If you live in Swansea you’re not far from a cycle path but probably don’t know it, according to a council officer.
Ben George said the council had secured the most cycle path funding of all 22 authorities in Wales for each of the last three years, and now had 128km of “active travel” routes.
“That’s not really something that we have banged the drum about,” he said.
The numbers of people out on their bikes increased sharply during the lockdown earlier in the year, which also led to a rise in complaints.
Addressing a council policy development committee, Mr George said the complaints basically boiled down to users of the paths being annoyed that too many other people were on them.
The council has hired a marketing company to promote Swansea’s network of cycle routes, and will be consulting the public early next year about a long-term plan to expand the network.
The report before the committee said 60% of Swansea residents lived within 500 metres of an off-road cycle route.
But Mr George said they “probably don’t know it”.
The council is developing a 16km northern cycle link from Skewen in the east to Gorseinon in the west, passing through Llansamlet, Morriston, Llangyfelach and Penllergaer. Two-thirds of it has been completed.
A shorter Kingsbridge link will connect Gorseinon, Kingsbridge, Grovesend and Gowerton. Despite being barriered off because it’s not quite complete, Mr George said around 50 cyclists were pedalling up and down the Kingsbridge path in anticipation of its opening.
Completed projects include cycle routes in Trallwn and Birchgrove, while existing paths in Singleton Park, Sketty, and the Swansea foreshore have been widened.
Mr George said a path in the Lower Swansea Valley remained “very poorly used”, partly because people in nearby Morriston considered it to be “the wrong side” of the River Tawe.
The council has bagged £12.7 million of active travel funding from the Welsh Government over the last three years. Cardiff is next with £10.5 million.
Councillor Mike White said cycle paths needed more signs saying where the path was headed to, while Cllr Phil Downing said people in his Pontarddulais ward “have got bikes but nowhere to cycle to”.
Mr George said the business case for a cycle path to Pontarddulais from Grovesend would be more palatable once the Kingsbridge link was finished.
These paths are not just for cyclists. Cllr Penny Matthews said one in her Llansamlet ward was a “godsend” for a wheelchair user.
Not all new paths are being welcomed.
Some Mayals residents oppose a planned route up Mayals Road on the grounds of some trees being felled, changes to parking, and access to residents’ drives.
Cllr Peter Jones said there was “a lot of local concern” about this, but that he would nevertheless be making the case for the proposed path at a public meeting.
Another council officer, David Hughes, said the loss of some trees to make way for cycle paths was “slightly contradictory to the ultimate gain of active travel and the environmental benefits”.
But he said the cycle path programme would, overall, deliver a “net positive gain in trees” and that some of the ones to come down on Mayals Road were ash trees which, due to the widespread ash dieback disease, would “ultimately need to be felled”.