In early March I was fortunate enough to participate in a virtual initial consultation for the Oswestry and district local cycling and walking infrastructure plan (LCWIP).

Lots of local people from different fields of expertise joined forces to thrash out some basic ideas on how we can improve cycling and walking networks in this area from Oswestry and surrounds to a radius of 10kms with extra links to the existing national networks of railways and canals.

Some great ideas came forward which could impact positively on local people and their quality of life. An overall plan will be made and no doubt different projects prioritised and then it’s the ugly matter of funding.

We wanted safe routes for all ages from eight to 80 to get around Oswestry, to get to places of work, and to get to and between local villages. We wanted good quality direct cycle paths. Certainly routes from Oswestry centre in all directions, but especially to the industrial estates, places of employment, schools and further transport hubs; to Maesbury Road and the canal network beyond, to Artillery Park, the Venue, the Orthopaedic Hospital and Gobowen Train Station, and the Llangollen Canal; and to join all the villages together.

The A5 and A483 bypasses have severed communities from each other and particular mention was made of the difficult crossings from Morda Road at Sweeney to Morton Lane, the Gobowen to Weston Rhyn A483 crossing, Aston Gates to Middleton A5 crossing, and from Oswestry to Park Hall crossing of the A483, and from Whittington up the Ellesmere road to the Hindford turning.

Border Counties Advertizer: The new towpath near St MartinsThe new towpath near St Martins

Of course things have improved a lot over the last decade especially the canal towpath network and the prospect of continuing alongside the heritage rail network. So many people we know would cycle more if they felt safe but Oswestry is built on roads and pavements and often it seems cyclists are not welcome on either.

We have to do better in this area. Main roads are the most dangerous for cyclists as traffic whizzes past at 60mph and stream past even on bends and suddenly there is no room. That’s why the Highway Code suggests we ride in twos or in the centre of the lane until the motorist can pass cyclists as they would a tractor. You would never allow your child to cycle on such a road. Traffic is a lot slower in town or on country lanes but 60mph main roads are a nightmare for us and we try to avoid them but sometimes there are no alternative routes.

Ideally we want paths physically separated from traffic. Even a simple solution like a painted line helps but if motorists keep parking on them, often a kerb is inlaid into the road to make a permanent separate channel.

The type of surface and thought to future maintenance is important too. Cheap jobs over tree routes soon get buckled up and paths alongside hedging means constant cutting back and punctures. The path down Maesbury Road is a good surface but crosses the busy road or side roads six times between the new rail path, Highwayman, Philip Pauls, Bluebox, Pentons and Aico at Maesbury junction. Perhaps it is safer to go on main road?

I am sure good safe cycle paths from residential areas to help people get to work, join up to the rail and canal networks, safe for kids to get to school and families to enjoy the countryside would encourage a lot more to leave their cars at home, lose weight, get fit and love life more.

Pictures, clockwise from top left: a purpose-built cycle route following the North Wales coast near Abergele; a cycle lane near Manchester city centre; and the new canal towpath at St Martins.