Tuesday, 23 February 2010

FT.com / UK - Early boost for English cycling scheme

FT.com / UK - Early boost for English cycling scheme

A programme to encourage cycling in six English towns has led to an early rise in the number doing so similar to that seen in the first years of London’s cycling boom, the government body responsible for the initiative will say on Tuesday.

The results suggest the six cycling demonstration towns could see long-term increases similar to those in the capital, where the number of bicycle journeys has more than doubled since 2000, according to Cycling England.

The six towns and cities – Aylesbury, Brighton, Darlington, Derby, Exeter and Lancaster – saw an average 27 per cent increase in the number of trips made by bicycle between April 2005, when the scheme started, and April 2008.

The increases come against a background of gradual long-term decline in cycling in England outside London as car ownership rises and growing traffic deters cyclists.

Phillip Darnton, chairman of Cycling England, warned it could take a considerable time for the towns to see a change in travel habits on the scale of ­London’s.

“I do think that people have to be entirely realistic about the scale of the behaviour change we’re talking about,” he said.

From 2005, the six towns and cities – chosen from 31 local authorities that originally applied – started investing about £10 per person annually to encourage cycling, compared with a normal annual spend of 70p per head elsewhere. The extra spending – about £14m across the six authorities – was funded equally by Cycling England and the local government.

Local authorities had initially assumed that they should encourage cycling by providing new facilities, Mr Darnton said. But Cycling England had argued against that, focusing instead on training.

The organisation urged each town to provide cycle training to children to encourage them to cycle to school and to focus on encouraging other potential cyclists such as students, employees of large companies, women and families, and those travelling to ­stations.

The biggest increase over the three years was in Darlington, where the number of trips made by bicycle increased 57 per cent, while cycling levels in Aylesbury rose only 2.4 per cent.

The programme is set to be extended to more towns, and Bristol was chosen last year as England’s first cycling city.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010.

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