UK’s First Official Cycling City

Posted by chdot on June 19, 2008

Bristol has just been declared the “UK’s first official cycling city”. It will now receive a significant proportion of the £47m on offer from Cycling England’s Demo Town fund. Of course this particular money (from the UK Government) is only for English local authorities.

74 applied, 19 were shortlisted and now 11 ‘towns’ (as well as Bristol) have won through – Blackpool, Cambridge, Chester, Colchester, Leighton/Linslade, Shrewesbury, Southend-on-Sea, Southport with Ainsdale, Stoke, Woking and York. The inclusion of Cambridge and York will be no surprise.

It’s impossible to know whether Edinburgh would have made that list in a UK wide contest. Certainly it wouldn’t have been chosen instead of Bristol. Edinburgh is undoubtedly a ‘cycling city’ ahead of many UK towns/cities in terms of cycle use, but sadly the Council is a long way off from actively embracing, and promoting, the idea.

At least it is serious about its bid for Leith to become a ‘travel demo town’ (a similar scheme to the Cycling England one – but not just about cycling). It’s still not clear what the LibDems (senior partners in the ruling coalition) plan to do about their commitment to making “Edinburgh a Model Cycle-Friendly City”.

Bristol (no surprise that it is the home of Sustrans) “intends to double the number of people using bikes over the next three years” (BBC report). This is a highly ambitious target. London has seen a surge in cycling in recent years, helped by policy changes and significant spending (on both infrastructure and promotion), but it hasn’t quite seen a doubling since 2000.

Bristol’s expectations are partly based on implementing a cycle hire scheme similar to the Velib in Paris. London plans to have one and Edinburgh is investigating the options. Outline of Bristol’s other plans (on BikeBiz).

One thing Bristol City Council has promoted for the last 15 years is its Biggest Bike Ride. London’s Freewheel is a similar event – due for it’s second outing in September. Edinburgh allows various running events (including the recent MoonWalk) but is remarkably wary about closing streets for local events (Portobello groups keep asking) or cycling ones.

One day a UK city will copy Bogotá which closes streets every Sunday for walking, cycling, jogging, skating and aerobic classes. It could be Edinburgh. If only….

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