A NEW bike-friendly footbridge that will span the River Soar is due to be lifted into place next to Leicester’s historic Abbey Corner Bridge this weekend.
The new 3.5-metre wide footbridge will be the centrepiece of a major £7.5million revamp of Abbey Park Road and is due to be hoisted into place by a huge crane on Saturday, April 9.
Work is taking place onsite this week to assemble the bridge ready for the final lift into position.
Once in place, the new footbridge will run parallel to the existing Grade-II listed Abbey Corner Bridge, taking cyclists off the narrow road bridge and helping to ensure that there is enough space for all road users to use the busy route safely and efficiently.
Once the new bridge is safely in position, work will shift to essential maintenance of the existing road bridge – which dates back to 1878. Detailed surveys of have found evidence of corrosion in the cast iron structure and other issues which require extensive repairs to ensure that the bridge can continue to be used safely by heavy traffic.
The major and complex nature of the bridge maintenance works mean that Abbey Park Road will remain closed to through traffic until early in the new year. Well-signed diversions are in place and access is being maintained for residents, businesses and for the main car park at Abbey Park.
The new footbridge is due to be open for pedestrians and cyclists from Monday, April 25.
Deputy city mayor Cllr Adam Clarke, who leads on environment and transportation, said: “This new footbridge is the centrepiece of an ambitious revamp of Abbey Park Road that will help radically change the way that people think about travelling on this important route. As it stands, the existing road bridge can be a daunting prospect for cyclists at busy times. The new footbridge will create more space and help make Abbey Park Road a safer, more appealing and people-friendly route.
“It is absolutely vital that we continue to invest in helping people to make the shift to cleaner, greener, healthier and often cheaper modes of travelling around Leicester, not least because traffic is responsible for around a quarter of the city’s carbon emissions.”
The bridge repairs have been programmed to take place during an ambitious programme of improvement work on Abbey Park Road. This will reduce the need for additional highway works on this busy route in the near future.
The £7.5million revamp of Abbey Park Road – which will also see new bus lanes introduced and footpaths improved to create a safer and more attractive route for pedestrians and cyclists – is supported by the Transforming Cities Fund as part of an ambitious programme of investment in sustainable transport across the city.
New camera-enforced bus lanes running in both directions along the road will give more priority to public transport in a bid to improve journey times and encourage more people to use the bus. To create space for the new bus lane, general traffic will be reduced to one lane in either direction and on-street parking will be removed between Abbey Corner Bridge and Belgrave Circle. The scheme has been carefully modelled and designed to ensure that traffic capacity will be maintained, avoiding delays and congestion.
Footpaths will be widened to provide safe space for pedestrians and cyclists and two new road crossings will be created.
A small area of car parking immediately in front of the main gates into Abbey Park will be removed, and the area revamped to create a more welcoming approach into the award-winning, historic park.
A new e-bike docking station will also be installed to the west of the River Soar as part of electric bike hire scheme launched earlier this year by the city council in partnership with Santander.
The council also intends to carry out road resurfacing as part of the scheme.
The Transforming Cities Fund is a major £80million citywide programme of investment in sustainable transport, backed by £40million of Government cash from the Department for Transport. The ambitious package of works will focus on major sustainable transport improvements to provide attractive choices for people to get to work, education, shops and other local facilities to help support the city’s growth and deliver on the council’s climate emergency, air quality and health living commitments.
The programme includes the development of new bus priority corridors linking the city centre to local neighbourhoods and suburbs along with the continued development of a network of high-quality cycling and walking routes throughout the city, building on the success of the Connecting Leicester programme.