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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BBC figures are a year out of date says council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Councillor Jon Rogers, Executive Member for Cycling City, told  that those statistics are a year out of date and were comparing winter figures with those obtained during milder months.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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dave atkinson | 6732 posts | 12 years ago

still, at least you've got something going on. here in Bath the council have just repainted the lines on the batheaston road, and they've carefully gone over the bike symbol on a lane by the underpass, in spite of the fact that it just goes under the road bridge and then stops at a fence...

a.jumper | 849 posts | 12 years ago

Yes you can look on the second website (remember cycle west?) but where do you see it when cycling or driving into the city? Even the flagship railway path and festival way currently dump you at their city ends with no signs that I saw. Not that any links from festival way to the centre work: the Coronation Road trees are famous, the Princes Street bridge change is pure folly and the harbourside rail tracks are hazardous to bikes.

But Cllr Gollop sounds like a rich motorist who would put the dual carriageway back through Queen Square.

bristoltraffic replied to a.jumper | 14 posts | 12 years ago

Bringing back the dual carriageway will bring Bristol back to its former glory. That is worth spending millions for. Not this petty bike paths for poor people.

Here are some places where the cycle city has taken away space from motorists (read: daily mail/evening post readers and potential conservative votors)

* the stokes croft cycle lane. We can park there, but now we get harassed.

* the hartcliffe way pavement.

Er, that's it. We are disappointed that the councillor didn't pick on one of the big changes, the 20 mph zones through soutville, central east bristol and St pauls/montpelier. This forces anyone who has no choice but to rat-run through these parts of the city to go at a snails pace, despite the money spent in fast cars. We are also disappointed that the councillor didn't actually come out and complain about the fact that there had been an increase in the number of cyclists, and this was the key failure point of either the program or the economic recession: more poor people are in our way.

Napalmhaze | 83 posts | 12 years ago

Yeah there is some fantastic work being done behind the scenes. "cycling levels, up as much as 102%
on some routes" Great stuff.

But out on the roads of Bristol we don't see that though, so you can see why there are questions about where exactly the money is going.

After all the criticisms I made were not altogether invalid.

The big hoo-ha about the St Werburghs path was a little off as this path was essentially already there.

The hedgerows and trees alongside the (already existing) railway path were excessively and needlessly cut down. It looked like a massacre. To my mind it felt that the time and money would have been better spent elsewhere.

The Yate link isn't finished.

Surely it cant be so difficult to see why people might question what is going on without you having to 'take exception'?

billsdon | 36 posts | 12 years ago

Chris Deacon - re 'a dry and secure cycle parking location', try the Horizon House public cycle park (CCTV monitored and under cover). It's the new Environment Agency building behind the Council House.

Napalmhaze - like several others, I take exception. Visit the Better By Bike website and take a look under the Cycling City tab for a flavour of the work that has taken place. Or come along to the Bike Forum meetings and you'll get a full account. To say they've only 'cleaned up a couple of existing paths' is woefully inaccurate.

Stevboss - re 'an outdoor cycle track facility', funding has been allocated towards improved mountain bike trails at Ashton Court and Leigh Woods and two BMX/pump tracks. Again, search Better By Bike for more on these projects.

Jon Burrage | 997 posts | 12 years ago

I take exception to some of the comments above, especially the first one.

Having worked damn hard on my part of the cycling city project I am proud that in south gloucestershire we have had 4000+ children taken through levels 1, 2 and 3 of the bikeability training programme each year. Having that many kids riding with an awareness for safety and bike control cant be bad, add to that the over 60's that have got back on their bikes after a long break. Its a great thing to do.

A lot of infrastructure is still in delivery such as the yate spur. There are noticably more cyclists out and about now that 3 years ago. Some people just love to complain but I had hoped that the BBC were about 'evening post' style bullshit headlines.

Rant over!

Alistair | 7 posts | 12 years ago

A one third increase in cycling levels is a phenomenal achievement in a city that everyone described as unsuited to cycling. Bristol have doubled the number of children cycling to school. I get angry hearing cyclists having a dig at this project as if it was going to sort out the whole of Bristol in one go. £22m is not a lot of money - certainly not when you think how much road or tram track it'll buy you.

Tony Farrelly | 3026 posts | 12 years ago

@jonusher, yes will drop you a line about that and sort something out. Another comparison would be the £1bn overspend on widening the M25 I think the Public Accounts committee used the word "wasted" to describe that one. All the money spent on cycling over the past few years in this country doesn't even add up to that one item in the roads budget.

@steveboss I partiuclarly enjoyed this quote from Cllr Gollop:

"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."

Dunno if he's been down to the petrol station lately, or maybe he's so rich it doesn't matter. Whatever, he seems to be profoundly out of touch with what's going on in the world. Also, I'd wonder whether 50 or 60 years ago Bristol wasn't full of people, probably quite fit people, commuting to work by bike - hills or not? A Tory who's even out of touch with the past, what is the world coming too.

don_don replied to Tony Farrelly | 148 posts | 12 years ago
tony_farrelly wrote:

@jonusher, yes will drop you a line about that and sort something out.

Please do guys; I would be really interested to learn more about this, as I'm not that far from Bristol. Cheers.

stevboss | 19 posts | 12 years ago

Road CC - whilst you're out riding with the Cycling City project, perhaps you should also drag Cllr Geoff Gollop along too (on a bike of course) and get him to point out where exactly he thinks the new facilities have so greatly inconvenienced other road users (ie, motorists). I'm struggling to think of many new cycle paths created, let alone where these have supposedly reduced capacity for motorists.

And Jon Usher - why not spend £800 - 900k of your £22m on an outdoor cycle track facility, like at Slades Farm in Bournemouth? Use sport as a way of getting people riding bikes...

Deac | 177 posts | 12 years ago

1,500 new cycle parking stands but any where you can leave your bike which is dry and secure.One of the most popular cycle routes I encounter is up or down Blackboy,Whiteladies,QueensRd,Park Street completely inadequate cycle lanes.  14

cat1commuter | 1420 posts | 12 years ago

There was a good programme (Bristol - Cycling City) yesterday on Radio 4, which is available via listen again.

mad_scot_rider | 591 posts | 12 years ago

Well that's the gauntlet well & truly laid down, eh?

jonusher | 20 posts | 12 years ago

I work delivering some of the Cycling City project's infrastructure at Bristol City Council - we would be very happy to accommodate for a ride around what we've built. Then there might be an opportunity for a follow up story to see whether you think what we've spent is worth while... feel free to email me at jon.usher [at] to set something up.

As a quick comparison - it cost the Highways Agency £13million to resurface the Avonmouth Bridge on the M5 - more than our total £11.4million grant from Cycling England for the Cycling City Project.

Napalmhaze | 83 posts | 12 years ago

What exactly have they done but clean up a couple of already existing paths?

It could be argued that they vandalised a section of the railway path.

Really I can think of nothing new.

£22 million? Where did they spend that? Down the pub? On coffee for planning meetings?

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