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Bristol disputes BBC Cycling City failure claims

BBC figures are a year out of date says council

Bristol City Council has defended its record as Britain's first Cycling City, claiming it will take time to fully reap the benefits of the work carried out.

Bristol received  £22m from Cycling England  in 2008 when it was awarded Cycling City status and set itself the ambitious target of doubling bike use in the city.

But the BBC reported that it has obtained city council statistics which, it says, demonstrate that cycling has only increased by a third at the end of what it calls a three-year programme. 

Councillor Jon Rogers, Executive Member for Cycling City, told  that those statistics are a year out of date and were comparing winter figures with those obtained during milder months. 

"We are coming towards the end of what is a two-and-a-half year project and we are still in the process of building cycle routes. There are cyclists who are yet to be born who will benefit from what we are doing, given that some of this cycle inftrastructure will be here for many decades to come, possibly even a hundred years.

"Some commentators seem to be concentrating on the target to double the number of cyclists in Bristol. This is a challenging target and I am sure it will be delivered in due course but I've checked the bid and while we committed to doubling the number of  cyclists we never gave a time frame for doing so.

"Judge the scheme when it is evaluated next year by all means, but meanwhile celebrate the wonderful progress that is being made to deliver safer, healthier and more sustainable travel around our city."

Project manager Ed Plowden told the BBC that Bristol’s Cycling City status has made a difference, with bike use rising quicker than in other areas as a direct result of the project.

"In London it took them about nine years to double cycling," he said. "At the moment 1% of all journeys are being done by bike and they've got a target to get to 5% by 2026. Bristol is already at 5% and that's partly due to the growth during Cycling City."

Council figures show that in 2008, there were approximately 25,000 bike users in Bristol, a figure that had risen to around 33,000 in the winter of 2009/10.

Of the £22m awarded to the city, about two-thirds is being spent on cycling infrastructure, including 13 miles of off-road cycle tracks, 21 miles of cycle lanes on existing roads and about 1,500 new cycle parking stands.

The remaining third of the money was spend on initiatives aimed at encouraging people to ride including targeting children and adults to take up cycling to and from their schools or places of work.

Martin McDonnell, secretary of the pressure group Bristol Cycling Campaign, told the BBC: "I think there could be a lot more publicity. If you come into Bristol how do you know that it's a Cycling City? There aren't big banners up anywhere.

"There are certain routes which aren't complete and they start somewhere not very sensible. They've also been doing things like putting bollards in the middle of the cycleway which can be dangerous."

Conservative councillor, Geoff Gollop, said the new cycle routes had been created at the expense of motorists.

He told the BBC: "The Cycling City initiative brought in match-funding which has delivered new cycling routes but these have largely been achieved at the expense of the majority of road users - by reducing road space or capacity.

"Whilst we recognise the merits of promoting cycling as a leisure activity for the individual - delivering personal health benefits and helping to improve the environment for all - this form of travel is unlikely in the near future to be a major means of commuting.

"We do not believe the £22m project can be said to have been successful even in its own terms."

But Cllr Rogers believes it will take time for the initiative's full impact to be felt. He said: "It is early days. Encouraging people to cycle generally means getting people to change the way in which they travel, and embrace a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.

"This does not happen overnight, but Bristol has made great strides through delivering a balanced mix of infrastructure, training and information to help people find it easier to get on their bikes."

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