Motorway City of the Seventies “firmly committed” to cycling, says council

Leeds City Council has responded to urging from Olympic silver medalist Lizzie Armitstead to provide better facilities for cyclists by saying it “wholeheartedly supports” the ChooseCycling campaign and is “firmly committed” to making the city bike-friendly.

Armitstead was one of 14 elite British cyclists who recently wrote to their local councils calling on them to make a public commitment to improve conditions for cycling.

Otley, Armitstead’s home town, is part of the City of Leeds metropolitan borough. Despite the popularity of serious recreational cycling in the countryside around the city, Leeds has a cycling modal share of journeys of about 0.5 percent, believed to be the lowest of any major British metropolitan area.

Armitstead and the other riders recommended councils adopt British Cycling’s #ChooseCycling 10-point plan, launched earlier this year by Chris Boardman.

Leeds city centre is notoriously congested by motor traffic, and the city was recently named by the World Health Organisation as being one of nine UK urban areas failing to meet guidelines on air quality.

Leeds is in the spotlight as the host town of the opening stage of this year’s Tour de France. The race sets out from Leeds on Saturday July 5.

In a letter addressed to council leader Keith Wakefield, Armitstead said: “I believe that making it easier for people to choose to travel by bike is the solution to many issues facing the city including improving health, reducing congestion and making it a better place to live and work.”

She said “strong political leadership” was needed to achieve “the greatest impact”, according to the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Responding to Armitstead’s letter, council cycling champion Roger Harington said: “As a council, we are firmly committed to making Leeds as cycle-friendly as possible.”

He cited the council’s hosting of SkyRides and the £29m Leeds to Bradford cycleway as examples of its commitment and said the council “wholeheartedly supports” ChooseCycling.

However, cycling campaigners are sceptical that the Motorway City of the Seventies will reverse decades of failure to provide good quality cycling infrastructure.

In a recent critique of Leeds’ plan for a cycle route across the city, blogger Schrodinger’s Cat wrote: “It’s still nowhere near the dense network of cycle paths and nearly-traffic-free streets which are required for mass cycling, and there are many details which need to be fixed.”

Nevertheless he added that if problems with the route could be fixed: “maybe – just maybe – Leeds can finally begin to leave the 1970s behind and one day become a 21st century European city.”


Lizzie Reather of Leeds Cycling Campaign says she is "cautiously optimistic" about the council's plans. She said: "Cycle City project (CityConnect) has user involvement, ambition, positivity."

Nevertheless, Reather said that "several recent examples (Chapeltown Road, Cookridge St) show the council has a lot to learn - still limited understanding of cyclists' needs."

But former Leeds resident and campaigner Mark Severs is highly sceptical. Severs served on the council’s cycle consultation committee. “All the recommendations were ignored,” he said.

“The council announced grand plans for cycling infrastructure over and over and over again. Hardly any was built, some white lines were painted, drivers ignored these or parked in them, and there was no enforcement.”

Severs is does not believe the cross-Leeds route and link to Bradford will ever be built.

He said: “Nothing will come of this plan, and nearly all cycle journeys in Leeds wil remain unimproved. The whole thing is just puffery from the council, intended to allow them to pretend that they are moving forward. It is only one tiny step above sheer outright organised lying.”

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.


WolfieSmith [1378 posts] 3 years ago

Liverpool have their own Roger called Tim. It's what could be called a Council Cycle Constipation gambit; Plenty of gas but nothing solid in sight.

Until enough voters insist on change nothing will change. Unfortunately unless the roads are safer those wanting to cycle commute will not be enough to trouble councils. Councils are not in the business of 'Build it and they will come.' They respond only to 'Build it or we'll vote you out.'

Sudor [188 posts] 3 years ago

"Responding to Armitstead’s letter, council cycling champion Roger Harington said: “As a council, we are firmly committed to making Leeds as cycle-friendly as possible.”"

Contradicted by the fact that LCC is building another piss poor, obstacle-ridden bike path on the roll out road for this years TdF

severs1966 [391 posts] 3 years ago

It is correct to say that it will never be built. They might paint some lines or put up some signs, or even paint the tarmac blue as per London's cycling "superhighways". However, real infrastructure requires building. This is the bit that will not happen.

Shortly after the triumphant launch of a few km of white lines up the side of death-trap roads, immediately after the Tour, riders will notice that the areas supposedly reserved for their use is full of parked cars, vans etc.

Then they will notice that it is neither cleaned nor maintained.

After 3 to 5 years the logos of bicycles and the lines themselves will be wearing away, caused by innumerable cars, buses and lorries driving on them. Neither the council nor the cops will do anything about this.

By this time, several people on bikes will have been run over within the "cycle paths", often by drivers overtaking and turning left across them, the cause of which is a combination of the fact that the "facilities" will not be segregated from traffic, and the fact that the drivers simply don't care and all know full well that their actions will go unpunished by the cops.

Despite this, the council(s) will massively congratulate themselves on the enormous "improvements" they have so benevolently and generously deigned to dribble down to the lowest of the low of road users, the helpless saps that choose pedals. They may even have the downright cheek, the sheer brass neck to mention the Netherlands, as if to imply that any bike path Leeds has ever built or planned is even remotely comparable to the average Dutch "fietspad", even one designed in the 80s.

No change in modal share will be measurable (although some will be made up in fictitious figures labelled in the small print as "traffic models" or "predictions".

How do I know this? This is what has happened before and is happening right now with other suicidally dangerous, badly designed or unmaintained cycle "facilities" in Leeds.

Get someone from the Société du Tour on the phone and have a listen to how the French pronounce the phrase "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose".

Leeds is the city that broke me. I was a devoted, obsessive bike rider. I abjectly refused to drive, insisting on going from anywhere to anywhere else in Leeds by bike. The desperately bad reality of "The motorway city of the seventies" (and eighties and nineties and noughties and today) made me absolutely refuse to ride in the city, ever again.
So what will it take to get the ordinary citizen to sling their leg over a bike and ride to the shop, to school, to work, or (shudder) into the centre? It will take a very, very great deal more than what very, very little the council will "build".

yenrod [107 posts] 3 years ago

Sky could do a lot more...ok, British cycling are slowly pulling people in and the people are just great super super optimistic about cycling which nearly makes ya eyes water! but Sky, massive team...what has football done with mass-money pointing towards the iconic BIG CAR done for motoring ?? - a bloody LOT.

And the attitude that goes with it!

severs1966 [391 posts] 3 years ago
yenrod wrote:

Sky could do a lot more...


No, they couldn't.

This is exactly the misapprehension that the councils, the government, the Mayor of London etc etc keep feeding us.

Cycling sport does nothing whatsoever for conditions that ordinary people on bikes (not "cyclists"; people on bikes) have to suffer. It's great that we live in an era where British pros are winning Tours de France, Olympic medals, and what have you. It's great that Hoy and Boardman and Armitstead are encouraging the ordinary citizen to get on a bike, but the issue here is the commitment of local authorities to provide facilities.

The desire to ride is there already. That's why the voices (official or sporting) that urge people to ride can make no difference; people already want to ride. It's the things that suppress the desire that are the key.

Building real, proper facilities is the task ahead. Only this will stop the suppression. Only this will free the will of the riders-that-would-be. And that's the reason why Sky, British Cycling, the voices of the pros, and so on, cannot help us ordinary people who just want to ride from A to B. The pros can't make the councils build decent paths; the pros can't make the police enforce the law.

The Olympics didn't improve cycle facilities in London.

Wiggo and Froome's Tour-derived national stardom didn't increase the numbers of utility cyclists.

The Grand Depart will not improve road conditions in Yorkshire (except for the resurfacing along the route that embarrassed councils are being compelled to carry out).

The connection that self-aggrandising politicians make between sporting success and ordinary cycling is as preposterous as if they had said that Mo Farah's marathon wins will improve conditions for pedestrians.

Sky's influence is limited to "serious" cyclists. The numbers that turn up for the Sunday Grovel with the local chain gang might be temporarily boosted; the CTC might get a slightly larger membership pool; the next screening of the Ghent-Wevelgem* might get more viewers. But for anyone who just wants to pop round their mate's house or go to the shop for a pint of milk and a loaf of bread, cycling numbers are not the least bit influenced by Sky or by anyone like them.

*or insert name of any of the lesser classics here

mrmo [2091 posts] 3 years ago

what does a path from Leeds to Bradford achieve for cyclists not wanting to travel between the two. How does this help cross Leeds or cross Bradford riders.

Talk is cheap.

Simon E [2994 posts] 3 years ago



He cited the council’s hosting of SkyRides and the £29m Leeds to Bradford cycleway as examples of its commitment and said the council “wholeheartedly supports” ChooseCycling.

This is what these people do, they talk. Councils support anything that means they can avoid real commitment or making tough decisions. Piecemeal tokenistic infrastructure ticks their boxes. It looks like they are doing something but very little changes.

They might, if you are very lucky, build one single piece of infrastructure (as in the L-B). They then pat themselves on the back and leave it at that. If the usage doesn't soar they can cite that single project, as if one stretch of traffic-free path somehow solves everything. It's like building a road across the Sahara and saying "Look, we've conquered the desert!"

Leodis [422 posts] 3 years ago

I get tired of cycling on Leeds roads everyday, I have to ride on the outer ring road for 3 miles to avoid Meanwood road, a road full of pot holes, no cycle lanes (for what they are worth), heavy traffic, poor road design to the point a mini roundabout path was extended to create a pinch point leaving cyclist with nowhere to go. I now travel over to Woodside and drop down to Kirkstall road and keep my eyes peeled for left hookers, one cyclist today was left hooked outside the Vesper Gate, said e. on driver was trying to defend himself for 1) ignoring passing the cyclist and turning into him 2) not checking his mirrors whilst crossing a cycle lane.

LCC do not have a clue about cycling, has anyone seen the pathetic cycling lane on Cookridge street? My god I have not seen anything so poorly planned and ill thought out in my life.

I really am thinking about sticking to club runs in the evenings and weekends throughout the summer, least I wont be hit again or worse.

Joelsim [1975 posts] 3 years ago

It's only a matter of time before roads get so clogged it'll be quicker to walk, let alone cycle. The sooner these councils wake up the better.

ProfPing [1 post] 3 years ago

A Leeds resident getting ready for the Le Tour


Leodis [422 posts] 3 years ago

I really am not sure after reading Leeds cycling campaign which is worse, them or LCC. They are the ones who have agreed and seem to think these new painted "cycle lanes" are acceptable, I think they have spent that long in the dark they are willing to accept any scraps from LCC's feasting table.

Take a look


You are bit of a dick arent you?

pudseypedaller [3 posts] 3 years ago


I would look here for some context on the Cookridge Street debacle. http://www.leedscyclingcampaign.co.uk/?q=node/501

You are very welcome to come to a campaign meeting and tell us what we should be doing better and how we should do it. The perception amongst the wider Leeds cycling community is that we have been having a good impact in recent years.

....or you could just continue feeling grumpy in internet forums.

Leodis [422 posts] 3 years ago

Fair enough, I was harsh but painted paths do nothing for cyclist safety as has been proven in London. LCC painting on roads in the door zone which is mainly to be seen taking action rather than actually taking action.

Shipeau [5 posts] 3 years ago

Some of our roads in Leeds are in a horrific state. Especially in the centre. Wellington street looked like a bomb site last time I decided to test the rigidity of my wheels.