Bristol, Cycling City?

2011-11-16, Comments


In 2008 Greater Bristol was chosen as England’s first Cycling City and received £11m from the Department for Transport to transform cycling.

This helped bring about a strong cycling renaissance in the city. New dedicated on-road cycle lanes, new traffic-free routes, 3400 new cycle parking spaces, as well as cycling training and lots of other ‘softer measures’ projects encouraged thousands of people to saddle up.

Yeah, and I got a mug out of it, too.

Bristol: Queen Square

This morning, though, I cycled from Screwfix in Bedminster to my office in Clifton. How pleasant to cycle through the middle of Queen Square on a track which, less than 20 years ago, was a dual carriageway. And how enjoyable to continue on across Broad Quay and the centre, which used to be one great roundabout. Pedestrians and cyclists get the best routes and the best views and that’s how it should be.

The Queen Square of the Future

The bicycle parking area where I work is secure, free (in marked contrast to the car parking spaces), and recently doubled in size. It fills up, every day, even now winter has set in.

I agree: there has been a cycling renaissance but I think it’s down to a number of factors. Primarily, it’s lower incomes and the rising price of motoring which is getting people on their bikes. A secondary effect adds momentum: the more cyclists there are, the more people accept cycling, and the more cyclists there will be. The fantastic success of British cycling may have something to do with it, judging by the number of swish road bikes which spin round the Downs every evening. The government cycle to work scheme is a fine deal, though I suspect the main beneficiaries are people like me who’ve always cycled to work. And technological improvements, like electrically assisted bikes — I see plenty of cyclists who wouldn’t be cycling without these.

Cycling city? £11m! Transformation!?

It annoys me that “special” funding should be needed to provide for cyclists. Cycle parking spaces should be built anyway. Any transport planning should naturally prioritise pedestrians and cyclists. I don’t think £11m paid for the reworking of Queen Square and Broad Quay, yet these schemes have benefited cyclists far more than a new bike route from the Farm pub to B&Q. I would like bike theft to be eliminated. I would like to see car-free approaches to secondary schools in the mornings and afternoons. Get kids used to commuting on foot and by bike and they’ll continue as adults.

The Cycling City money wasn’t wasted but I’d say the initiative contributed little to the increase in cycling and it’s foolish to claim or think otherwise. Yes, there are more cyclists on the roads but there need to be far, far more. How can we maintain the momentum? The little things help, let’s keep doing them, but really it’s down to government policy, personal responsibility and intelligent transport planning.