, June 23, 2008 (ENS) - Persuading people to climb out of their cars and onto bicycles is a key part of the British government's plan to meet its commitment to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change. To further this effort, British Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly has named Bristol as the UK's first official Cycling City, and announced a further 11 Cycling Demonstration Towns across England.
Bristol and the 11 other towns have each won a share of the record £100 million (US$197.4 million) investment package to pioneer innovative ways to increase cycling in their areas.
Proposals include improving cycling infrastructure such as dedicated cycle lanes, increasing bike parking, cycle training for children, and promoting the benefits of cycling.
"The UK's first ever Cycling City and 11 new Cycling Demonstration Towns will pioneer new ways of encouraging people to get on their bikes, Kelly said.
"A quarter of journeys made every day by car are less than two miles," she said. "Cycling is an alternative that could bring real health benefits to millions of adults and children, as well as helping them save money and beat congestion."
Cyclists assemble in Bristol's Millenium Square for the city's 15th annual Biggest Bike Ride. June 22, 2008. (Photo by Rob Green)
Bristol was chosen in part because it has hosted a popular cycling event for the past 15 years. On Sunday, the 15th annual Bristol's Biggest Bike Ride attracted thousands who helped the city celebrate its selection as the UK's first Cycling City.
Phillip Darnton, who chairs Cycling England, said, "We have learnt from our European neighbours, such as the Netherlands, that increased and sustained investment is the key to getting more people enjoying the benefits of cycling. The funding that Bristol and the other 11 towns have been awarded is designed to create a real step change in levels of cycling, starting in 2008 and for years to come."
The 11 other Cycling Demonstration Towns are - Blackpool, Cambridge, Chester, Colchester, Leighton/Linslade, Shrewsbury, Southend on Sea, Southport with Ainsdale, Stoke, Woking and York.
Cycling England is the national body co-ordinating the development of cycling across England. It was launched by the Minister for Local Transport in March 2005, replacing the previous National Cycling Strategy Board, and is supported by a number of government departments, including health, education, planning and sport as well as transport.
Today's announcement aims to encourage 2.5 million more adults and children to take up cycling, improve their fitness and beat the traffic.
Bristol wants to double the number of people cycling over the next three years, by creating the UK's first on-street bike rental network, modeled on the successful Paris scheme.
Plans include establishing a 're-cycling' scheme, providing free bikes to those in deprived communities.
The city has plans to build a state-of-the-art facility for cyclists in the city center providing showers, bike parking and lockers so commuters can have a wash and brush up before starting work.
On the drawing board are plans to create a dedicated cycleway to link the suburbs with the city center, opening up new, safer options for commuters who currently rely on their cars.
"The first step in persuading people to leave their cars at home is to offer them a real choice," said the minister. "Providing a step change in cycling facilities, dedicated cycle lanes, more training and information will have a big impact on how people choose to travel."
"I look forward to seeing these towns and cities put their plans into action and urge other communities across the country to follow their lead," she said.
The further 11 Cycling Demonstration Towns will build on the work of the existing six Cycling Demonstration Towns appointed in 2005, which have seen significant increases in cycling levels. These first six towns are - Aylesbury, Brighton, Darlington, Derby, Exeter and Lancaster. They will receive £7 million of the newly announced funding.
"Beyond well co-ordinated, consistent investment in cycling, and the introduction of policy measures to encourage it, cycling crucially needs determined and persistent high-level leadership," said Darnton. "We are delighted that the government has championed this and Cycling England's other projects which aim to increase national cycling levels by 20 percent overall by 2012."
The government has already announced it is investing an unprecedented £140 million (US$276.5 million) in cycling to increase the provision of Bikeability training to help half a million children cycle safely by 2012; build 250 new Safe Links to School as well as create the UK's first-ever Cycling City and appoint further Cycling Demonstration Towns, as announced today.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.
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