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Home | case study sites | 5. The Ely River Connection, Cardiff
5. The Ely River Connection, Cardiff

case study sites

5. The Ely River Connection, Cardiff

Why important?

Following the formal opening of the route across the Cardiff Barrage as part of the Coastal Access path the crossing of the Ely River is now the only break in the circuit and makes an essential link between the city centre and Penarth. Both Cardiff and the Vale have been waiting for this bridge, which serves as an excellent leisure and commuter route.


Project photograph

This sheme to open a bridge over the Ely River completes a 6.5 mile (10.5 Kilometres) circuit around Cardiff Bay. It makes for a glorious walk or cycle ride and is a favourite promenade for residents and visitors alike.

Sporting legends, local heroes and school children have all been chosen to be immortalised in steel on the Pont y Werin bridge.

In February 2010 the Pont y Werin steering group asked Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan residents for their help in choosing a local hero, celebrity or historic figure to be a part of the ‘Pont y Werin Portrait Bench’.  The Portrait Bench is a UK wide art project from Sustrans with each bench featuring three life-size sculptures which are laser-cut from weathering Corten steel. There will be nearly 80 installed across the country with Pont y Werin having two benches placed on it – one representing Cardiff and one for Penarth.

Once again the residents of Cardiff and The Vale of Glamorgan got behind the project and got their thinking caps on to nominate who they feel should be immortalised on the bridge.  The Steering group, which includes local councillors, council officers, residents of Cardiff and Penarth, plus local cycling groups and representatives from Cardiff and Vale Coalition of the Disabled, had the hard task of whittling down the nominations.

After talking through the public’s nominations, the group decided that Sybil Williams’s founder member of Pedal Power should feature on the Cardiff bench.  Sybil received a number of nominations, and as one nominee noted Sybil has brought “health and fun to hundreds of diverse people every week.”

Alongside Sybil on the Cardiff bench will be Cardiff Devil’s player, Jason Stone. Jason received the most nominations from the public and given Jason’s history with the Devils, playing for them for over 21 years, the steering group felt Jason would be a perfect choice for the Portrait Bench.

For the Vale of Glamorgan’s bench, the steering group selected Nicole Cooke. The Vale born Olympic gold medallist was the perfect choice. Nicole received the highest amount of votes from the residents of the Vale of Glamorgan and has always been a keen supporter of the bridge, urging people to get behind and vote for the project back in 2007.

Joining Nicole on the Vale side will be Paralympic gold medallist, Dame Tanni Grey Thompson, Like Nicole, Tanni has been a keen supporter of the bridge and has publicly spoken about the benefits it will bring to pedestrians, cyclists and disabled people.

For the remaining place on each bridge, a special school competition took place for the nearest schools to the bridge, Mount Stuart Primary School for Cardiff and Cogan Primary School for the Vale of Glamorgan.  The competition asked pupils to draw a picture of them using Pont y Werin and was judged by Cardiff Councillors, Cllr Delme Bowen and Cllr Nigel Howells and also Vale of Glamorgan Councillors, and Cllr Jeff James.   The winner from Cardiff was school girl Lydia Harris, aged 10. Lydia’s picture showed her using the bridge in the summer, with a sunset in the background.

Executive Member for Travel and Transportation, Cllr Delme Bowen, said: "We received many wonderful nominations for the portrait benches and it took us a while to select who we wanted to be immortalized on the bridge.  I feel the people we have selected to be on the benches, represent the people who will benefit from using the bridge. Sybil and Nicole of course represents the cycling community, Tanni reflects how the bridge will make a difference to those with disabilities and Jason and the school pupils represent the many pedestrians who will use the bridge.  The children produced some wonderful drawings, we chose Lydia’s drawing, as her picture depicted a beautiful sunset over the bridge and you could see she has spent a lot of time working on her drawing."

Vinny Mott of Sustrans said “These benches will make distinctive bookends to the bridge itself, not only attractive to look at but for a welcome rest and viewing point too.  They feature a range of people reflecting the wide range of bridge users, who will be from all walks of life, all ages, whether very sporty or not at all, but just happy to be able to cross the river under their own steam!.”

Who's involved delivering the scheme

Sustrans Connect2

Cardiff City Council

Vale of Glamorgan Council

Latest update: site monitoring is on-going with both the City Council and Sustrans being involved using automated cycle counters and user intercept surveys (employing the newly developed iConnect version of the Sustrans user intercept survey).

Start and duration

The opening date for the bridge was the 14th of July 2010.


For Sustrans' interactive map click here

Overview map:

More detailed:

Who's involved from iConnect

Jane Powell, Emma Bird and Anja Dalton (UWE)

The pre-intervention household survey is going live in April 2010. Researchers hope to measure and evaluate changes in travel patterns, physical activity and carbon emissions at the local population level as a result of the scheme.

Case study type

Predominantly urban

Cycling and walking for both utility and leisure trips


The Sustrans Connect2 Cardiff info page

site by Christian Brand, ECI