Cycling and walking charities claim the Welsh Government could fall foul of its own active travel legislation as a public inquiry gets under way into a £125m bypass.
Sustrans Cymru, Cycling UK and Ramblers Cymru claim the Government’s plans for the proposed A487 Caernarfon bypass could worsen safety and do not adequately cater for walking and cycling.
They highlight that the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 requires road developers to consider and improve walking and cycling provision and that the Government plans risk failing this responsibility.
One of seven bridges planned for the route. Image Welsh Govt
When asked whether there could be a judicial review of the scheme, Glyn Evans, Sustrans Cymru’s North Wales manager told Transport Network: 'Once the inquiry is complete, its findings are clear and the Welsh Government has responded ,we will consider our options. This is in many ways a test case of how the Act will be implemented. We will continue to work with local residents to help ensure the best possible outcome for walking and cycling.'
He added that suitable active travel provision for the bypass might cost around £5m – ‘well under 5% of the overall scheme cost’.
He added: ‘The main point, and one that would help to reduce these costs, is that active travel is planned in from the very early stages of schemes and not seen as an expensive add on.’
On behalf of the three charities, Mr Evans said: ‘The A487 improvement is a key test of whether or not the Welsh Government is serious about following its own rules and implementing the Active Travel Act.
‘Its current plans for the A487 bypass risk riding roughshod over that landmark law. The route cuts across a number of important walking and cycling routes. The current proposals will make it harder and more dangerous for people going to and from work or school, running an everyday errand, or enjoying the beautiful countryside Gwynedd has to offer.’
At the top of the list of concerns raised by the three charities are:
- The proposed crossings of two main roads at Lôn Eifion, a popular traffic free route for walking and cycling
- No direct motor access between the bypass and Caernarfon suburbs, without which congestion in the town will still cause problems;
- Limited safe crossings for walking and cycling around other roundabouts;
- No additional walking and cycling links from the Bontnewydd area towards Caeathro, Cibyn Industrial Estate and the Bethel roundabout.
- No additional crossing provisions on the redesigned Plas Menai roundabout.
The Government says the proposed bypass would reduce congestion and improve safety and quality of life in local settlements.
A Welsh Government spokesman said the plans had the Active Travel (Wales) Act ‘at their core’. He added: ‘The local public inquiry, which begins today, will provide opportunity for independent, robust scrutiny of all aspects of these proposals, which aim to tackle congestion at one of North Wales’ biggest traffic hotspots.’