The Leeds and Liverpool Canal is one of the off-highway routes monitored to produce the figures

West Yorkshire cycling and walking ‘off-highway’ routes see rise in usage

The number of trips recorded on West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s CityConnect ‘off-highway’ cycling and walking routes increased by 60% during the last six months of 2020.

Figures also show that increases in active travel seen in West Yorkshire during the first phases of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020 have remained ‘strong’, even in the winter months.

November saw a 126% increase in cycling trips. A total of 17,553 trips were made on these routes, where new or improved infrastructure has been built away from roads, in November 2020, compared with 7,765 trips in 2019.

Figures taken from automatic cycle counters along five key routes delivered by CityConnect show that from July to December 2020, a total of 140,408 trips were made on the off-highway infrastructure – up from 87,940 over the same period in 2019, or a 60% increase.

Of these off-highway trips, a total of 50,741 were recorded over the weekend, representing an 89% increase on the 26,790-weekend trips recorded for the same six-month period in 2019.

The figures also confirm that the Combined Authority’s aim to significantly increase active travel across the region, as set out in its Transport Strategy 2040 and the recently published Connectivity Infrastructure Plan, as well as in its response to the climate emergency, can be realised with the provision of suitable walking and cycling infrastructure.

The Combined Authority is working alongside a wide range of partners to ensure the Leeds City Region is a net-zero carbon economy by 2038 and a key part of this will involve increasing levels of walking, cycling and use of public transport. The mid-term target is to see 300% more trips by bike by 2027.

The routes monitored for these latest user figures comprise the resurfaced towpaths on Leeds and Liverpool Canal between Riddlesden and Silsden, Rochdale Canal from Sowerby Bridge to Todmorden, Calderdale and Hebble Navigation and Huddersfield Narrow Canal, as well as the Castleford to Wakefield Greenway.

The route seeing the largest increase in walkers and cyclists, demonstrating consistently higher use month-on-month than the same period in 2019, was the Castleford to Wakefield Greenway. July to December 2020 saw 30,804 cycling trips made on the Greenway, up from 15,539 for the same period in 2019, or a 98% increase in trips.

CityConnect has been working alongside Wakefield Council, Leeds City Council and Sustrans to deliver missing links in cycling and walking infrastructure around Castleford. Work on the fourth and final stage of the Castleford Greenway is set to finish this month. Work is currently ongoing on a 1.3-kilometre section linking the Trans Pennine Trail at Methley to existing routes connecting Wakefield, Leeds and Castleford. Once complete, the works will create a 16-kilometre off-road route linking Castleford with its city neighbour.

Councillor Kim Groves, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee, said: “We’re really proud of our CityConnect walking and cycling infrastructure, and these increases in user numbers on our more local, off-highway routes are absolutely fantastic.

“We know many people have been getting outdoors more for exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s great to see so many have been using our routes during this time. Encouraging more people to adopt active travel into their everyday lives is a big part of the Combined Authority’s vision for the future of travel in West Yorkshire, laid out in our Connectivity Infrastructure Plan.

“Our aim is to see communities better linked by an integrated network of local transport, walking and cycling options, and CityConnect routes will have a big role to play in making that a reality.”

The Connectivity Infrastructure Plan sets out a long-term transport infrastructure investment programme for West Yorkshire, covering the next 20 years. The plan identifies a range of options to create an integrated network that brings together walking and cycling, rail, bus and a new mass transit system to connect communities across the region.

A public consultation on the Connectivity Plan is currently open, details can be found here.

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