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Roman roamin’ boosted by £800,000 upgrade of Hadrian’s Cycleway

October 22, 2013

A brand new £800,000 cyclepath has got the thumbs up from young cyclists in Allonby at its official opening. The new 3.7 mile stretch of dedicated cycleway running alongside the B5300 coastal road from Allonby to Maryport completes the 'missing link' in the 174-mile Hadrian’s Cycleway stretching from Tynemouth to Ravenglass through some of the world’s best Roman heritage country.

The new cycleway was opened in an event attended by all the partners involved in delivering the cycleway, alongside other community representatives, including schoolchildren from Allonby Primary and Cumbrian elite wheelchair athlete Simon Lawson.
Guests set off southwards along the new route towards Maryport, where they learnt more about the project and what is bringing to the area at The Wave, Maryport.

Previously cyclists had to share the B5300 with motorists in a stretch of the road which had been difficult and potentially dangerous, with fast-moving vehicles and the risk of cyclists being unseen by motorists at some locations.
This meant that the route did not come up to the standards of the Hadrian's Cycleway and was not officially designated as part of it. The new route, built by local contractor Thomas Armstrong in a project managed by Cumbria County Council alongside Solway Coast AONB, Hadrian’s Wall Trust and Sustrans, runs alongside the road, but is separated from it to allow cyclists and pedestrians to move freely along without worrying about cars. It crosses the road twice to avoid sensitive ecological and archaeological sites and places where there is the potential for coastal erosion.

Construction of the new path began at the end of May 2013 following many months of planning, preparation and efforts to secure funding for the project. Cumbria County was supported by the Hadrian's Wall Trust and Solway AONB in successfully sourcing £658,000 from DEFRA’s Rural Development Programme for England programme to fund the main construction work. Further community enhancements around the scheme have been provided through £130,000 of funding provided by Sustrans through the Department for Transport's Links to Communities fund.
It is hoped that the investment will help secure the Hadrian’s Cycleway’s reputation as one of the most enjoyable and scenic coast to coast cycle routes in Britain. It is the only national cycle route in Britain located entirely within a World Heritage Site. According to economic modelling, the new route between Maryport and Allonby is expected to bring in well over £100,000 a year in new visitor spend to West Cumbria.

According to cyclist headcount data compiled by Sustrans, the usage of the Hadrian's cycleway is almost the exactly the same in the North West side of the route as the North East, with 81,000 cycle journeys made every year in the North East and 79,000 in the North West. Most people cycle on part of the route rather than its entire length (around 5% of cyclists using the route are doing the whole length of the cycleway), meaning it is an important local amenity for day trips and also commuting or accessing amenities by bike.
A 2007 study by Sustrans on the economic benefits of the Hadrian's Cycleway, which opened in 2006, said it generated £6.5m for the local economy along the route and created or safeguarded 105 full-time equivalent jobs.

Cllr Keith Little, Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for highways, said:
“West Cumbria really has something to celebrate in this new path. It is already being well used by locals and will be a major asset next year when the tourist season sees more and more cyclists doing the full Hadrian’s Cycleway and enjoying what was previously a gap in their route. The project has been delivered on time and on budget by the county council.”
Bryan Scott, sustainable access manager for the Hadrian's Wall Trust, said:
"The cycleway extension is great for cyclists and walkers wanting to enjoy the Hadrian's Wall World Heritage Site and Solway Coast AONB. There's plenty to see in this section between Maryport and Allonby alone. As well as the fantastic scenery, visitors can go to the Senhouse Roman Museum, home to the famous Maryport Roman altars and next to the Roman fort Alauna, and Milefortlet 21 along the route."

Sustrans Regional Director, Eleanor Roaf, said:
“The new cycle path is a great addition to one of the country’s most scenic coast to coast cycle routes. Sustrans is delighted to be behind the only national cycle route located entirely in a World Heritage Site. As well as charming cycling and walking tourists, it will also connect local communities and help people be more active as they get around.
“Across the country we need safer routes for walking and cycling and a fresh approach to public transport to make us less reliant on increasingly expensive car use.”

Brian Irving, Manager at Solway Coast AONB, said:
"The opening of the cycleway is testament to partnership working and the level of what can be achieved. Through generous landowners, businesses and the local community, we as a ground-up partnership with support from national funding streams have delivered a high quality and sustainable asset to the highly valued North Cumbrian coast. It is a very proud moment for the organisation I represent."
A Defra spokesperson added:
“This cycle path will allow everyone – from serious cyclists to families – to enjoy some of our nation’s most beautiful countryside.  This is part of Defra’s £60m investment  in the north-west, which has created more than 800 jobs and boosted tourism by an extra 119,000 visitors, so even more people can explore the historic area.”

Some of the bikes used for the launch were loaned from the new bike hire scheme run by the Hadrian's Wall Trust in partnership with Carlisle Leisure. The scheme is part of the trust's eco-tourism project for north and west Cumbria, funded by Defra's Rural Development Programme for England to develop the area as a world-class eco-tourism destination. Bikes for adults and children, including 20 power assisted electric bikes for over-16s, can be hired from The Wave Centre in Maryport and Bitts Park in Carlisle, right on the Hadrian's Cycleway route.