Coastal areas

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Coastal areas

I have had a very pleasant family holiday in Pembrokeshire. While most of our journeys were by car, there was a cheap Halfords mountain bike at the holiday cottage that I used. Here are my thoughts:

1) The coastline is often incredibly rugged with significant gradients on coastal roads. This can occur even when the locations the road connects are at or near sea level. This means that in order to ride NCN 4 between two beaches near where I stayed, one has to ride up a single track road to a height of 79 metres at a speed barely exceeding walking pace, then descend again not much faster due to the appalling visibility along a road that models itself as a paved ditch. One section further on, along a 2 lane A road, offers a 16% gradient. This is fun to go down (and slightly scary when you realise how bad cheap, poorly adjusted V brakes are) but uphill there is a very long walk up the road (and that would be the actual carriageway, there is no pavement) which is slightly concerning when you get to a section with hedgerows on both sides and a 40 mph limit.

2) That said, the road is much safer than the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. This is a footpath with awkward anti-cycling gates, and for good reason, because it is essentially a very rough unlit dirt path that comes within several feet of sheer unguarded drops. It offers beautiful views, but is of no use as a “pedestrian facility” and should be viewed as a recreational hiking route only. Unfortunately this distinction is often lost with cycling, because some routes such as bridleways suitable for recreational use will not make good commuter routes, as the latter implies that the routes are paved and possibly lit as well.

3) Towns and villages will vary in regards to the nature of the roads. Some have highly traffic engineered relief roads with large roundabouts, such as here in Haverfordwest. While NCN 4 pops up again as a shared use path, it simply passes from one side to another through a subway and does not help cyclists going to or from the other roads on the roundabout. Infrastructure needs to be improved in these situations, and it needs to be suitable for tourists, as they may be riding tandems and/or have trailers.

4) Many coastal towns and villages, however, have rather constricted streets, which may not have room for pavements, let alone cycle lanes. While the most dangerous and problematic situations found on larger roads are gone, this does not mean that cycling has been actively considered. Some streets may be prohibited for motor vehicles except for access (good) but either instead of or in addition to that, their limited width may mean they are made one way. While this is necessary to prevent oncoming vehicles getting stuck where there might not be passing spaces, this can seriously inconvenience cyclists in situations where driving and parking a car is unlikely to be particularly easy either, therefore the main goal in small towns with constrained roads should be contraflow cycling. As far as parking a bicycle goes, this is often inadequately provided for as well.

5) The major roads connecting coastal areas are, however typically better engineered in the sense that they will as a minimum have two lanes separated by a dashed white line in most places. They are generally not as highly engineered as A roads elsewhere but they are still busy and unattractive to cyclists, which is why the National Cycle Network tries to avoid them when it can, occasionally making a brief dash along them while it still has the courage to do so.

6) Coastal areas often have ferries and / or toll bridges. Erm, I’m running out of ideas, perhaps ask foot ferries to allow cycles on board if they don’t already?

Fatbob's picture


To all intents and purposes Pembroke is like Cornwall and and suffers the same geographical constraints – there is the track between Neyland then Johnston and Haverfordwest but that’s it really. If you had stayed in Burry Port about 40 miles east you could have experianced NCN 4 in it’s full glory with a totally traffic free ride from Kidwelly to the otherside of Llanelli. This ride would incorporate a visit to the best beach in Wales (Cefn Sidan) and if you were hungry, dinner at the Neptune in Burry Port – fresh local wild Sea Bass and chips.

Seriously I suspect that the main issues with Pembrokeshire may lie with the National Park – it’s OK to build a whacking great oil terminal but woe betide anyone who suggests a bike path!


The best bike is a used bike!

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