Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Attack on the Kenilworth Greenway

On 27 April  The Spectator magazine featured an article attacking the provision of a hard surface on the Kenilworth Greenway.

I assume that the author was complaining about the route between the A429 (Coventry/Kenilworth Road) and Berkswell station. The other new cyclist/pedestrian path, between Kenilworth's Abbey Fields and the University of Warwick, relieves traffic congestion between Kenilworth and Warwick University; some years ago Kenilworth residents firmly rejected an alternative idea of building a bus road along the route.

The author objects to the hard surface because it encourages fast cycling. She claims that time-trials are conducted on it. While it's true that many novice cyclists seem to believe that roads are only for cars, experienced cyclists know that routes shared with pedestrians are not suitable for fast cycling. The videos on the Cycling Time Trials website show where real time-trialists go.

Conveniently overlooked by the author is the access which a hard surface allows to people with walking difficulties or who feel intimidated from cycling on busy roads. There are precious few places in the Warwickshire countryside which both have a firm surface and are free from cars; so such people are excluded from enjoying the countryside. She also overlooks the fact that when the path is finished there will be an opportunity for commuters between Birmingham and Kenilworth to switch from driving to cycle+train.

Given that there are plenty of other un-surfaced paths in the area, I don't suppose most walkers would begrudge loosing a bit of mud for the benefit of the elderly, mobility scooter users and leisure cyclists. Perhaps horse riders and mountain bikers have more reason to bear a grudge, given that there is so little in the way of bridleways in Warwickshire. No doubt the author of the Spectator article feels that it would be "politically incorrect" to attack the disabled, so instead she rounds on a convenient scapegoat by exaggerating the problems caused by speeding cyclists.

Update 1 May:
Warwickshire County Council is to apply a top dressing to the path between  Crackley Bridge (over A429 - Coventry/Kenilworth Road)  and Burton Green.  This will not be enough for those who want the path to revert to mud, but it will make it unattractive to anyone attempting a time-trial.


  1. Some people just have to find something to complain about. The bigger threat to this route is HS2 (its set to come right in line with the disused railway).

    Any idea what this "top dressing" is you mention in the update?

    1. I understand that "top dressing" would mean that the surface will be the same as that on the path between Abbey Fields and University of Warwick.

      Some sticky tar like substance is placed on top of the existing path and chippings added. After some days the chippings which haven't stuck down are swept up.

  2. Hopefully it will be better than the surface on NCN52 between the Greenway and Warwick Uni. The loose gravel on it is pretty dangerous in places. Also, the surface frequently changes between gravel, concrete (sometimes covered in a layer of cow poo!), tarmac, bark chippings, untreated metal cattle-grids and wooden bridges. A lot of these surface changes seem to have been put in halfway through (pointless) S-bend corners.

    Top-dressing is, I think, the stuff that's also known as chip and seal. They put a sticky layer down, then coat it in a deep layer of 'chips' and then as said, sweep it up at a later date. In my experience it's pretty horrible to cycle on. If they're deliberately using it to make the surface unpleasant for cyclists in order to deter time trialists then they're going to deter people who just want to use the Greenway to get somewhere. It's like dumping a load of gravel on a motorway. Sure, it'll stop people using it as a racetrack, but it makes it dangerous and unpleasant for the responsible users too.

    1. I think it will be similar to the surface between Abbey Fields and the University of Warwick. If there is any loose gravel on the path it should be reported to stuartikeringill@warwickshire.gov.uk. Stuart Ikeringill is rural services manager for Warwickshire County Council. Apparently police records indicate that poor road surface is the most common factor in incidents which lead to cyclist injury.

      The main aim of the path between Abbey Fields and the University is to encourage commuters to switch from car to cycling or walking. Use for recreation has to take a back seat and anyway recreational users have widely differing demands, consider mountain bikers verses roadies, not to speak of ramblers and horse riders.

      On 4th May, someone did email me with the following remarks "Cycled the chipped and tarred Kenilworth to Burton Green path today. Much like the Kenilworth to the University path. A few places where it was like riding on the beach but give it time and the chippings will bed down. Hopefully it will keep all the middle aged, lycra clad, Bradley Wiggins dreamers in check. Still a fine facility for us cyclists and walkers alike to enjoy."

      I haven't experienced much of a problem with the surface on the Abbey Fields to University section, either on my touring bike (28 & 32 mm tyres) or my city bike (37 mm tyres). Although perhaps I'm de-sensitized, coping on a daily basis with the potholes of Coventry & Warwickshire!

    2. Hi George, I'm possibly being a bit harsh. I don't think I've used the section of the path from the a429 to Abbey Fields so can't comment on that. I've used the greenway once or twice and do think that improving the surface is a great idea.

      It's just a little frustrating when the path is so close to being great but then ends up being dangerous in parts. I'm a pretty competent mountain biker but commute on a road bike and the corner downhill from the statues, heading into Coventry, has caught me out a couple of times. I know to drag my brakes down the hill now to avoid problems, but a tarmac type surface would be make more sense.

  3. Hi Mark,

    The loose chippings need to be swept up. I suggest that you do get in touch with Stuart Ikeringill specifying the exact places where the surface is loose, especially if they are at bends. But don't expect any chips which are firmly stuck to be removed, given the Spectator article!

  4. I must correct George's use of the word "chippings". The path from the Greenway to Warwick University (like the route from the Greenway to Abbey Fields before it) have been treated with small round stones which roll like around like marbles.

    Neither of these routes are suitable for commuting/experienced cyclists (pre-existing routes being faster and safer), and barring extraordinary incompetence, they were never designed to be. A route designed from commuting would be tarmac and segregated from pedestrians like the one from Gibbet Hill Road through Tocil wood (Warwick University).

    Rather these paths are presumably intended to provide a quieter route with the "perception" of safety to enticing to walkers and casual cyclists. Hopefully the casual cyclists will then become more confident and switch to more suitable routes (of which there is no shortage).

    However, personally I believe they have got the balance wrong here and I fear many adults and children could be put off cycling after falls on these dangerous surfaces. For example, on the opening of the route from the Greenway to Forge Road it was objectively safer/faster with my 6 year old to continue using the old route up Woodland Road and through the wood rather than cross the main road to use the bridge and then cycle downhill on such a dangerous surface (with drops each side in places!). 18 months later it has bedded down a little, but is still very dangerous in places and now my child is older it is easier and safer to use the road. I do use it in the reverse direction (up hill) though.

  5. The path will be serving a useful purpose if it encourages people to start cycling whether or not those people continue to use the path or choose to cycle on other routes.

    Cyclists have varying preferences and destinations, the new path widens the choice for cyclists. That's a good thing.

    Also I think that people are less concerned about danger if they feel that they have control over the degree of risk than with danger arising from a source over which they have little control. So people are intimidated from riding in heavy traffic because they think other road users (over whom they have no control) will behave in a way which puts them in danger. On the new path the dangers for a cyclist can be reduced to whatever level he/she is happy with; at the cost of riding more carefully.

  6. Having given up on the Greenway last Autumn because it was too muddy. I've cycled the greenway a couple of times recently and the new surface is a vast improvement. The tarmac looked a bit out of place but the surface treatment makes it look more rural, and provides a good contrast as there is a 4" drop at the edge of the tarmac in places. I was surprised at how narrow a strip has been left for horses (too narrow in places), but I've never seen anybody horse riding on the Greenway.

    I agree with the slope down from the statue bench being dangerous. It is very easy to pick up speed down this section and the view around the bend at the bottom is obstructed by a hedge which could catch people out. I don't think the surface isn't up to emergency braking.


    (I ride a hybrid bike for commuting & leisure).