TWO unicyclists were some of the first users of the newly opened cycleway between Shipley and Bradford after the ribbon was cut in a ceremony this morning.

The £3.1 million, 1.4-mile Canal Road Cycleway provides the missing link in the cycling infrastructure between the city and Shipley and creates a safe route for cyclists through the district.

Constructed as part of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s £60 million CityConnect programme, the cycleway aims to encourage more people to travel by bicycle or on foot.

The route starts in Shipley and runs along Hillam Road, Bolton Lane and Valley Road, coming to an end in the city centre in Lower Kirkgate, close to the Bradford Forster Square railway station.

Representatives from Bradford's community cycling groups attended the ceremony which was performed by Bradford Council's cycling champion, Councillor Taj Salam.

Cllr Salam (Labour, Little Horton) who has been a keen cyclist for the past 12 years said: "It has been my pleasure to officially open the new route today. It has taken a lot of time to get to this stage but I am sure it will be very well used and will be a safe route for families to use."

Councillor Martin Love (Green Party, Shipley) said: "I think it is great that this has finally come to completion. It will make the route between Shipley and Bradford a lot safer for cyclists. I hope it will encourage people to use their bikes for getting to work and get more cars off the roads.

"I've been waiting for a safe route along here since the 1980s when there were plans to put a route alongside the railway line but it was scuppered when the line was electrified and they needed the space where the route was going to be."

The new route was given the nod by Baildon cyclists James and Andrea Hodgson who were cycling to Dewsbury.

"We do cycle around the a lot and the new route is definitely safer and it is much better than having to cycle on the road which I had to do when I cycled to work in Bradford," said Mrs Hodgson.

"I do wish they had consulted cyclists, though, as there are a lot of manhole covers in the cycle lanes which get slippery when they are wet. They should be replaced with non-slip ones," she added.

Mrs Hodgson was injured last year while cycling near Thornbury along CicyConnect 1 Leeds to Bradford route. A van passenger opened his door in her path and she collided with it, causing her to fall and badly cut her hand.

"There are still a few dangers along the cycleways but they are generally a lot safer than being on the road and we are sure a lot of people will use them," she added.

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, portfolio holder with Bradford Council for regeneration, planning and transport, hailed the scheme despite being unable to attend the official opening.

He said: "We are thrilled to open another high quality cycleway which builds on the hugely successful CityConnect 1 scheme.

"The new cycle path expands our existing network which provides excellent sustainable and affordable transport options, improved air quality, better health and fitness, and great recreational choices for all ages."

Councillor Kim Groves, chairman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority's Transport Committee said: "I'm delighted this important scheme has been completed in partnership with Bradford Council.

"We know encouraging more of us to travel by bike or on foot not only boosts people's health and saves individual's money, it also brings wider environmental and economic benefits which is why we want to make cycling and walking a natural choice for short, everyday journeys."

Bradford resident Fozia Naseem is co-founder of Hop on Yorkshire, an organisation aimed at encouraging more women and girls from different cultures and backgrounds to cycle.

She said: "The opening of the cycleway is great news for Hop On as it opens up a whole new area for the people we ride with, allowing different communities to integrate which is one of our cores aims."

Dozens of people attended the launch and cycled along the new route, including two unicyclists.