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.”
Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.