As part of wider planned improvements to Nuneaton’s main park, the existing wooden footbridge that crosses the River Anker between the Museum and Sainsbury’s is set to be replaced. A new, wider structure will open up the route for pedestrians and cyclists where currently riding cycles is legally questionable and space to do so is extremely limited.
The replacement of the old bridge should be a welcome change to the park, potentially improving access to the supermarket via the park and aiding connectivity to the inside of the ring-road – though in both cases this will also require improvements to the path network on the eastern side of the river. However, the proposed width of 3m potentially just hits the bare minimum standard for shared use spaces, and in actuality may fall below standards given side railings may reduce the useable surface – this will be highly dependent on good design to reduce the potential impact.
Given the park is a popular location particularly during summer months, the risk of congestion here is real and potentially compounded by further planned improvements (Bridge to Living, museum extensions, George Eliot Gardens redesign and other improvements to Riversley Park and The Pingles). Greater width than is currently provided will be a definite improvement, but Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council should approve a design that offers more while accommodating potential future growth in foot and cycle traffic especially considering the lifespan of such a structure.
Accepting that a bridge wide enough for clear separation between users is likely beyond what can be accommodated in budget, four metres effective width for shared use would be desirable here to reduce conflict between pedestrians and cyclists and improve user comfort – especially if improved connectivity attracts the use of wider utility/cargo and other cycles. Turning angles connecting to the bridge are also an important consideration and a design that is wider at the access points than the centre may be desireable and a reasonable compromise over a bridge that is wider across its full length.
A shared use bridge crossing the railway line to the south of the town is also about 3m in width and it does not take many users before this can feel congested, impacting the comfort for both pedestrians and cyclists where space is important to feel safe. While the new bridge for Riversley Park will be much shorter, this will still pose a problem especially if people choose to stop on the bridge to watch the river as they do now.
The new bridge is set to be installed in 2023.