‘It is difficult to keep everyone happy:’ Mixed reaction as new cycle lane opens in Swansea
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
It’s been a long time in the making and has attracted considerable criticism, but the new cycle scheme on Swansea’s Mayals Road is now in use.
Barriers have been taken down and extra road markings added to the cycle-only lanes on either side of the road.
Speaking just before Christmas, a Swansea Council spokesman said the route would be finalised shortly and a further road safety audit undertaken after that.
On the morning of January 4, cyclists were riding along the cycle-only lanes – though not always the right ones – while others preferred to free-wheel down Mayals Road itself towards the junction with Mumbles Road.
To recap, the bottom and top sections comprise a shared-use path for cyclists and pedestrians.
In between there are raised cycle-only lanes on either side of the road – one uphill, one downhill – which skirt round bus stops. These sections also have dedicated footpaths to the side.
Mayals Road itself has been made narrower to accommodate the new layout.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Richard Lisle, who was pedalling uphill on the cycle-only lane, said: “From my point of view, I was looking forward to it.
“I think it’s safe. I live at the top, and to be away from the cars is nice.”
Mr Lisle said he used to cycle along Mayals Road before the layout changed and that “sometimes vehicles were quite close to you”.
He said driving up and down the road in his car wasn’t much different to before, despite it being narrower, but he added that some cyclists didn’t use the new downhill-only lane on the Clyne Gardens side.
“That sort of defeats the object,” he said.
Pedestrian Victoria Ege was trying to cross Mayals Road with her dogs to access Clyne Gardens, and said she and others missed the former crossing point by the Mayals Road-Green Close junction, which had a little central island.
She said she didn’t think the new layout was well designed.
“Cyclists have to be safe, but ideally they should have just had a cycle lane on either side of the road,” said Miss Ege.
“There’s also been over a year of disruption.”
Miss Ege also said the two new crossing points nearer the top and bottom of the road weren’t handy for bus passengers, including schoolchildren, as they didn’t tally with the bus stops nearer the middle.
Another pedestrian, former civil engineer Jonathan Howard, said he felt the new layout was “a disaster” for reasons similar to Miss Ege’s.
Cycle lanes at road level on either side would, he said, have been preferable.
“It would have saved a lot of money,” he said.
Many residents were angry, according to Mr Howard, that they hadn’t seen details of the layout before the Welsh Government-funded project, which was drawn up by the council, got under way.
Mr Howard also had concerns about the shared-use section near the bottom of Mayals Road where it passed the entrance to a sheltered housing complex, Mumbles Bay Court, on a slight bend.
“Cyclists whizz past there,” he said. “It would be safer if they were on the road.”
Laura Sheldon lives near the top of Mayals Road, and felt the new layout was “awful”.
She said she cycled quite a lot but was put off by the bike-only lanes being so close to the road.
“I spoke to someone who said they got clipped by a wing mirror of a lorry,” she said.
Mrs Sheldon also said the narrower road felt dangerous when driving uphill into sunlight.
“There’s no leeway,” she said.
Further down Mayals Road, a cyclist heading downhill uses the uphill-only lane for a hundred or so metres, while another heading uphill powers up the downhill-only lane – despite the Local Democracy Reporting Service coming towards him on two wheels.
A couple of other downhill cyclists just stick to road itself.
Pedestrian Julie Tarling said she believed the new layout was confusing, and that two cycle lanes either side of the road would have sufficed.
Asked if she felt there were any benefits to how things were now, she replied: “Honestly? No.”
A campaign group, Safe Mayals Road, has concerns about the design of the new layout and believes it presents dangers to all users, but it supports the aim of getting more people on their bikes.
The council wants to encourage people to use their cars less, and it also aims to extend the Mayals Road route, in the form of a shared-use path, to Bishopston.
Near the bottom of Mayals Road, a lorry chugs uphill, its driver’s side wheels just crossing the white lines in the middle as it follows the curve to the left.
There are some new dotted lines by the entrance to Mumbles Bay Court, encouraging cyclists not to stick close to the boundary wall, where visibility for all parties is restricted.
A cyclist nearby said he felt exposed on the cycle-only lanes, and that a truck’s wing mirror had once passed very close to his head.
“It was close enough to give me a shock,” said the man, who asked not to be named. “Now I actually walk with my bike on the footpath.”
He added: “It is difficult to keep everyone happy.”
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No doubt it will be re appraised after a few accidents