A COMMITTEE member of a cycle group in Highcliffe has said that he is concerned that BCP Council will miss out on a “golden opportunity” to improve cycling in the area but insists that training riders on road safety and bike management must be a priority.

The club secretary for Castle Wheelers, a cycle group based at Highcliffe Castle, has said that more Health Rides schemes should be set up across the Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch to encourage safe cycling and prevent accidents on the road.

This comes as the government announced that £2 billion would be made available for councils to invest in their transport network, with particular focus on supporting safer cycling and walking.

Club Secretary Mel Pike said: “I am concerned that BCP will miss a golden opportunity to capitalise on cash becoming available for infrastructure aimed at improving cycling generally in our area.

“However, I can imagine the carnage when scores of new cyclists, with little or no training hit the roads.

“I am not aware of any other Health Ride schemes in the BCP area, but there are two others in Moors Valley CP and Kingston Lacey.”

New guidance issued to local authorities from government says they should reallocate road space to cyclists and pedestrians, prompting Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood to call on BCP Council to put forward its case for an arterial cycle and pedestrian route in Bournemouth.

The Health Ride Scheme from Highcliffe Castle, which has been in operation for over seven years has helped novice and lapsed cyclists get to a level of competency commensurate with safe riding in the local area.

The program has continued into 2020 despite the current crisis, by the efforts of the trained volunteer leaders headed by David Avery who has been there since day one.

The initaitive is overseen by Community Strategy Officer at Christchurch Borough Council Wilber Smith but, due to his many other commitments, the Castle Wheelers club have taken on the majority of responsibility.

Mel added: “The only service that we need from BCP is insurance for the leaders.

“I am in favour of the Club taking responsibility for the Health Rides scheme, as we have better insurance for leaders, and others involved in the rides, furthermore, Cycling UK are keen to develop ‘community clubs’ like our own.

“Unregulated cycling by untrained riders on unsafe bikes must in my opinion be nipped in the bud before we let them loose on all the new cycle lanes planned for our seasonal and busy conurbation.”

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