Chester Greenway

A few weeks ago I finally got around to taking a look at the Chester Greenway (See route here). It appears that much of the money from Cycling England’s Cycling Demonstration Towns project in Chester was spent on providing pleasant leisure facilities such as this. Whilst I stated that I felt that fixing the problems cyclists face on the main road network would have been a much better use of the money, facilities such as the Greenway at least give people somewhere to cycle whilst feeling safe, even if they tend not to lead to particularly useful destinations or run along the main desire lines for Chester cyclists.

As a leisure cycling facility, the Greenway is very nice. Similar to the Floop in Manchester, the Greenway is a former railway line conversion. Unlike the Floop, the Greenway is free from pointless anti-cycling barriers along its length, except for chicanes to prevent motor vehicle intrusion at entry/exit points. Whilst riding towards Wales on the Greenway, I was impressed by the high quality of the surface. Upon entering Wales this impressive surface quality improved even further.

I did the ride on the Brompton, out of solidarity with Ms C. who only had her Brompton and not her Kona Africa Bike in Chester at the time. Even on a Brompton the ride was silky-smooth. After a few miles, the surroundings become pleasantly scenic farmland. Eventually the path meets up with the River Dee, which also has a good quality path along it. Unfortunately the anti-cycling barriers present where the path has gaps are more excessive than on the Greenway, being A-frames rather than chicanes, but the route is still enjoyable.

From here the Dee path continues back to Chester. I am not yet sure how far the route continues in the opposite direction, but I will have to investigate further in the future. Perhaps a special Wheelers’ Brunch outing in Chester, with a cooler box and a picnic for all on the Yuba?

The Greenway and River Dee paths offer a safe haven for those who wish to cycle in Chester but are put-off by the conditions on the roads. They are pleasant & high-quality leisure cycling facilities. It is just a shame that as soon as these facilities end, their users will once again be subjected to the unappealing, cycling-hostile road network which is common to all parts of the UK.

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8 thoughts on “Chester Greenway

  1. I agree with you on having more bike paths/infrastructure to places people need to go. But it is nice to have these bucolic riding experiences as well. I especially like them when they lead out of town into the countryside, so it makes it easy for city-folk to get out of town and maybe to a place to camp.

    My favorite rail-trail like this is the “Galloping Goose” in Victoria, British Columbia. (Canada!) it starts in the heart of downtown and leads literally into the (almost) wilderness, a length of about 25 miles. The first several miles are even a practical commuting route!

    • I do enjoy having these sorts of facilities, although I can’t help feeling that these are the sorts of things we should be building *after* we address the major failings of the main road network. With respect to cycling, it kind of feels like we’re having the party before we do any of the work here in the UK.

      • Mr. C, I sort of see your point, but I don’t see things in quite the same way. I think there are two reasons/benefits for building these types of paths now:

        1)The ability to do so. In the US there are quite a bit of abandoned railway lines laying fallow, and I’m guessing the situation is similar in the UK as well. (You folks also have more canal tow-paths through the country, whereas here States-side canal building only happened in a few spots in the Northeast and Midwest for the most part.) The right-of-way is there, so it’s a lot easier to build these rather than craft totally new separated facilities in urban/suburban areas. As the price of oil increases, the cost of making rail-trails out of these facilities will increase as well. Politically they are easier to do than the aforementioned crafting of new urban routes.

        2.) The recreational appeal. While folks like you and I will ride in the city in a myriad of conditions and bicycle suitability, there are plenty of folk who will only cycle in these types of places because of the perceived safety. Those people need places like this. Now the trick is to convince these people having a good time on rail-trails that we should also spend money on urban facilities. I think it’s an easier to sell separated urban infrastructure to folks like this when they have an ability to ride in places like this and maybe want more, vs. trying to convince them of the worthiness of urban infrastructure when there’s nothing for them in the first place.

        Now of course I believe that we should have more bike infrastructure in cities, correct the current failings, and all that. I also would like to see rail-trails and the like more integrated into urban networks so they don’t go from nowhere to nowhere. And I’d like to see these rail-trails turn into true long-distance routes that go somewhere. But I don’t think we should put off building more rail-trails until the cities are fixed for bikes. We’ve got a long slog ahead.

        • Fair point. Sometimes these rail-to-trail projects actually run along desire lines, such as the Bristol-Bath route, or they create demand by being an oasis in an otherwise hostile environment, such as the Floop in Manchester. I do feel it is a shame when these sorts of facilities are pointed to by the authorities as evidence that they are accommodating cycling though, because whilst it is technically true, they are only really accommodating leisure usage whilst neglecting bikes as a form of transport.

          Finally, as much as I like any good provision for cycles, part of me wishes the cycle provision didn’t come at the expense of trains which are another great mode of transport.

        • I agree with you on the bicycles vs. trains thing. It’s always sad to think that these were all active rail lines at some point. I know that during the big rail boom there were a lot of lines built, some redundant, some never even seeing their potential during the height of the rail era. I’m more comfortable seeing those ones become bike paths. But I get a bit ill when I hear of cyclists actively campaigning to rip up lightly used lines to make paths.

          Case in point: http://www.thearta.org/
          While this area might never need freight service again, some of the strident responses on their FAQ page infuriate me:
          http://www.thearta.org/faq/faq.htm
          Just read the “When gas reaches the $10” for the most egregious example.

  2. Pingback: Chester – Delamere Forest – Guilden Sutton | bobsoutdoors

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