On yer bike: Liverpool maps out its grand new cycling plans
The new proposals are being described as ‘ambitious’. But have we heard it all before?
Dear readers — we’ve all seen the social media posts from exasperated cyclists sharing photos of massive Range Rovers sprawled out across tiny cycle lanes, or the videos of them negotiating some kind of Indiana Jones-style situation in the city centre, narrowly avoiding an untimely demise every few metres. Liverpool, it’s safe to say, is not seen as a city that serves its cyclists particularly well. But will the council’s latest active travel proposals go some way to amending that — or are they just another false dawn?
Elsewhere in today’s newsletter:
Might we see the grand return of the night bus?
An excellent long read on the MMA fever sweeping Liverpool, and the Scousers punching, kicking, elbowing, and strangling each other in the octagon
An iconic music venue becomes a block of flats — echoing the fate of Manchester’s Hacienda
At the weekend we investigated how a tribute to Nelson Mandela in Princes Park— in the form of a bridge — has descended into acrimony over concerns about council conflicts of interest and threats to wildlife. The bridge, costing a whopping £250k, has been subject to constant protest and a lot of anger (often in the form of people sticking posters onto a signboard advertising the bridge with comments such as: NELSON MANDELA HIMSELF WOULD’VE BEEN APPALLED BY THIS SHEER ACT OF VANITY AND VANDALISM”). “Excellent article and why I’m so happy to subscribe to The Post,” was one response. “An excellent item prompting some excellent comments,” wrote another reader.
Since the story was published, there appear to have been a couple of updates. Angry residents have blocked the access pathway to the island and put up a new sign that reads: “Leave the animals be.” Moreover, Merseyside Police have said they have been in touch with Mandela8 advising them to halt work on the bridge while they look into the issue. We’ll continue to follow this one to see how it plays out — keep letting us know what you think.
Last week paying members got a fantastic double bill from Abi. On Tuesday, an architectural tour de force from Athens-on-the-Mersey, exploring the deep Greek influence on so many of Liverpool’s most beautiful buildings. Then on Thursday, a twisting tale of decades-old feuding, dead marine life and even rumoured gunfire, as a war over gillnetting (a controversial type of fishing, to the uninitiated) continues to grip Wirral. Want to know why Meols beach has become something of a shark graveyard? You’ll need to be a paying member!
Editor’s note: This week, paying Post members will receive three newsletters (four if you count this one), including investigations, cultural reads and some of the best writing in Liverpool. To help fund a new way of doing journalism in Liverpool, focusing on subscriptions rather than clickbait, consider subscribing with the button below, if you’re not a member already. It costs £1.25 a week if you pay for 12 months upfront, which is damn good value. Thanks, as always, for reading.
This week’s weather
Monday ⛈️ Thundery showers and a moderate breeze with highs of 15°C
Tuesday 🌦️ Light rain showers and a moderate breeze with highs of 18°C
Wednesday 🌧️ Light showers and a moderate breeze with highs of 18°C
Thursday ⛅ Sunny intervals and a gentle breeze with highs of 19°C
Friday ☀️ Sunny and a moderate breeze with highs of 24°C
Weekend ⛈️ Thundery showers and a moderate breeze with highs of 24°C
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from BBC Weather and it’s for Liverpool.
The big story: Liverpool can be a cyclist’s nightmare. But is change around the corner?
Top line: Liverpool’s cycling lanes are widely considered to lag seriously behind those of other major cities. It’s a topic that evokes more anger online than most, with bodycam footage of cyclists negotiating dramatic near misses in the city centre featuring on Twitter more-or-less daily. A paltry 2% of journeys across the city region are by bike, but this month the council’s latest plans aimed at amending its shoddy cycling infrastructure will go to consultation.
So what’s new? The main new proposal is for an 8km route running from Childwall through Wavertree and into the city centre — one of six new routes. According to the council, it would provide access for more than 100,000 people, eventually connecting with the new Lime Street corridor and then through to the city’s waterfront. Around 70% of people are said to support the new infrastructure.
False dawns: One of the issues in selling this, for the council, will be the sense that people have heard it all before. Steve Rotheram’s grand promise in 2018 to create a new 600km walking and cycling network was seen as an ambitious pledge, but the city region’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, Simon O’Brien, recently complained to LBN that things weren’t moving fast enough. Moreover, various “major public consultations” on cycling infrastructure in the past have led to plans being significantly watered down. Throw in last year’s farcical Car Free Day, and you end up with a pretty bleak picture for the cyclists.
If it does get built, the new route will at least be a step in the right direction. Dan Barrington, the council’s environment cabinet member, said this:
“The Childwall-City corridor has the potential to make cycling an easier option for tens of thousands of people. When you factor in how it will connect to other routes, you start to see the impact this could have – be it in our environment, our air quality and people’s physical and mental wellbeing.”
Barrington’s mention of air quality is important. As Post readers will know — at least those who read Joel Hansen’s excellent piece on the topic in April — this is an area we do extremely badly at. Here were a couple of the key takeaways:
Our air quality is so bad that, according to one study, around 1,000 deaths every year in the Liverpool City Region can be linked to pollution.
In parts of north Liverpool, the air exceeds safe limits set by the World Health Organisation for three pollutants: PM2.5, PM10, and NO2 (the former of which is linked to illnesses such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary heart disease, strokes, lung cancer and dementia).
North/south divide: As Joel’s piece made clear, air quality is a particular issue in north Liverpool. Dr Rob Barnett — a Liverpool GP for 30 years — told us that the eight-year difference in life expectancy between Childwall (83.1 years) and Kirkdale ward (71.6) was in part for this reason. One concern raised about the new proposals is that, once again, this is a scheme designed to serve the south of the city. “From Croxteth into the city centre, there are no safe routes!” wrote one Twitter user.
And cycling campaigner Andi Armitage was also less than impressed. “I’m also under the impression staff haven’t ridden along the route at all. Only seeing A-B not key destinations along a-b-c…ignoring junction design and no access permeability,” he tweeted.
In more positive news, the Childwall-City corridor is actually only one of three active travel schemes reaching a crucial juncture this month. A new cycle training facility at Everton Park is opening, and a year-long scheme to improve 30 points on the 16km Liverpool Loop line is nearing completion. Those who have experienced the many false dawns of the past few years will be unlikely to hold their breath, but this is clearly more ambitious than previous proposals. If the council gets it right it could form a model to be rolled out across the city.
Your Post briefing
A night bus service that was axed during the pandemic could make a return, with talks between campaigners and Liverpool City Region now underway. The new service would improve connections between Liverpool and Birkenhead, helping hospitality workers travel between the city and the Wirral late at night. Wirral South MP Alison McGovern supports the plan: "I have listened to residents who want to get home from work, and to businesses who are finding it ever harder to get staff”. A spokesman for Liverpool City Region confirmed that talks were underway with private operators to explore the possibility of a late night bus trial.
A Liverpool street artist has painted a mural of the late Paul O’Grady on the banks of the Mersey. The mural, which depicts the comedian as his drag alter-ego Lily Savage, was painted by artist Brezaux near Woodside Ferry Terminal over the weekend. Brezaux said O’Grady was a “local hero” so painting the mural was a “nice thing to do”. “He’s been around for a long time,” he added, “people love him for all sorts.” The mural was commissioned by property developer Peel L&P.
Plans have been submitted to the council to transform former night club Lomax into a block of flats. The Lomax saw the likes of Oasis and Radiohead grace its stage in the 1990s, before its doors closed for good in 2015. New plans submitted by property company JSM Company Group could see the spot turn into temporary accommodation for up to 42 people, with a mix of one and two-bed units. The application is currently under review and a date for decision has not been set.
1,100 United Utilities workers are planning to go on strike over pay after “years of underinvestment” in the water system. A vote two weeks ago saw 68% of workers in the GMB union agree to strike, with the industrial action affecting issues including the cleanup of sewage spillages across Merseyside. The strike comes just weeks after it was revealed the company would be increasing some customer’s bills to recoup some of its £10 billion investment in a sewer modernisation scheme — despite handing over £300 million to shareholders. Strike organiser Steve Whittle said: “They’ve seen their pay slashed for several years, while directors trouser fortunes. Enough is enough — GMB members at United Utilities demand no more cuts and clean water now.”
Home of the week
This top floor apartment in Crosby is on the market for £90,000. Enjoy outdoor space with room for al fresco dining, a spacious living room and a bedroom flooded with natural light. Find out more here.
🎸On Saturday, Scottish indie-pop band Belle and Sebastian perform at Liverpool Olympia with support from Drug Store Romeos. The gig is part of Belle and Sebastian’s UK-wide tour in support of their latest album Late Developers. Buy tickets here.
🎨Liverpool’s Arab Arts Festival returns to the city this week with a whole host of events celebrating Arabic culture. The festival runs from 6th to the 16th of July, with a film premiere of Arwa Aburawa and Turab Shah’s latest picture And Still, It Remains on Thursday. Find out more about the festival here.
🔎Why not try the Liverpool Treasure Hunt this weekend? Follow a city centre route filled with cryptic clues that lead you from one landmark to the next, with time for a coffee or a pint in between each destination. Book a slot here.
Our favourite reads
A 4000 word journey into the heart of Liverpool’s rediscovered fighting spirit in The Face, introduces the Scousers punching, kicking, elbowing, and strangling each other in the octagon. Thanks in part to Mixed Martial Arts superstar Paddy the Baddy (Paddy Pimblett) and “Meatball” Molly (Molly McCann), a once-fringe sport is now anything but. “There’s something in the air here that’s more than the heady combo of blood, sweat and ringing eardrums,” writes Kieran Morris. “Next Gen has tapped into something striking deep at the heart of scouse identity: a love of the good fight that goes back centuries.”
While it’s not in Liverpool, a new £210 million arts venue in the north west should be a cause for celebration and excitement, right? Or perhaps not. Boasting the most corporate name imaginable for an arts venue and a price tag that has risen to extraordinary levels, Aviva Studios is shaping up like a possible damp squib, at least according to our colleagues at The Mill. Sophie Atkinson paid a visit, and while all hope is not yet lost, she found a venue that could easily leave people cold. Will you be heading down the M62 for a slice of £210 million culture? Let us know.
“What’s that sound? There’s drums and guitars, the airborne buzz of people gathering and the smell of locally-brewed ale floating above it all. What is that sound? It sounds like the future.” The Future is in Birkenhead tagline may have become something of a cliche, but if there’s one place where it does hold true, it’s Future Yard. Hell, it’s in the name. Widely regarded as one of the most exciting music venues in Merseyside, or even further afield, Left Bank paid them a visit, and found a place where the music is only one part of the magic.
Letters from readers
One thing we always say to people in the city is to "look up" At eye level the city is all modern looking shops but lift your gaze to what is above you will be astounded at the level of classical architectural detail that you walk past every day, ‘How the railways turned Liverpool into Athens’ Paul O'Donnell.
Build a memorial by all means, I would welcome it, maybe even incorporate it into a museum, explaining about the Regime Mandella and the majority of "Sith Efrica" lived under, and why he ended up taking the action he did (he and the ANC), maybe even build it in the park, possibly that way, everyone will be happy, and the wildlife can remain where they are (reasonably) safe & unharmed, ‘Bridge over troubled water’, Baz.