Criticism of Bristol's progress as England's first Cycling City have been met with a pledge of more openness and accountablility from the City Council.
The commitment is made by Liberal Democrat councillor Jon Rogers, Executive Member for Transport and Sustainability, who took over from Labour’s Mark Bradshaw after the Labour group sensationally quit at the end of February.
In an interview with road.cc he sets out in the way he intends to continue by admitting the total Cycling City investment of £22.8million over three years actually comprises just £14.4 million of new money.
The £22.8million total comprises £11.4 million from Cycling England plus £11.4 million match funding from Bristol City and South Gloucestershire County Councils. But the match funding takes into account several existing projects and actually comprises just £3 million in extra cash.
Cllr Rogers told road.cc: “There was work already going on on a number of projects. They were all part of the original bid. The additional money that Bristol and South Gloucestershire have had to achieve is somewhere around £3million new money.”
The investment is intended to pay for improvements to cycling services and infrastructure with the aim of doubling the number of people cycling in the Greater Bristol area by the June 2011 deadline. This includes the creation of 13 miles of new track, 18 miles of improvements to existing off-road track and 21 miles of improvements to on-road cycle routes into the city.
However, road.cc reported that since Bristol became England’s first Cycling City, progress has seemed slow. It was six months before the council advertised for a project manager and that post has just been filled by Ed Plowden, who took over from interim project manager John Roy two weeks ago.
Cllr Rogers says one of the first things he has done is call for an earlier April review of the closure of one side of the Prince Street swing bridge in Bristol making it accessible to pedestrians and cyclists only. There have been questions over whether this is of any benefit to cyclists, and problems with cyclists having to cross the traffic to access it.
Cycle campaigner Chris Hutt this week levelled more criticism at the project as a whole after analysing the proposals in detail on the GreenBristolBlog. Having waded through a list of PDFs on the council’s website about specific elements of the plans, he identifies only a few of potential benefit to cyclists.
Cllr Rogers commended Hutt for speaking out over the plans. He said: “The general view seems to be we let people know what we want them to know. People like Chris Hutt have encouraged that by Freedom of Information requests which shouldn’t be necessary with something as positive and important as Cycling City.
“Hopefully you’ll see a higher profile and a clearer statement of what it is we’re trying to achieve,” he said.
“The objective is clear. We’re trying to double the number of cyclists on Bristol’s roads and cycle paths in two-and-a-half years by creating safer cycling and improving the infrastructure, training in schools and developing work place travel plans.”
A full list of proposed infrastructure schemes for Bristol can be found here
For regular updates on Bristol's Cycling City plans email cycling.city [at] bristol.gov.uk