Blackburn with Darwen Council is working hard in partnership with local groups and stakeholders to find out from the community how we can enable more walking and cycling every day in our borough. This is part of a wider government plan to increase active travel – that is walking or cycling – for everyday journeys. Research shows that most local journeys are under two miles, and we are designing healthy streets and safer roads to help people make active travel their first choice.
In 2021, Sumaiyah joined the effort as the council’s Walking and Cycling Partnership co-ordinator. Here is an overview of what community engagement Sumaiyah has overseen in recent months.
Public engagement and surveys
A walking and cycling survey was circulated via social media, through The Shuttle, CVS, Social Prescribing Alliance and community groups. Sumaiyah also visited various activity groups and children’s centres to complete the survey face to face. Local children’s centres have been a great place to gather valuable information, with NHS staff, council staff and the general public participating.
The data collected will be analysed in detail, but so far feedback has shown that BwD is seen as an unsafe place to ride a bike – including concerns about potholes and lighting, inclines on local roads, and fear of dangerous drivers. Also people report that they do not have time in the working day and are tired when they return home, so leisure walks and rides only take place on weekends or days off. Active travel is also not seen as practical by young families for daily school runs because of time commitments. Therefore as we look at ways to encourage active travel, other barriers to physical activity are coming to light.
Independent research in to what other countries are doing shows that people at work are more content, productive, share the employers vision, mission and are more successful because of the makeup of their working week. Having better quality of life and family time are important factors. This positively increases walking, cycling and physical activity because of more available time to put towards health and wellbeing.
So far our public engagement has highlighted that many employed residents are disengaged from walking and cycling.
Feedback also indicates that information is mainly circulated through word of mouth from family and friends, and less on social media, which shows how important community groups are for getting information and resources to families in our borough.
Many mini parks in the borough have been updated and local children are taking advantage. Recently, while organising Try a Bike training for the community it was discovered that Queens Park has some outdated by-law that states no cycling is allowed. The council is looking at updating the rule so that residents can enjoy their bikes in the park. The council is hoping that Queens Park Lake can be cleaned up and the boathouse reopened and actively seeking funding to support these improvements. A pump track is also being considered for the park for the park’s large unused green spaces.
Useful connections have been made with Cotton Town Bikes and Our Lady & St John Catholic College to increase the provision of a bike maintenance after school club. A similar class is in planning stages for Darwen Aldridge Community Academy this year after being delayed by the pandemic. Cotton Town bikes are also now linked with other local organisations so they can deliver Dr Bike, guided rides and bike maintenance sessions.
BwD Leisure has been working with Al Hayat Language School and Councillor Sidat who have a large group of women who would like to learn to ride. This has had a great start with a successful pilot training session and hopefully will be another success for our active travel goals to enable residents to cycle more of their everyday journeys.
A cycling networking group is being created, for anyone in the borough who work with, and/ or are related to cycling in any kind of way. Members will include Active Lancashire, Witton Park Cycle Centre, Cycle Roots, Scouts, Sporting NRG, I-cycle, Cotton Town Bikes, Ewood Bikes, Newground, Blackburn Rovers Football Community Trust (BRFCT), University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN), Go Velo, Lammack Association, More Positive Together and Councillor Jackie Floyd. If you’d like to take part in this group contact Sumaiyah on 01254 781310.
Work is being done to identify all the walks and rides taking place in the borough to plot them on a map. This will identify any duplication, and highlight areas that require development and attention.
Projects of interest in our borough
Super Slow Way (SSW) project managers Laurie Peak are working with £750,000 funding towards a Linear Park Project. The Canals and River Trust (CRT) have £850,000 to develop the canal towpaths and launch a Pennine Lancashire Linear Park Feasibility Study (along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Corridor from Nelson to Blackburn). The animated version of the linear park project can be accessed here: The Pennine Lancashire Linear Park by Publica – Issuu.
Presently SSW are looking at canoeing, a youth employability hub, open water swimming, walking and cycling. For the cycling aspect they have linked in with UCLAN who are recruiting and training canoeing instructors. They are collaborating with Together an Active Future (TaAF) to see how the council can support them further, and look at evaluation/ gaining feedback on what the public would like to see the space used for. We are also working in partnership with Pendle to get organisations to move walks and other activities to the canal so that they can participate in the feedback surveys.
Super Slow Way have also identified unused land in BwD and grown flax and woad, which has been harvested, retted and spun. A local contractor is going to produce clothing from the home spun fabric.
Read more about the textiles project: Homegrown/Homespun – British Textile BiennialBritish Textile Biennial