On Saturday 28 May, Bedworth Miners’ Welfare Park plays host to a ceremonial burning as an act of memorial and reflection on the losses caused by the global pandemic. The Sanctuary is a large temple-like wooden structure, intricately carved, and inscribed with handwritten messages of remembrance, and has attracted widespread attention. The event is expected to draw large crowds and as a result, the local Borough Council has warned about road closures and congestion.
Council leader Kris Wilson has said
“There will be traffic and parking restrictions in place on the night, and there is bound to be some disruption for residents. So I hope everyone can be patient, and those who can do so find other ways than their car to get to the event. It goes without saying that for local people not attending the event, please try and avoid getting caught up in the event traffic. Use public transport or other means of getting to the event, or please stay clear if you are not coming along.”Cllr Kris Wilson, Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council (emphasis added)
It’s a real shame that Bedworth is bereft of cycle infrastructure. Riding is prohibited through the town centre and the park in question. Even National Cycle Network Route 52 presents a significant gap through the town where no formal route has been identified south of the train station. It’s quite ironic that the Borough Council is (rightly) asking people to find other ways of travelling beyond the car, when accommodating cycling within the town has been met with hostility in the past.
Bedworth is a small town and should be easy to cycle for local transport. It should be the case that most local people visiting this event would be able to cycle to the park instead of using limited parking spaces and road capacity. Nuneaton is only three miles away (town centre to town centre, as the crow flies) and people here too should also be able to easily ride to the park. But it’s not easy. There is only one traffic-free option connecting the two towns, and that is a narrow canal towpath with a surface that is not suitable for all-weather riding and not sufficient to accommodate even a moderate number of cyclists, never mind other risks that some might perceive from riding on such a route.
Cycling should be available to everyone in Bedworth at any time, regardless of age or ability, whether travelling alone or as a family. There should be safe, clear, visible, and accessible routes available across the town as a comprehensive network that allows people to make local journeys without needing to be dependent on a motor vehicle. Events like this serve to highlight the issue, but this is an ongoing problem – as noted when looking at the proposed Nuneaton to Coventry cycle route, that too will present a significant gap through the town.
It’s time for Bedworth and its councillors to shake off the anti-cycling stance, get routes in place, and start enabling sustainable active travel. It’s easy to ask people to use other means of getting to an event such as this, but unless alternatives are properly enabled in the first place, that request is next to meaningless.