Local residents celebrated the official opening of access improvements on a two-mile section of the historic Black Path in Middlesbrough last week with a ribbon cutting on the path, as well as a host of free activities.
Young people from the Mackenzie Thorpe Centre took part in a ribbon cutting event with Cllr Carl Quartermain. PHOTO: Philip Chisholm
The popular walking and cycle path between Normanby and South Bank was once a commuter route for sailors and steelworkers, and is now accessible for wheelchairs, mobility scooters, adapted cycles and buggies.
The work was carried out by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, working with our North team, and funded by the Department for Transport.
Families took part in colouring in a chalk mural to mark a more open route that people of all abilities can enjoy.
They made seed bombs, went on a bird walk and planted bulbs along the grass verges of the traffic-free path, which is also known locally in Redcar as ‘The Lines’.
A more open space for everyone
Access improvements on the Black Path (also known as 'The Lines'), include widening it to three metres, a smoother, flexible surface and cutting back vegetation.
This allows more space for everyone, better visibility and improved safety.
Barriers have been redesigned to allow people with mobility aids or larger buggies, bikes or horses to access the route, while still deterring illegal use by motorbikes.
A new sign, designed by autistic and neurodiverse learners from the Mackenzie Thorpe Centre, celebrates the more accessible space.
As part of the work National Cycle Route 1 was redirected from its current on-road alignment onto the path.
This provides a safer and more pleasant route for people walking, wheeling and cycling, and reduces the number of bikes along a busy bus route.
Local residents say many more people are now using the path, which feels safer and more accessible for all ages and abilities.
Philip Chisholm rides with Angela Keith on his adapted cycle. Philip helps disabled people to enjoy cycling in the area.
Philip Chisholm rides an adapted cycle to help disabled friends and family.
Philip says: “The Lines is amazing now. It’s wonderful for disabled carriages or even a very long bike, and a 100% improvement on what it was before.
“The old track was muddy with lots of barriers.
"You’d come off it with a filthy bike and filthy clothes.
"Now it’s lovely and smooth tarmac, there are access points all the way along, and it’s three times the width.
“I’ve ridden a bike since I was a little boy. I’m now 70.
"This feels like cycle routes are moving with the times for all age groups.”
Local residents Michelle and Angela said: “We love it, it’s loads better.
"We use it all the time, but previously we wouldn’t because it didn’t feel safe, even during the day, sadly.
"Since it’s been done we feel safer.
“Many people are using it now, there was someone on a wheelchair using it the other day. That’s never been seen before.
"We’re getting more exercise every day. We used to walk down Normanby Road but now we come down here instead.
"We just hear the birds rather than cars, it’s lovely.”
Tom French, also local said: “It’s a much better path now, it’s certainly getting more use.
"For older people like me, it feels a lot safer. I’ve told friends of mine to come and try it.”
Debbie O’Hara, another local resident, said: “If you come at 6pm, it’s full of kids on bikes. Everyone says “oh isn’t this lovely”. It’s great seeing the families strolling up and down.”
Paul Adams, Sustrans’ Network Development Manager for the North East said: “It’s been fantastic to see so many more people enjoying the route, including people using mobility aids, families with buggies and horses.
“The Black Path was always a popular path but barriers and poor surface stopped many legitimate users from accessing it. This meant the path often had quiet periods, which encouraged people on motorbikes to use it illegally.
“We’ve removed the barriers and will be replacing them with chicanes which allow more people to get on the route, but deter motor bike use.
“Now the path is part of a national cycle route, creating a safer and more pleasant environment for people commuting or going to school. The wider, smoother path is a busy, vibrant community route that is easier for everyone to enjoy.”
Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, Cllr Carl Quartermain, from Redcar and Cleveland Council, gave a speech and cut the ribbon to celebrate the path opening. Cllr Carl Quartermain, said:
“It is wonderful to see the Black Path vision finally complete, cleaner, wider and safer than ever it was when used by thousands of workers over the past 150 years.
"This popular local path, now part of the Teesdale Way and England Coast pathway, has such a strong history that connected our workers to their jobs within steel, iron, shipbuilding, chemicals and even salt-making.
"It has undergone an amazing transformation that will allow all our residents and visitors, walkers and cyclists to benefit from and to learn about its significance.
The £665,000 improvement work on the Black Path was funded by the Department for Transport.
Sustrans is leading a UK-wide programme, funded by the Department for Transport, to create paths that are accessible for everyone to enjoy. Route improvements to the National Cycle Network are part of our recommendations in our most recent Paths for Everyone report.