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Funding award gives green light to school cycling initiative

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An innovative cycle maintenance and safety awareness scheme led by pupils from Gowerton Comprehensive School has received a funding boost from the South West Wales Community Rail Partnership.

Launched in February 2021, the Partnership’s ‘Community Changemakers Fund’ is aimed at supporting people and organisations wishing to deliver improvements in communities across the region. 

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More than sixty applications were received from individuals and organisations seeking a share of the £16,000 fund, which was supported by Transport for Wales, Great Western Railway, Siemens Mobility and the Community Rail Partnership.  

Administered by the Carmarthenshire Association for Voluntary Services (CAVS) and the Community Rail Partnership, between £300 and £1,000 was available to apply for; with the main criteria being able to demonstrate how funding and small interventions could improve community well-being and being located near the rail network.

In a recent community survey undertaken by the school, 89% of respondents said they would use a cycle maintenance facility while 72% said they would be interested in taking a cycling safety course. Many of the individuals interested in the safety course were adults over the age of 35.

Sue Davies, Head of physical education at Gowerton Comprehensive School, said; “The grant funding is the first step for our cycling project. The funding will enable us to equip our cycling maintenance facility and allow us to train pupils in Level 1 and Level 2 Cycle maintenance.  They will work alongside Kevin Rees of Gower Cycles to coordinate a Cycle Maintenance facility, which will be available to all members of the community.”

She continued; “We are also linking with the Active Journey team to develop a safe pathway to school initiative and to increase the number of pupils who can safely walk or cycle to school.  As part of the health & wellbeing curriculum, all year 7 and 8 pupils will have the opportunity to follow a safe cycling or cycle proficiency programme.  We are confident that they can cycle to school safely and that cycling can play a part in their lifelong journey as healthy active individuals.”

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Part of the funding received from the Community Rail Partnership will be used to purchase cycle maintenance tools and stands.

Hugh Evans, head of community rail for Transport for Wales, said; “We are delighted to support this initiative.  It’s great to see pupils developing new skills while helping to promote healthier and safer cycling in the community.”

GWR Community Manager Emma Morris said; “We have a specific pot of money designed to support community and not-for-profit organisations. These projects will help to enhance thousands of lives across South Wales and we know the funding will be put to good use.”

Rob Morris, Managing Director, Rail Infrastructure, Siemens Mobility UK&I said; “I’m delighted that Siemens Mobility can support the Changemakers Programme. Initiatives like these help local people proactively drive positive change – particularly important in challenging times – and I’m pleased we were able to work with South West Wales Connected to create new opportunities for community engagement.”

Formed in 2020, the community rail partnership covers the rail routes west of Port Talbot to Swansea, Carmarthen, Pembroke Dock, Milford Haven and Fishguard Harbour.  

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Its objectives are to develop positive partnerships between the rail industry and local organisations to promote social inclusion, sustainability, health and well-being, green travel, tourism and economic development across the region.

Lead image: Pictured left to right are; Jennifer Barfoot (Community Rail Officer), Toni Cardew (Projects & Impacts Officer), Kevin Rees (Cycling Coordinator Gowerton Comprehensive), Sue Davies (Head of PE, Gowerton Comprehensive) and Cassey Williams (Head Girl Gowerton Comprehensive)

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Cycling

Council awarded over £8m for new cycle and walking routes in Swansea

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Walking and cycling routes in Swansea are set to be expanded after Swansea Council secured millions in Welsh Government funding.

The Council has received confirmation from the WG of more than £8 million of transport funding which will be invested in the city’s growing walking and cycle network.

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Part of the funding will also be used to improve main routes in the city for public transport, in a bid to improve bus services and speed up journeys for passengers.

In total, £8.325 million has been awarded to the Council after it submitted bids earlier in 2022.

A report to Cabinet will seek to approve a list of transport schemes that will help boost sustainable transport and encourage more people to walk and cycle.

Just over £7 million of the funding will be spent on developing new walking and cycling routes.

Included in the plans is a new route across Clyne Common, linking up the village of Bishopston with a recently completed walking and cycling route on Mayals Road.

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New routes will also be developed in the north of the city, including a new route between Grovesend and Pontarddulais and a new link between Penllergaer and Gorseinon.

Funding will also be used to fill gaps in the walking and cycling network along the Tawe corridor in and around the Morriston area.

Andrew Stevens, Cabinet Member for Environment & Infrastructure, said: “Once again, Swansea has been successful in securing important funding that we want to invest in our transport network in the city.

“We have been working extremely hard for a number of years, creating new walking and cycling routes that give residents and visitors alternative ways to get around without needing to use a car.

“Our aim is to make walking and cycling a serious option for people, even more so with fuel prices continuing to rise across the country.

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“Swansea is a vast city with many communities and we are continuing to plan and develop routes that link up these communities. Residents have already taken part in city-wide consultations on new routes so that we can plan ahead and we will continue to work with residents, cycle groups and other representative bodies to ensure new routes help achieve our aims.”

Some of the funding (£1.2 million) will also be used to improve main routes in the city – specifically targeting routes used by public transport services.

Cllr Stevens added: “We need to ensure busy routes used by public transport services are improved and can assist in making bus services more reliable and more attractive for potential passengers.

“The latest funding will assist us in improving bus priority as well as upgrading bus stops.”

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Cycle event puts spotlight on Carmarthenshire once again

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Carmarthenshire is becoming the premier destination for major sporting events according to the county council, after hosting stage five of the Women’s Tour – Britain’s biggest women’s road cycling race.

Some of the world’s top riders raced through the picturesque Carmarthenshire countryside to the delight of crowds of spectators who had lined the route to cheer them – and Carmarthen cyclist Jess Roberts – on.

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Hundreds of schoolchildren and plenty of cycling enthusiasts and sporting fans gathered at Pembrey Country Park to watch the start of the race which included 97 riders from 17 teams battling it out along a tough 106.4-kilometre (66.3-mile) route finishing on the top of the Black Mountain – the second hill-top finish in Women’s Tour history.

Reigning Italian road race champion Elisa Longo Borghini won the queen stage outsprinting Kasia Niewiadoma and race leader Grace Brown in a thrilling finale at the end of the 7.2km climb.

Hundreds of people lined the route at Pembrey Country Park (Image: Carmarthenshire Council)
Hundreds of people lined the route at Pembrey Country Park (Image: Carmarthenshire Council)
Cyclists line up for the start of the race at Pembrey Country Park (Image: Carmarthenshire Council)

Carmarthenshire previously hosted the Grand Départ of the Tour of Britain as well as the overall finish of the Women’s Tour in 2019 – again at Pembrey Country Park – and the Tour of Britain team trial in 2021.

With live televised coverage, these events are a major opportunity to showcase Carmarthenshire’s landscape and facilities, perfect for a range of sports with its special blend of countryside and coast.

They also provide an economic boost to the south Wales economy and add to the county’s growing tourism industry with the thousands of visitors likely to return to enjoy what Carmarthenshire has to offer.

Council Leader Cllr Darren Price said: “The Women’s Tour is a great way to showcase Carmarthenshire to the world.

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“It is now the fourth time we have hosted either the Tour of Britain or the Women’s Tour proving that Carmarthenshire is the top location for cycling in Wales.

“And we are reaping the rewards of that, everyone benefits, our growing tourism industry, local businesses and local communities.

“It has been a wonderful day and it was amazing to see so many supporters along the route; the people of Carmarthenshire have done themselves proud yet again.

“I am confident that this event will help to raise awareness of cycling and its benefits and inspire people to get on their bikes and make the most of our beautiful coast and countryside.”

Highlights of the race are available on demand via the ITV Hub.

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(Lead image: Carmarthenshire Council)

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Swansea bike share cyclists hit 100,000 mark

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Leading bike share operator nextbike is celebrating after its Swansea users crossed the line to reach 100,000 rentals since the scheme launched in 2018.  

The Santander Cycles Swansea scheme reached the milestone just ahead of UK Bike Week (6-12 June), which encourages people to get out there and enjoy their local community by bike. 

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Nextbike UK MD, Krysia Solheim, said she was delighted to announce the news. 

“It’s clear that the people of Swansea have embraced a new-found love for cycling since the scheme was launched four years ago. 

“To have reached 100,000 rentals is fantastic news for the city, as people opting to cycle instead of using the car or public transport means that they’re not only helping to reduce CO2 emissions and ease congestion, but they’re also boosting their physical and mental health, too.”

Nearly 45,500 of those rides were taken in the last year (June 21 – May 22) alone, with a record day last week with 335 rides on Thursday, June 2.

The fleet of 70 pedal bikes has seen an average of more than 2 rides a day, with a high of 5 rides. 

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The scheme is run in conjunction with Santander and Swansea University and was first launched in 2018, after the University beat stiff competition to win the Santander Cycles University Challenge. 

Since then, the scheme has helped thousands of students, locals and tourists ride confidently around the city.

May 2022 saw the scheme hit its best ever month with 5,844 rentals up 78 per cent from last year. 

“It’s fitting that the milestone comes during UK Bike Week which this year is asking people to imagine how their local community could be improved if everyone in it used their bikes more,” Krysia explained. 

“These last few years have seen a lot of change, many people took up cycling for the first time or rediscovered it. Some for exercise, some for commuting to work, to go to the shops or even just to be able to see friends and family. We’re delighted to be able to give the people of Swansea the opportunity to cycle and pleased to see them utilising it.

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“We would love to expand the scheme, and it’s evident that the demand is there and would grow with additional stations and bikes.” 

Inclusive cycling charity Bikeability Wales also supports the scheme, ensuring bikes are regularly serviced, stocked and repaired from their workshop at the University’s Singleton Park Campus.

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