Exeter campaign targets even higher cycling levels

Aim is to double bike trips by 2011

The city of Exeter in Devon has launched a new campaign aimed at encouraging citizens to make 600,000 more trips a year by bike by 2011.

The Freedom of Your City initiative asks all residents to cycle more and get one other person to do the same, with the aim of reaching 1.6 million cycle trips a year.

That would effectively double cycling levels from 2005, when the Cycle Exeter project started with the award of Cycling Demonstration Town status from Cycling England and £1.5 million of matched funding cash.

Freedom of Your City has a sound base to build on – Devon County Council’s Cycle Exeter team have, over the past four years, raised awareness of the benefits of cycling, trained over 1,000 children a year and created 18km of new or improved routes.

Moreover, cycling levels are already growing at an impressive rate: the figure for annual bike trips in Exeter, taken by automatic cycle counters around the city, topped the one million mark for the first time in 2008, a 37 percent increase since 2005.

The potential for a greater shift to bikes is still there though. Over 61 million car journeys are made in and around Exeter every year, 40 percent of which, it's estimated, could be made by bicycle.

Children are some of the most avid cyclists in the city, with 20 percent of all trips to school now made by bike compared to a national average of only two percent. Five schools have doubled cycling since 2005, and Cycle Exeter is challenging everyone to follow their example.

As part of Freedom of Your City, Cycle Exeter is:

  • Launching a new website, packed with advice and information for residents and businesses on getting started or cycling more.
  • Extending cycle routes in and out of the city centre.
  • Creating more bike parking at schools, GP surgeries, health centres and around the city.
  • Supporting local businesses with tailored advice and support.
  • Offering free cycle confidence training to all residents.

Why has Exeter been able to succeed in raising cycling levels where other towns and cities have failed, despite their best efforts? Zsolt Schuller, project manager for Cycle Exeter, told BikeRadar: "While being a CyclingEnglandDemonstrationTown has helped with extra finance I think the main factor has been the support from the main officers in the council. The head of highway management is a keen cyclist, as are all his children, and the chief executive often cycles 20 miles to work."

Mr Schuller said this means that difficult decisions which support bikes over cars, and which many other councils choose to avoid, are backed from the top. He said: "Car space has been removed from the outer ring road in favour of bike lanes whilst other bike-friendly measures include single-phase light crossings of major roads (ie. bikes and pedestrians don't have to wait in the middle) and bike lanes have been prioritised over side roads."

Leading businesses in Exeter are backing the new campaign and Royal Mail, EDF, Sainsbury's, Exeter Chiefs Rugby Club and Exeter City Football Club have all pledged to make their workplaces more cycle-friendly.

A new billboard advertising campaign will carry the message "Get on your bike – it’s fun, fast and free" and this will be backed up with postcards, stickers and posters.

The campaign website, www.devon.gov.uk/cycleexeter, lets visitors pledge their support and gives advice on cycling more and tips on how to encourage other people to get on their bikes. There are local and countywide cycle maps for download too.  

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