Great Outdoors Friday, July 22nd Words by: Mark Bowen, pictures by: Mark Bowen/Håkan Dahlström

A cycle friendly city? Hereford's bid for 20mph bike lanes and closed circuit cycling

Great Outdoors Friday, July 22nd

A cycle friendly city? Hereford's bid for 20mph bike lanes and closed circuit cycling

You see it when you drive around the country: cycling is the new national obsession.

With our unspoilt rurality and spectacular views does this new found preoccupation offer opportunities here in Herefordshire?

Jim Kenyon, mayor of Hereford, certainly thinks so. It's why he is leading the campaign to bring a closed circuit cycling track to Hereford city.

While plans for a velodrome were dropped ("too specialist"), Jim is convinced there's an economic boost to be had from bikes.

He talks about the way neighbouring Wales promotes itself as bike-friendly and cites the benefits of what could be called ‘cycling tourism’. There is no reason why Herefordshire shouldn't replicate that success, he says. 

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"I know I don’t need to tell you that the countryside in Herefordshire is stunning," says Jim.

"The Golden Valley is beautiful but we don’t do enough to promote the county. 

"Let’s turn Hereford into a cycle friendly city. Let’s have designated quiet lanes so the speed limit is 20mph. This means the priority changes from the cycle to the car.

"If we can deliver all this I guarantee the Tour of Britain would come to Herefordshire."

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The mayor's big idea is to build a 1.4km long, six metre wide, closed cycle track at Hereford Racecourse, with an additional cycle track leading elsewhere. He sees no need to impact on existing activities that take place at the racecourse, due to reopen for racing in October.

"This will help with tourism. People will come from all over the place to Herefordshire and they will stay here," said Jim. 

"I see this as the beating heart of the cycling community with the cycle track going up the Roman Road to Creddenhill with the possibility of extending it to Burghill and Tillington. 

"British Cycling are supportive in principle of the idea and there is support expressed by local cycling sports clubs and racing teams."

"We had a consultation, people turned up from the cycling community and said that a velodrome is a bit too specialist,” said Jim, explaining why the previous plans were dropped.

"The plan has evolved. We have listened and not just thought we know what people want.

"So we got to the idea of having a closed circuit track. A closed circuit track appeals on so many different levels."

He tells me the track could be used by those learning to cycle, those serious about cycling, all ages, and those with disabilities.

"Essentially it’s a road. It is safe. There are no vehicles, just cycles. I was talking to a partially sighted woman and she told me that she would be able to ride her bike again. 

"She said ‘I have not done that since I was a little girl’ and she talked about the freedom it would give her.

"When I hear things like that I know I have to make this happen."

Arena Racing, the owner of Hereford Racecourse, has agreed for land to be used. There are similar closed circuits in Stourport, Cardiff and Shrewsbury. Three are being built in Yorkshire, part of the Yorkshire Tour legacy.

The track would reportedly cost around £600,000.

Cycle route 1

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Suggested routes for the closed circuit cycle track at Hereford Racecourse. Plans will be submitted to Herefordshire Council soon.

The track would be managed by Halo Leisure - the social enterprise running several sports centres around Herefordshire, and those calling for it are now turning their attention to funding.

Easier said than done?

"We have got a good idea and a good plan. If the need is there the money will come,” said Jim.

"Planning permission will be going in soon and I think it will take three months to construct.

"I would like to deliver it for next May. I will still be mayor and I would love to cut the ribbon."

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Image credits:

Mark Bowen

Sunset Cycling by Håkan Dahlström, Flickr

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