Charter of Brussels: Will Bristol and London sign up?

Britain's two big cycling cities steer well clear of ambitious commitments to cycling

by Tony Farrelly   May 31, 2009  

Cara in Bristol

Even though they already seem to be backtracking on the central commitment of the Charter of Brussels Edinburgh are the only British city to sign. But what of the two cities currently most associated with the promotion of cycling in the UK: Bristol, Cycling England's only Cycling City; and London which has seen such a dramatic rise in cycling over the last few years, will they be signing up any time soon? Well, Bristol is not saying and London is not signing.

 in Bristol, Cycling England’s first Cycling City, press officer Kate Hartas said the council was unable to comment on the Charter because it is in a pre-election period. She told “This would be a political decision as the council is democratically and politically led. It is not because we want to be unhelpful at all, but the council is in the pre-election period currently which prevents us from answering political points right now. We simply cannot second guess which party will be in power after that time, and different parties may take different views. The election is on June 4, 2009. Immediately afterward we will be able to help."

Last week London's mayor, Boris Johnson llaunched his own "Cycling Revolution" with a great deal of fanfare and much trumpeting of the impressive growth in cycling that has taken place there over the last few years.

However, when asked about the Charter of Brussels, a Transport for London (TfL) spokesperson said the city would not be signing the charter because, like Edinburgh, it believes the targets are not achievable.

“We wholeheartedly agree with the spirit of the Charter of Brussels,” said a TfL spokesperson, “and are committed to making cycling a safer and more attractive option for Londoners and visitors to London. We aren’t signing up to the Charter, as we believe it's important to set targets that are challenging but also realistic - a target to have 15% of all journeys in London made by bike by 2020 is more challenging than realistic.

“We want to learn as much as we can from our European cousins about how to increase the number of trips made by bike, but most of them have a big head start on us in terms of delivering cycling programmes. Even so, we have seen a huge increase in the number of cycling trips made in the Capital – up 107 per cent since 2000 to around 545,000 every day. TfL and the Mayor, Boris Johnson, are determined to build on that success and we have set a very ambitious target of a 400 per cent increase (on 2000 levels) in the number of cycling trips made by 2025. That will result in around 5 per cent of all trips in the Capital being made by bike.”

The Charter of Brussels was signed by representatives of Brussels, Milan, Munich, Sevilla, Tartu, Reggio Emilia, Houten, Edinburgh, Copenhagen, Aalborg, Helmond, Breda, Hertogenbosch, Tilburg, Eindhoven, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Timisoara, Gdansik, Izmit, and the US city of Portland.

It will now be circulated to other cities in Europe to sign up although it looks like they can save on the postage when it comes to British cities committing themselves to anything so ambitious.