A cycling campaign group says that if a shift towards cycling, walking and so-called “active travel” is to happen then the A629 Wakefield Road is the place to do it.
Kirklees Council is currently consulting the public on plans to introduce cycle lanes on Wakefield Road between Shorehead roundabout and Waterloo.
That means reducing the traffic lanes in places and also removing some car parking spaces outside homes and businesses.
Judging by the response to the consultation the public are not convinced and fear more congestion and delays rather than less if the plans go ahead.
But Kirklees Cycling Campaign sees the positives and says decisions have to be made if there is to be a move away from cars to more sustainable forms of transport.
Campaign chair Chas Ball said: “There’s a choice to be made on how we get around in the future. It is not impossible to reallocate the road space and give proper facilities for everyone.”
Mr Ball said Wakefield Road was a wide, relatively flat route and was the best suited of all the major roads into or out of Huddersfield to accommodate “active travel” for cyclists or people who wanted to walk into town.
Wakefield Road has significant stretches of central reservation and parking spaces and it is this “dead space” which could be utilised for a radical redesign of the road.
“Wakefield Road is the major route with most propensity for increasing cycling,” said Mr Ball. “If we can’t do Wakefield Road it is a pretty poor show.”
In its response to the council’s consultation the campaign described the plans as a “serious attempt to provide new infrastructure” and added: “The primary objective of these walking and cycling improvements needs to be modal shift for shorter neighbourhood journeys. Families need to be able to cycle together – these routes are not just about lone cyclists.
“We strongly favour the reallocation of road space to provide dedicated cycling routes for commuting, education, shopping, leisure, parcel and goods delivery and other functions like takeaway foods.
“We believe it is capable of replacing car use for many local, shorter journeys as well as longer journeys.”
Mr Ball said he wasn’t surprised at some of the public’s negative responses to the consultation and said the replies were often directed by the way questions were framed.
There had been controversy over cycling schemes in Lindley and Marsh aimed at easing congestion on the A629 Halifax Road, he said. But when you ask local residents what they want, they all want to see safer roads for everyone.
Mr Ball said that with hundreds of new homes proposed for Fenay Bridge, the status quo wasn’t an option for Wakefield Road.
“The driving force has to be to shift people away from single occupancy petrol and diesel car journeys and one way to do that is to reallocate the road space,” he said.
“I have friends who are sceptical but I ask them to reserve judgement. The climate emergency isn’t an illusion, it’s a reality, and this is one small part.”
Mr Ball wasn’t convinced over the council’s proposals for taking cyclists off part of Wakefield Road at Almondbury and Dalton using what they describe as “quiet streets.”
The Almondbury proposal involves using the steep Almondbury Bank and that idea caused most derision in the consultation with some saying it was “laughable.”
Mr Ball said what was more important was the opening up of the Fenay Greenway to encourage more people to cycle from the new housing developments.
Kirklees is a hilly area but electric bikes were a “gamechanger” for many older or less fit cyclists and with the University of Huddersfield at the end of Wakefield Road there was a real opportunity for a “modal shift” in how people travelled to work, he added.
Mr Ball said what wouldn’t be an easy problem to resolve would be a re-designed Shorehead roundabout and also a new-look junction at Waterloo, both of which are being investigated now.
“Shorehead roundabout has the worst air quality in South Kirklees,” said Mr Ball. “So it’s not just a climate change issue it’s a health issue, right by the university.”