Will Bristol spend its cycling city cash?

By Richard Peace | Monday, October 20, 2008 11.28am

Bristol was given £22.8 million after being chosen as the UK’s first 'cycling city' earlier this year. But there seems to be an air of nervousness developing around plans to spend the money.

The cycling developments need to happen over the next couple of years and, after some shaky forays into consultation and doubts over the usefulness of proposals, a plan will finally go before a cabinet meeting of Bristol City Council later this month.

At a meeting earlier this month, John Grimshaw, founder of Sustrans and now with Cycling England, the body which awarded the 'cyclingcity' status, said: “We chose Bristol because of the number of cyclists here but doubling that is going to be a huge challenge. I hope things have been going flat-out in Bristol.”

Comments such as “We have got to get on with this, otherwise 11.4 million pounds could be wasted” (from the council officer in charge of the project) do not inspire confidence.

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Bristol architect and long-standing cycling activist / Sustrans patron George Ferguson has analysed some of the proposals and compared them to that icon of high-quality cycling, Groningen in the Netherlands. His findings imply that Bristol – awarded a similar amount of money as it took to make Groningen a success – has its work cut out.

However, if things have gone and continue to go flat-out, with plans approved and effectively implemented, Bristol could double the number of its cyclists from 30,000 to 60,000. Proposed measures include 20mph zones in three residential areas, up to 35 contra-flow cyclepaths to allow cyclists to ride in both directions along one-way roads, 9,200 cycling proficiency lessons a year for schoolchildren compared with 2,500 now and enhanced cycleways on four main routes.

Bristol’s “cycling champion”, Councillor Terry Cook, told the meeting:  “Within 10 years we should see most of the traffic in the city centre being cyclists and if we can get a critical mass of cyclists, then the attitude of motorists will have to change.” He is also on record as saying that Princess Street Bridge will be closed to motor traffic.

To express your views (before the end of October), click here and to find out more about the proposals, click here

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