John Grimshaw helped turn
BR: You're best known for your work with Sustrans and Cycling
JG: When I stood down from Sustrans, and also left the board of Cycling England, I was able to put a great deal more effort into supporting what is now a programme of 18 Cycling Demonstration Towns.
I currently work as part of the small team of professional advisors co-ordinated by Adrian Lord thorough Ove Arup to support the Towns programme. My role is... to constantly search out what is the most likely difference in winning the public back to cycling. To this end we have encouraged the towns to consider the perspective of those who don’t cycle, and to work through what it will take to persuade them to start again.
I'm also working on Cycling England’s 'Finding New Solutions' programme, particularly on trying to evaluate the role of leisure cycling as a route back to cycling. Although most of us think that one of the first ways to start cycling again is on the leisure journey – perhaps with ones’ family or while on holiday – and that the traffic-free route, such as the Bristol to Bath path, is a valuable place to learn to cycle again, this is far from proven.
We're funding programmes in the Peak District National Park, in Devon and with the Forestry Commission to evaluate this one way or another. In fact, I'd like to appeal for BikeRadar readers' views on how they started cycling; was it something they always did, or were they persuaded in some way or another later in life? [Ed: you can respond in the comments box below.]
What's your opinion of progress so far in the various Cycling Towns – especially in light of the criticism that
The progress has been varied. There has been a great deal of positive work done, and without exception their status as a
Our experience in getting these projects started is that it really takes about a year – even in quite small towns – for all of the pieces to fall into place. It isn't just a question of having a plan and some funding; crucially you need to assemble a team comprising varied skills who see themselves collectively as owners of the whole project. This team effort is essential and does take time to create.
Also remember the
The Bristol to Bath path, pictured at its opening in 1985, was one of Sustrans' first successes
What do you think the future holds for Cycling
You can be sure that our chairman, Phillip Darnton, is giving our future his closest attention! And we certainly would like to see all our programmes continuing, as we know from European experience that it's only through sustained investment, year after year, can we achieve the high levels of cycling they enjoy.
Are there any particular sections of the National Cycle Network you are proud of having achieved during your time at Sustrans?
I'm proud of almost all of the National Cycle Network, and of many paths as well. I suppose it's inevitable that I'm the fondest of the sections which I planned and built;
But lots of paths have poignant memories: building below high tide levels at Bowling along the Glasgow to Dumbarton route where our site office on freezing cold days was the Little Chef nearby; David Kemp’s sculpture along the Johnstone and Kilmacolm path, beside Lochwinnoch on the way to the Ayrshire coast; building the Loch Venachar Path to Callander with volunteers over three wet and midge ridden summers where Dave Holladay brought supplies in by boat... The route through the
Sustrans itself started with the railway path from York to Selby, and then quickly took on the huge challenge of the Consett and Sunderland route – where tens of thousands of tonnes of coal and ash had to be removed before work could even start – the route from Derby to Melboune which involved a listed viaduct over the Trent, and the extensive network of Mineral railways in West Cumbria which the late John Naylor of Groundwork built so well.
I could go on. The Cuckoo Trail in
But perhaps above all, the creation of the Network depended upon the sheer dedication and flair of the pioneers at Sustrans, and the extraordinary support from individual local authority officers, often in the face of less than positive council policies. And of course, winning the Lottery in 1995 [Sustrans received a £43.5 million Millennium Commission Lottery Grant to develop the National Cycle Network] gave us all a new impetus and potent challenge to deliver the routes by 2000.
National Cycle Network Route 7 from Glasgow to Inverness passes over the Glen Ogle Viaduct
With national and local government likely to plead poverty in the future, what types of schemes should be prioritised, in terms of cycling investment?
I think that the future of cycling in
You can see this in
Why do think the
I've always been amazed that we don’t just look at what
It seems to me that campaigners and government must recognise that, in order to enable a wide swathe of the public to cycle, we simply have to ensure that they have a multiplicity of routes which they consider safe.
This is what I was aiming for in Sustrans, and through the National Cycle Network, namely to give each town in the country a traffic-free route where its popular use would demonstrate to the authorities that the public would cycle if only they were given a chance – that is the achievement of the Bristol to Bath path.
What do you see as the future role of Sustrans, as there are now over 12,000 miles of the NCN complete, and are there any new areas you feel Sustrans should expand into?
In my view there's still so much to do, so many routes to build, and so many towns where works are needed to turn them towards places where cyclists can flourish. I'd like to be able to wake up in my town and know that it's a cycling town, and that it's a town where the citizens have dared to confront the motor car and moved it to a place where transport is not the major emitter of CO2 it is right now and such a potent threat to all our futures.
The NCN has transformed cycling in the
I'd like to see the NCN adopted by governments as an elemental part of the nation’s transport infrastructure. I'd like all transport professionals to recognise its value and to include its development and enhancements in all their plans. But I wouldn't like to lose the role of volunteers, of Sustrans rangers, of community involvement and ownership which will be vital to ensure that the NCN flourishes and plays a timely and vital role in our society.
The National Cycle Network is reliant on the support of Sustrans rangers and volunteers