Our east-west route is still a work in progress, but this winter we’ve also found travelling from north to south particularly challenging too.
For whatever reason, most likely austerity, the off-road cycle paths and pavements are not being gritted this year. This not only traps the less mobile in their homes, but also renders our safest active travel routes unusable on particularly cold mornings & evenings.
Unsurprisingly, this has led many of us whom travel by bike to either find an alternative route…or give up and take the train or bus that day. However, we don’t want to be forced off our bikes by councils neglecting our paths and their obligations under the Active Travel Act, so we need to find another way.
The Taff Trail
We know that a few of our regular commenters travel in from as far out as Caerphilly, so we’ll look at an alternative to the Penrhos Cutting at the end. In the meantime, we’ll look at a few alternative on-road options from Tongwynlais.
Ordinarily, the Taff Trail will take you through Forest Farm, past Whitchurch RFC, through Hailey Park, past Glan Taf High School, Tal-y-Bont and some may head across the Blackweir bridge, head up to North Road or through Bute Park if it is open.
1. Take a brave pill & the most direct route
From Tongwynlais, you can follow the main road south, go past the hotel and jump into the middle lane at the traffic lights. You can then ride the interchange around and drop down onto Manor Way. From the lights at the bottom of Rhiwbina Hill, you can follow the bus lane over the crest of the hill and continue down manor way, all the way to the flyover, where you need to make a judgement call.
If it is windy, we would not recommend taking the flyover. The barriers are quite low and it’s windy up there at the best of times. Instead, head around the roundabout and take either the exit for Whitchurch Road, or straight on down North Road, where there’s a bus lane for much of the way down. If it is a calm day, feel free to use the flyover –it’s a nice view from up there and it’s supposed to be a 30mph zone.
Best for: Speed, road surface
Bad for: Your lungs, congestion
2. The Maes-y-Coed Road Route
As before, leave Tongwynlais via the main road, head into the middle lane at the lights & follow it around. Stay on the interchange and take the Whitchurch Village exit. Head into Whitchurch & take the Tyn-y-Pwll Road exit at the library, before taking a left at the cemetery and take the left lane at the traffic lights.
Head straight over Manor Way and head down Tyn-y-Parc Road, Ty Wern Road and then Maes-y-Coed Road. At the end of Maes-y-Coed Road, take the right-hand lane at the lights (there only two lanes and they both go left). Once you’ve turned left onto Heathwood road, take a right down Heath Park Avenue and follow it all the way to Whitchurch Road. From here you can either head down Crwys Road & City Road to access Newport Road, or you can take a right at either Cathays Terrace or Gelligaer Street to access Cathays & the Civic Centre.
Best for: Avoiding bottlenecks
Bad for: Traffic lights
3. The Heathwood Road Route
A combination of the previous two. Head down into Whitchurch Village and follow it all the way along to the end. At the traffic lights, go straight across onto Heathwood Road and follow it all the way down to Heath Park Avenue.
Best for: Straight lines
Bad for: Seems ok, actually…
4. From Morganstown
Whilst many of us will normally join the trail from Tongwynlais, a great many of us will no doubt access it from the farm in Morganstown.
The road down to the farm is very steep, dark and covered in potholes, so best avoided in all but the best of conditions. Instead, from Morganstown you have a bit of a climb on your hands. Head under the M4, up the deceivingly long hill and come down the other side, before heading up the hill again by the school. At the roundabout, take a left and head towards Danescourt. Head straight over the roundabout and follow it all the way to the mini roundabout at Llandaff Cathedral.
From here you can head straight across the A48 and down Penhill Road & Cathedral Road into town.
Best for: Your Strava climbing stats
Bad for: Bottlenecks at Llandaff; the mini roundabout at the Cathedral; the hill at Radyr
5. From Caerphilly
The Penrhos Cutting meets with the Taff Trail near the traffic lights on Nantgarw Hill, however, it is another ungritted path so we have to work around it.
Nantgarw hill is a two lane road, providing ample passing room for motorists. We would be inclined to follow it to the roundabout at the bottom, head straight over into Taffs Well and follow this main road all the way to Tongwynlais, where you have your choice of routes as detailed above.
- If you want to avoid the Taff Trail, but there’s not much ice about, the shared paths across the Coryton Interchange are not a bad way to go. From the Tongwynlais end, the first path to the right will take you to Asda & Longwood Drive; following the M4 overpass, the path forks again –left takes you over a bridge and down to the bottom of Rhiwbina Hill. Right will take you to another fork –left will take you to a very narrow path along the A470 exit, but right will take you into Whitchurch.
- None of these routes will be slower than taking the Taff Trail. I’ve personally done route 1 in 20 minutes door to door where the trail will take around 30 minutes door to door. However, your progress will depend a lot on how confident you are at filtering to the front of the queue at traffic lights.
- All of these on-road routes require a certain amount of confidence. However, it is worth bearing in mind that as long as you are well lit (at night, in rain & drizzle) and you assert yourself, riding on the roads is nowhere near as dangerous as people think it is. Yes, some people will pass you a little closer than you would like, but as long as you don’t jump red lights and you signal your intentions, you should be ok.
- The more you ride on the road, the easier it will get.
During the summer, the process of trying different roads and seeing which ones you enjoy riding on is all part of the fun. However, when it is dark, cold and most likely wet, finding yourself on unfamiliar roads especially if you are on your own is not that great. This article is intended to give you some ideas for different ways you can make the journey to the centre of Cardiff on reasonably simple roads. It in no way excuses the sorry state of the Taff Trail or National Skating Route 8, as it will eventually become known.
Having said that, if you have been experimenting while the trail has been iced over and you’ve found a route that you like, let us know in the comments!
Good news! The Council has acquired a gritting machine for the trails and cycle paths.