Ac­cess for all on the ‘Floop’

Macclesfield Express - - YOUR PICTURES - SARAH ROE

THERE’S a quiet rev­o­lu­tion go­ing on be­hind the tall trees and grassy slopes of the Fal­low­field Loop cy­cle and walk­ing path.

Un­til re­cently this traf­fic-free route which skirts around South Manch­ester had fre­quent rail­ings and bol­lards, a typ­i­cal fea­ture of con­verted rail­way tracks up and down the coun­try. But in the last few week­ends, right along the eight-mile path, they’ve been open.

Back in the 80s and 90s when the char­ity Sus­trans started to up­grade paths like th­ese to cy­cle and walk­ing routes up and down the coun­try lo­cal au­thor­i­ties of­ten stip­u­lated bar­ri­ers to dis­cour­age anti-so­cial be­hav­iour from mo­tor­bikes and scoot­ers who use them il­le­gally as a race track.

The re­al­ity is they also ob­struct a group of peo­ple who would par­tic­u­larly ben­e­fit from us­ing the path.

Many peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties use con­verted bi­cy­cles, trikes or self-pro­pelled wheel­chairs to main­tain fit­ness and in­de­pen­dence, but of­ten roads are not suitable or pleas­ant and some traf­fic-free paths are blocked by rail­ings and bol­lards.

Mo­bil­ity scoot­ers, larger three-wheeler fam­ily bi­cy­cles, tandems or non-mo­torised trade ve­hi­cles are also re­stricted.

At the same time the bar­ri­ers are never re­ally ef­fec­tive in pre­vent­ing de­ter­mined mo­tor­bike rid­ers get­ting on the paths. The sus­tain­able trans­port char­ity Sus­trans works to re­move bar­ri­ers, both real and per­ceived, to cy­cling and walk­ing.

Over the last few months, with clear­ance from the Coun­cil and Po­lice, Sus­trans vol­un­teers and the Friends of the Fal­low­field Loop tri­alled open­ing up the bar­ri­ers right along the length of the ‘Floop’ ev­ery week­end to en­cour­age non-mo­torised ve­hi­cles of all sizes to use the path.

There are still rail­ings at ac­cess points to the roads to put off the mo­tor­bikes, but once you are on it, you don’t need to stop to nav­i­gate through fenc­ing and bol­lards.

Sus­trans hopes to at­tract more peo­ple on bi­cy­cles reg­u­larly and spread the word to those who haven’t been able to use the path in the past.

Per­haps as every­one who wants to free­wheel down this lovely tree­lined lane will now be able to get their bikes and scoot­ers through, it will be­come a vi­brant ac­ces­si­ble trans­port cor­ri­dor like we see in many of Lon­don’s parks.

The route would be busier, more peo­ple will use it to com­mute and there would be less op­por­tu­nity for anti-so­cial be­hav­iour.

It’s al­ready worked on other paths in Wales where com­mu­ni­ties re­moved bar­ri­ers, so why not in Manch­ester?

This sum­mer Sus­trans and the Friends of the Fal­low­field Loop will run a three-month trial open­ing of the bar­ri­ers through­out the weeks of May 22 to Au­gust 21.

There will be a se­ries of led bike rides and walks to cel­e­brate the Floop’s new-found free­dom. Just take a look at pic­tures of Copenhagen or Am­s­ter­dam and you’ll be­gin to see the ex­cit­ing po­ten­tial of traf­fic-free paths like this one.

You don’t nec­es­sar­ily need a car to get around if you have a dis­abil­ity or a fam­ily, but you do need more choices of bi­cy­cles, and a path with­out bar­ri­ers.

Sus­trans is a char­ity which cre­ated the Na­tional Cy­cle Net­work and works to help more peo­ple cy­cle, walk or use pub­lic trans­port for short jour­neys.

For more in­for­ma­tion look up www.sus­trans. org.uk or check out lo­cal up­dates on www. face­book.com/ sus­transnorth­west.

Find out more about open­ing up bar­ri­ers on your lo­cal cy­cle route by look­ing up the Friends of the Fal­low­field Loop’s fea­si­bil­ity study on­line.

Sus­trans

●● A fam­ily cy­cling with a trailer

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