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Bristol elects 'cycling mayor' - and he has a budget to spend

George Ferguson says cyclists "are the people who are most doing their bit to improve Bristol's environment"...

The city of Bristol has elected its first Mayor, and like Boris Johnson in London, the election was hard fought over the issue of cycling.

Architect George Ferguson was the favourite to win, in a head-to-head against the official Labour candidate Marvin Rees.

Cycling in Bristol is a fraught topic, with the £20 million budget between 2008 and 2010 being spent rather secretively, according to Bike Radar.

Ferguson, despite describing himself as a 'wobbler' on a bike, was actually a founder of Sustrans, which bodes well for his policies.

In an interview with Life Cycle UK, Ferguson said cyclists were: "Fit eco heroes! Apart from walkers they are the people who are most doing their bit to improve Bristol's environment and help improve the degraded urban air quality that they suffer from.

"There is the odd idiot cyclist that gives cycling a bad name, but they are very much the exception."

Ferguson has already said he will attempt to dissuade parents from driving children to school, create shared use spaces and look into radial cycle paths into the city centre.

Before the election, a cycling hustings was held in the city to debate the implications of a new Mayor for riders.

At the time, Sustrans' regional director for the South West Adrian Roper said: “The first ever elected Mayor for Bristol has the potential to be a powerful figurehead for the city and set a clear transport agenda

“We saw in London earlier this year how getting around on two wheels can impact on an election."

Writing in the Huffington Post this week, the former London Mayor Ken Livingstone said: "Bristol is a major city, a lively, exciting place with a strong local character and an appeal to the best and the brightest. It is a city with enormous potential, hampered by the absence of a big-city vision at a municipal level.

"Bristol has high bus fares not matched by a reliable, frequent service, is regularly heavily congested, and has failed to meet its promise as a cycling city."

It remains to be seen what Ferguson will do for cycling in his new role, but in an Lifecycle interview in June, there were high hopes.

He said that the one thing he would do for cyclists was to 'enforce bike lane', and added that he wanted to model Bristol on the Dutch cycling system.

He said: "I presented a BBC1 film challenging Bristol about Cycling City, comparing it with Groningen in Holland which demonstrated how far we have to go.

"However, Bristol has significantly increased an awareness of cycling and most importantly encouraged school children to cycle and the Council to work for safer routes to schools, for which much more work still needs doing.

"There is much scope still to have some more bike hire sites although maybe a Boris Bike type scheme would fail with bikes accumulating at the bottom of the hills."

He also said he would: "Close a swathe of the city centre to cars, on Sundays, as is done so successfully one Sunday a month in our twin city of Bordeaux."

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on

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