Get on your bike and call for better cycling in the Motorway City of the Seventies

This Saturday, May 17, will see thousands of people take to the streets in five of Britain’s major cities to call for safe space for cycling. The Leeds Big Bike Ride will start at 12 noon in Millennium Square, in front of Leeds’ rather splendid Civid Hall.

The national Space for Cycling Big Ride, also happening in London, Newcastle, Manchester and Sheffield asks for local and national government to make cycling safe and inviting for everyone, regardless of age or ability.

Bling up

The Leeds ride will be guided by experienced marshals and will take in a circuit of the city centre followed by a three-mile ride to Kirkstall Abbey for a picnic. Leeds Cycling Campaign says everyone is welcome to take part and participants are encouraged to ‘bling up’ their bikes.

Lizzie Reather, Chair of Leeds Cycling Campaign, said: “Although Leeds City Council has made some bold statements on cycling, the roads still aren’t inviting to the vast majority of people. The Space for Cycling campaign shows that there are lots of people who want to ride bikes, and we need to make the roads and streets appealing rather than offputting.

“This isn’t just about cycling. If we want to create a more liveable city, with safer streets, better air quality and a more inviting environment, bicycles are part of the solution. We need a real transformation in how we think about the city.”

Stuck in the seventies?

Leeds is often accused of still implementing transport policy as if operating according to its old slogan ‘The motorway city of the seventies’.

Former cycling campaigners have accused the council of promising scheme after scheme to improve the situation for bike riders in the city, but delivering little or nothing. And what little that has been delivered is rendered useless by lack of enforcement of, for example, double yellow lines to prevent parking in bike lanes.

That’s still a problem, according to Reather, who told Leeds-list.com in a 2013 interview: “A facility that can’t be used is worse than no facility at all.”

Reather recently told road.cc that she is “cautiously optimistic” about the prospects for cycling in Leeds. But she adds: “Several recent examples (Chapeltown Road, Cookridge St) show the council has a lot to learn - still limited understanding of cyclists' needs.”

Space for cycling priorities

The Space for Cycling campaign calls on local government to create a safe and attractive environment by implementing the six S4C priorities:

  • Protected space on main roads
  • Removing through motor traffic in residential areas
  • Lower speed limits
  • Cycle-friendly town centres
  • Safe routes to school
  • Routes through parks and green spaces

Space for Cycling rides are taking place across the country. For more details of the campaign see Space4Cycling.

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.