More than six million people would benefit from plans to extend the UK's cycling and walking routes. That's the message from the country's leading cycling charity Sustrans, which is launching a £50million bid for funding to realise the project.
The organisation, which founded the UK's National Cycle Network, yesterday (Thursday) showcased its plans with dramatic river crossings, light installations, and mass balloon releases to mark out the routes of planned new Connect2 cycle and walking paths.
The future of the Connect2 scheme, which would see new routes built for 79 different communities, hinges on winning Lottery money. But unlike the normal Lottery process, which sees expert assessors visit applicants, the decision on who gets the grant of up to £50million will be made by a phone vote on UK TV channel ITV later this year.
Sustrans' Chief Executive John Grimshaw said, "By making it easier to travel for local journeys on foot and by bike, Connect2 is the only shortlisted Lottery bid that would bring huge potential health and environmental benefits, not just for local communities, but for the whole of the UK, now - and for generations to come. I urge people to support Connect2."
The Connect2 project is being developed by Sustrans working with councils and communities, and aims to transform local travel, and aims to make it easier to walk and cycle for local journeys. Nearly two thirds of all car journeys in the UK are of less than five miles, and the Connect2 project would provide an alternative to those journeys, by creating new walking and cycling routes, and building bridges over rivers, railways and busy roads.
Sustrans says this would enable more people to reach the places they want to get to in a way that would benefit their health - and the health of the environment.
Connect2 is up against five other applications in the running for the £50 million - the final decision will be made in a televised public vote in December in The Big Lottery Fund Living Landmarks: The People's Millions competition.
Areas of England which stand to benefit if the scheme goes ahead include London, Bath, Bristol, Bradford, Stockport, Chester, Leicester, Harrogate, Bridlington, Carlisle, St. Neots, Norwich, Shoreham, Hereford. In Scotland, Glasgow and Perth would both benefit, along with Cardiff and Port Talbot in Wales, and Derry and Ballymoney in Northern Ireland.
The events which took place to make Connect2 day included:
*A spectacular light installation marking the proposed new foot and cycle paths along the River Goyt in Stockport. 1,000 fluorescent tubes, powered by the earth's natural ambient currents, illuminated the Connect2 traffic-free links between schools, stations and local centres.
*Children either side of the River Tay at Perth held up a 'rope bridge' to demonstrate how two communities would be brought closer by the proposed new Connect2 bridge. Emergency service rescue boats shot sprays of water over the river.
*Local dignitaries and residents visited the edge of the half-finished 'Bridge to Nowhere' in Glasgow, where they fixed a banner to promote the Connect2 plan to finish the bridge and link it to a network of new cycle and walking paths taking people into the city centre.
*In Leicester's Watermead Park, more than 100 children created a giant jigsaw showing the benefits of easier access to and within this green space in the heart of the city.
To find out more about and register support for Connect2 visit www.sustransconnect2.org.uk or Text Connect2 to 80010 (UK only).