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£16 per head per year to get 20 percent commuting by bike by 2020

Bristol City Council has unveiled one of the most ambitious plans to increase cycling of any UK town or city - plus the cash and commitment that mean it might actually happen.

Over the next five years, the city plans to spend £16 per head of population per year on improving cycling provision and implementing Bristol Cycling Campaign’s Cycling Manifesto, which has been adopted as council policy.

That £35 million investment will, it’s hoped, increase the number of people riding to work from its current level of eight percent of journeys, to 20 percent by 2020.

The project includes a mixture of what the council terms cycling freeways and quietways, including plenty of the Dutch-style segregated cycleways that are increasingly the main target of campaigning groups.

The economic benefits to the city are a major part of selling the plan. Any attempt to tinker with transport systems to encourage non-motorised travel always brings economic doomsayers (who almost always turn out to be wrong).

Bristol mayor George Ferguson said: "Cycling is good for the economy. A healthy workforce, which arrives to work less stressed and on time, is better for productivity and good health. I am confident that this document will help Bristol attract more funding to the city for improvements as it gives us the benefit of a clearly defined framework."

According to the Bristol Post’s Louis Emanuel the programme of cycling facilities will include a safe cycling link from Crews Hole to Temple Meads via Feeder Road, a Lawrence Weston to Avonmouth 'cycle street' and an extension of the Whitchurch Railway Path.

Other improvements are planned for Gloucester Road, Church Road, Whiteladies Road and from the centre to the south.

Assistant mayor for transport Mark Bradshaw said: “We can all be proud as a city that the number of people who cycle, either daily or less frequently, has greatly increased over the last ten years, I want to use this strategy to reach out to more groups who think cycling isn’t yet for them. 

“Bristol still faces challenges in persuading older people, children, women and disabled people that cycling can be part of lives. So, we must address the barriers to this wider participation which will help meet our transport and health priorities.”

Reacting to claims that the plan ignored the interests of drivers, he told the Bristol Post: "It's important to remember that a lot of people who drive also walk and cycle, so this is for the benefit of everyone. There is a huge public health benefit here which you can't put a value on.

"Changes to habits will also improve congestion.”

The bulk of the funding for the plan will come from central government grants such as the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, the Cycling Ambition fund and the Revolving Infrastructure Fund. Only £5 million will come from the city’s own revenues.

“Tens of thousands of ordinary people already enjoy cycling in Bristol,” said Eric Booth, Chair of Bristol Cycle Campaign. “There are tens of thousands more who would like to join us, but they need to be confident that it’s safe and easy. We warmly welcome this strategy which is in line with our Bristol Cycling Manifesto. We’re looking forward to working with the council and local communities on making it happen.” 

The plan is open for public consultation until August 11.

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.