside the AF parallel to Rosemary Hill, and Abbey End ending at the War Memorial. Cyclists could then use Forrest Road to access the track and Borrowell Lane’s pathway. This avoids ‘touring and passing through cyclists’ having to use busy Rosemary Hill and Abbey Hill roads and keeps them away from visitors-families, walkers with dogs, children, elderly, picnickers, etc – who are there to enjoy the tranquillity and wonderful facilities AF offers.” Draft Minutes FoAF AGM 3rd Sep 2020
The suggestion raised this response:
“Regarding the member’s suggestion for a proposed cycle route skirting Abbey Fields, the Committee has already concluded this was a real option with real benefits avoiding a cycle track across the centre of Abbey Fields itself. And yes, we would like serious consideration to be given to the suggested route. This has already been discussed with KTC representatives.”
This would appear to be reaffirmed in the Friends of Abbey Fields Newsletter dated April 2022: “Cycling once again has been raised as a serious topic for discussion but hopefully we can work with WDC and KTC to find a solution that minimises the impact on Abbey Fields and its important ecology. We believe that a simple, sympathetic, cost effective solution exists and we will be discussing this with the relevant authorities.” (FoAF Newsletter April 2022)
It would appear that a Rosemary Hill – Abbey Hill – Forrest Road perimeter cycle path has become the Friends of Abbey Fields policy, or at least their preferred option.
There is much against this.
1) The path avoids all the amenities the Abbey Fields offers; to access them cyclists would have to make use of pedestrian paths, completely defeating the object of this proposal.
2) The Sustrans Feasibility Study states: “The route should be suitable for novice cyclists, children or those considering cycling”. The proposed path from Townpool up alongside Rosemary Hill would be very steep; the park is in the vicinity of 10 feet higher at its summit than the road so would be much steeper than Rosemary Hill making it impossible for many to cycle up it; cyclists would therefore use the level pedestrian route through the park as the only alternative. There is of course another problem; coming in the opposite direction it would be a severe downward gradient, at the bottom of which cyclists would meet pedestrians – an accident waiting to happen.
3) Along Abbey Hill the proposed cycle path would pass the entrance from the bus shelter, the low wall where many enter the park, and the gate almost opposite Southbank Road. Depending upon its precise termination point “at the war memorial”, the proposed cycle path could potentially cross the diagonal path from near Townpool Bridge, and that near the War Memorial. The suggested cycle path would therefore cross certainly three, probably four and maybe 5 pedestrian routes. If the suggested route does stop short of the war memorial and does not involve crossing the two paths close-by, then cyclists will have to cross both Abbey Hill and Abbey End, where no crossing is provided, to access Forrest Road on the correct side, or make use of the pavements.
4) There are many trees alongside Abbey Hill; these would all have to be avoided, in some cases by as much as 15 metres (as stated by Sustrans to avoid possible problems with root damage from mature trees). Due to this the cycle path is in places likely to be anything from 20 metres or more inside the boundary fence. It is also likely that some trees may require otherwise unnecessary branch removal to cater for adult cyclist’s headroom.
5) The Rosemary Hill air raid shelter with surface earthworks is a protected structure; the path would need to be perhaps 10 yards into the park to avoid it.
6) Alongside Rosemary Hill the path would need to be some yards into the park to avoid the possibility of a cyclist tumbling down the embankment towards the road.
7) Taken together, points 4), 5) and 6) create a great visual intrusion.
8) This proposed route ensures cyclists must use Forrest Road; the whole point of a cycle path is to avoid cycling on roads.
9) The proposal appears to assume that no cyclists fall into any of the categories of, ‘visitors-families, walkers with dogs, children, elderly, picnickers, etc – who are there to enjoy the tranquillity and wonderful facilities AF offers’. It is quite obvious that cyclists, particularly young family groups, would wish to visit the Abbey Fields to make use of the facilities, picnic, and walk; indeed, this is being encouraged by Kenilworth Town Council and Warwick District Council, particularly with respect to the proposed swimming pool alterations, as car parking will not be increased.
10) The remit given to Sustrans states “The route should be suitable for wheelchair users”. Clearly this proposed route is not.
It is difficult to see anything that commends this proposal.
Footnote: It should be noted that previously, the Friends of Abbey Fields Chairman’s Letter, November 2019
“We believe that serious consideration should be given to an alternative cycle path on the perimeter of Abbey Fields along Forrest Road, Abbey Hill and round to Bridge St together with a lowering of the speed limit to 20mph for car users on the roads around Abbey Fields. A cycle path around the whole perimeter of Abbey Fields should also be considered!”
I have decided against discussing this suggestion as it appears to have been superseded, as above, at the AGM on 3rd September 2020.
This route was raised again by a questioner at the Friends of Abbey Fields 2023 AGM on 23rd October 2023:
“As over 90% say they Walk in the Abbey Fields and use it for relaxation, there is absolutely no way that we must allow a dual use path, 2 – 2.5 meters wide running through the middle of Abbey Fields. We all know that the two leisures do not mix amicably!
And, as we all know Cyclists do not have or use bells etc, only expletives.?
Solution for a Cycle Dedicated only Path in the Abbey Fields to take them from Castle Farm to Bridge Street cycle paths. Leaving the path from Castle Farm at Castle Road, Borrowell Lane entrance, cycle up Forrest Road to the War Memorial and enter the Abbey Fields on to a Cycle Only dedicated path to be constructed.
This to run inside the fence along Abbey Hill to the old air raid shelter at Abbey Hill/Rosemary Hill junctions, then down the hill inside the fence to , either the existing bridge across the Brook or to a new bridge built nearer Rosemary Hill, taking the route to the existing bridge under Bridge Street.
This allows cyclists to have their own safe route between the two existing cycle paths (Castle Farm and Bridge Street) with no risks to Walkers in the Abbey Fields and equally important, no dangers to walkers and desecration of our beautiful Abbey Fields with a cycle/walking path through the middle of the Abbey Fields, children’s play area and so on. As a cyclist and also a protector of our Abbey Fields, I have thought about this issue, listened to many ideas and views and drawn this conclusion to solve the problem to satisfy everyone!”
Ignoring the idiotic suggestion that an off-road cycle path actually uses a road for part of its length, and the insult to all cyclists which apparently includes the questioner, just to pick up on one of conclusions drawn by the questioner who claims it is a ‘safe route’ for cyclists and presents ‘no dangers’ to walkers. So, cycling down a path steeper than Rosemary Hill and crossing a pedestrian footpath at the bottom has ‘no dangers’ ?
Fortunately, it seems on this occasion the Committee, Councillors and others present gave the questioner no support, and it will hopefully be the end of the matter.
Here are the AGM minutes in full: FoAF AGM minutes 2023
In these articles I take a look at other proposed schemes and the involvement of some ‘Stakeholders’:
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