CYCLISTS will stage a protest at the official opening of the Pont y Werin bridge in Penarth Marina next week, if the Vale of Glamorgan Council fails to outline plans for safe pedestrian and cycle routes to the ‘Bridge of the People’.

The new £4.6million structure is due to open to the public on July 14 - providing a link to Cardiff Bay over the River Ely - but local cyclists want Vale Council chiefs to commit to access routes through Penarth, at a meeting being held in the town today (July 8).

The cyclists, who held a peaceful demonstration at Pont y Werin on Monday, say a dedicated project officer should have been appointed by the Vale Council to oversee implementation of the routes to the bridge, and have questioned why a £300,000 grant from Sewta (South East Wales Transport Alliance) has not been used to help pay for them.

They are also worried about safety and are angry that the new one-way system in Penarth town centre did not include a contraflow lane for cyclists on Arcot Street.

Marc Buehner, a cyclist from Penarth who is also a community representative on the Steering Committee for Pont y Werin, said: “The opening of the bridge next week should be a big celebration, but for Penarth residents it feels like we are being let down again by the Vale Council.

“It’s been an uphill battle throughout and now we are facing the real prospect of a fantastic bridge - but no way to get to it.”

The cyclists’ preferred link runs from Penarth town centre via Hill Terrace, through woodland, to the car park at Tesco in Penarth Marina.

Mr Buehner added: “The Vale Council has had several years and £300,000 of funding this year to deliver access routes, and nothing has been achieved.

“At present there is no safe way of getting to the bridge.

“Cardiff has done a great job of linking Pont y Werin with the Taff and Ely trail but the situation in Penarth is dire.

“We want the council to publicly make a binding commitment to the delivery of access routes before the official opening, as well as a clear timeframe of when this will be achieved. “If this fails to happen then we will look at staging a protest.”

The cyclists have been backed by Lorraine Barrett AM, who joined demonstrators at Pont y Werin on Monday.

“There doesn’t seem to have been any joined-up thinking by the Vale Council,” said the Assembly Member for Cardiff South and Penarth.

“We have this wonderful facility, but no safe routes in Penarth for pedestrians and cyclists to reach it.”

Cllr Jeffrey James, cabinet member for planning and transportation, said he was ‘surprised’ that cyclists were unhappy.

He said: “The Vale Council has always made it abundantly clear that despite being firmly committed to the Pont y Werin scheme and the delivery of connections, the actual provision of routes would take some time and would not be available in time for the opening of the bridge.

“This situation is due to the geography of the area, the nature of existing road connections, the traffic levels using local routes into and out of Penarth and the various other land interests involved.

“I would stress that, given the difficulties in planning additional cycle and walking routes through the existing area, it is impossible to give a firm timetable for the delivery of the routes in question.

“In terms of Arcot Street, the contraflow cycle lane has not been scrapped and is still subject to negotiations and discussions," said Cllr James.

“I have always been eager to include provision of a safe route for cyclists at this location – I remain so - and whilst the work on the town centre scheme has been completed, investigations continue into the feasibility of providing a contraflow lane."

Rob Thomas, head of planning and transportation, added: “The matter of our setting a project manager was discussed at length at the last meeting of the steering group on May 13, 2010.

"Members of the group that were present were made aware that a project manager was in place and had been in place for some time to oversee the project. “As for the funding from Sewta, this is contributing to work currently underway at Llandough, Cogan Pill, work at the Haven, and is also earmarked for the Arcot Street contraflow. "It will also be used to fund the design and implementation of other routes as they come forward.”

Cllr James added: "Talks of protests are extremely disappointing.

"The opening of Pont y Werin, after years of campaigning and planning, represents a significant achievement."