NATIONAL Cycle Route 46 has crossed Castle Meadows since the 1990s. Its use as a connecting link between Abergavenny and Llanfoist has been suppressed, in part by the dangers of the busy road bridge but also by rough paths and awkward gates.

Following the sad accident involving a dog falling into the trial cattle grid, the Council is right to review the design. However, the choice of a cattle grid for wheeled access was not eccentric or unusual. In fact, cattle grids are recommended for such settings by the Department of Transport in its design handbook (Local Transport Note 1/20 July 2020). With grazing cattle, walkers, people on bikes and offlead, sometimes skittish dogs, the challenge of providing safe and convenient access for all is more difficult than it might seem.

MCC’s proposals for a new walking and wheeling bridge, smoother and slightly wider pathways and wheel-friendly access points was overwhelmingly supported by local people in the official consultation. Some 56 percent of the 566 respondents agreed that “the routes across Castle Meadows and Ysbytty Fields need improving as they do not cater for all”. Only 28 per cent disagreed. (

A closed gate on a country lane discourages motorists from using it as a route from A to B.

So it is for people riding bikes, as they must dismount, lean the bike up somewhere, open the gate, push the bike through, lean the bike up again, close the gate and remount. Very few disabled mobility scooter users can negotiate a manual gate without able-bodied assistance.

This is why the Welsh Government’s design guidance states: “Gates should be avoided on cycle routes and ‘kissing gates’ must not be used.”

Over the past century we have re-engineered our towns and countryside for the car. The result is that people feel car dependent, even for short local journeys, as it feels so much less safe to walk and cycle than it used to be.

People don’t want ever more cars filling up the roads, causing congestion, pollution, potholes and generally diminishing quality of life.

Providing better options for making short local journeys on foot and by bike requires safe, attractive, convenient and direct routes. Sure, look again at the design of the trial cattle grid, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

- Jack T