Bath Cycling Summit
We were co-sponsors of the Bath Cycling Summit organised by the Bath Cycling Campaign, a half-day conference on the state of cycling in our city, so I went down to see what the buzz was. It was an opportunity to put names to faces as regards the great and good of the cycling movement in Bath, such as it is: plenty of people I'd spoken to on the phone or via email that I'd never met. Also it turns out there's plenty going on in Bath that I wasn't previously aware of, and some nice surprises, especially on the planning front.
Those of you who have cycled to or in Bath will know that it's not exactly a cycling mecca. Okay, the topography doesn't help but it's used as a scapegoat to basically not do anything a lot of the time. The truth of the matter is that the city is in a valley, and although there are some bits that are inaccessible by bike without a reasonable level of fitness (my house, for example!) there's huge swathes of the city that are either on the flat valley floor or a short climb (say a quarter of a mile) up one of the sides - my estimate would be about 40% of the city.
Not surprisingly I heard those old arguments being trotted out again, but there was good news too. Adrian Roper from Sustrans gave a keynote speech about the need for active travel in order to combat obesity: stuff we kind of know as cyclists but it's pleasing to see that there's a good deal of Government rhetoric behind it, if not necessarily political will. Mike Keys of architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios made some interesting points about shared spaces (and there was some discussion as to their opposition by blind/deaf charities) and showed examples of some of the work they've done in Cambridge.
Possibly most positive was a short workshop by Rodhri Samuel of the council's Major Projects team who unveiled a draft copy of Creating the Canvas for Public Life in Bath, a blueprint to make sweeping changes to the transport hierachy in the city centre. They're looking at a 10-20 year plan to move the whole of the city centre to a more shared use ethos in line with some of the best example cities on the continent, which would be interesting. It'd certainly be a step forward from where we are now, with developers allowed to work on huge landmark projects in the city (the Southgate centre for example) with little or no cycling provision at all.
Peter Dawson from the council's transportation division was there to talk about what had been done for cycling in the preceding year, which basically amounted to making a councillor a cycling champion, opening a path through the park that everyone rides on anyway to bikes, and realising that a bridge that's one way to cars could have cyclists going the other way. Even so, cycling in Bath has grown by nearly half in the last six years apparently, possibly in spite of the council's meagre efforts (and some that actively discourage bikes). Here's hoping that next year there's more to say, eh Peter?
There was a delegation too who are working with CIVITAS money to bring a number of demonstration projects to the city, among them a rental cycle docking scheme that will run a fleet of manual and electric bikes throughout the city. It's certainly a worthwhile project and there's some funding in place, but what Bath needs most is infrastructure changes to combat the cycle-unfriendliness of the approaches to the city, and safe and sensible routes across town from North to South and East to West.
Frank from the excellent Two Tunnels project was there to give a progress report and everything looks to be just waiting for signoff - he's fairly confident of work starting later in the year. There was plenty of stuff I didn't get to see, including presentations on adult cycle training and how Bristol is fairing as a Cycling City, but all in all it was a morning well spent.
Oh and Julie Trollope was there bleating about pavement cycling and bending the ears of the PCSOs, as if one letter a week to the local rag wasn't enough. Still, the cake was good.