Let’s not repeat the same cycle
IF your child were growing up in Copenhagen, Amsterdam or Utrecht, the chances are they would cycle to school.
A main road like the A6 running close to their house or school would probably have a separate cycle lane wide enough for a whole family to go on their bikes together, away from traffic, and there would be lots of quiet, low-speed linking routes with space for everyone to cycle alongside other vehicles.
It’s no coincidence that Copenhagen has one of Europe’s top air quality ratings and low levels of childhood obesity.
In Greater Manchester it’s a different story. Although most primary age children live an average of 1.6 miles away from their school only around 2 per cent cycle. The main reason is that parents are understandably worried about fast roads with little or no cycle routes.
You are privileged if you live near a traffic-free path like the Fallowfield Loop or the Trans Pennine Trail, and most cycle lanes on roads are painted stripes.
People often feel there is little choice but to take the car to school or work.
There are some exciting developments for cycling locally, such as a ‘Dutchstyle’ separate cycle lane down Oxford Road, but funding for these high profile projects is set to dry up soon.
Without the linking routes from residential areas or schools to these main cycle corridors, most people, including young families, are unlikely to consider cycling as a safe and sensible travel option.
Last week the sustainable transport charity Sustrans submitted its response to the government’s consultation for the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy.
Cycle groups were understandably excited about the Strategy when the government first announced it in February 2015.
It promised a long-term legal commitment to fund other types of transport apart from cars, helping to give more people a healthy choice of travel and to make our cities cleaner.
At the same time there was heady talk that ministers aimed to double cycling levels in the next 10 years.
Sadly, campaigners have been disappointed.
Although central government announced a £15bn road building strategy in the November Spending Review, cycling and walking will receive only £316m, which equates to just £1.35 per head, far short of the £17 per head which Sustrans calculated is needed to reach 2025 government targets for cycling, or around £20 per head for cycling cities like Copenhagen.
MPs around the country, including six in Greater Manchester, signed a letter to Secretary of State Patrick McLoughlin to ask for more investment in cycling and walking routes and networks.
History tells us that building more roads only encourages more people to drive, so why not divert some of that money for cycle paths and create a healthier, cleaner city where people want to live?
Sustrans is a national charity which helps more people cycle, walk or use public transport for their everyday journeys. Find out more at www.sustrans.org.uk
●» Children can be encouraged to ride into school if they are given safe routes to follow