Cycle City Active City Leicester Conference

Cyclist.ie keeps a close eye on developments across the water in how British cities are changing to accommodate more cycling. As Irish campaigners we regularly travel across to cycling planning / advocacy events and enjoy meeting our cycle campaigning colleagues and swapping notes.

The latest trip was to Leicester to attend the Cycle City Active City conference. Leicester is undergoing a rapid transformation in recent years. Not only does the city boast the largest area of pedestrianised streets of any UK city (with cycle access and no record of serious collisions!), it has also been dismantling some of its gigantic flyovers – classic symbols of 1960s motorised automobility – and promoting urban regeneration. The nurturing of an everyday cycling culture is very much part of this mix. All of this has been helped along by a directly elected Mayor of the City Council (Peter Soulsby) and one of the most dynamic Local Authority Cycling Officers in the UK (Andy Salkeld).

We also heard the latest news from New York (Jon Orcutt) in which cycling is growing through a combination of high quality (protected) bike lanes and a large bike-share scheme, and from London where top notch cycle campaigning (by London Cycling Campaign and others) has prompted a series of directly elected mayors to treat the bicycle as a serious mode to alleviate congestion and help turn London into a more people friendly city. LCC’s latest success is getting a commitment from London’s new Mayor Sadiq Khan to triple the cycle superhighways, enable ‘Mini-Hollands’ in every borough and take dangerous lorries off streets.

Other excellent contributions came from Rachel Aldred, Senior Lecturer in Transport at Westminster University, who is studying how exactly reducing the volumes as well as the speeds of motorised traffic improves the environment for those not wearing a full body metal shell (her blog) and Philip Darnton, Executive Director of the Bicycle Association. Philip’s main argument is that £20M will enable every single school child in the UK to be trained in how to cycle in trafficked environments and every child deserves this training. Meanwhile, cycling journalist and author Carlton Reid recommended that we treat every outrageous / irrational anti-cyclist comment from various celebrities / notice boxes (such as ex- UK Chancellor Nigel Lawson’s as an indication that we are winning the battle: cycling is growing.

All in all, the Leicester conference was excellent. There were over 500 delegates / speakers plus another 300 cycle training instructors in attendance, and the quality of the presentations was really very good. There is an undoubted buzz generated by the more radical interventions on the streets of London to create safe cycling conditions for all – the question and feeling on everyone’s lips was: why should it just be on a handful of London’s streets that safe cycling conditions are created!? Hear hear!

Dr. Damien Ó Tuama is the National Cycling Coordinator for Cyclist.ie. He presented at the Leicester conference on “The (Slow) Progress in Implementing Ireland’s National Cycle Policy Framework”.

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