Leeds lagging behind in appetite to become a cycling city

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A national cycling charity claims Leeds is lagging behind other core cities in its appetite to become a cycling city.

The CTC, the UK’s largest cycling charity, has ranked Leeds sixth out of England’s eight largest city economies outside London in its support for the national Space for Cycling campaign which calls on local authorities and central Government to invest in cycle lanes and safety provision for those on two wheels.

The findings state only 16 per cent of councillors support the Space for Cycling campaign in Leeds, as opposed to 67 per cent in Newcastle.

This comes just months after the city hosted the start of the 2014 Tour de France Grand Depart and amid talk of Yorkshire securing a long-term cycling legacy through the local authority-backed Cycle Yorkshire programme.

Leeds City Council has responded by stating members of all political groups have shown a desire to improve cycling facilities in Leeds – something it is “extremely committed to”.

Robbie Gillett, CTC’s national Space for Cycling coordinator, said its figures reflect there has been some “hesitancy” from Leeds in backing the campaign while “there is a sense more could have been done to grasp the legacy of the Tour”.

“To capitalise on the Tour de France’s potential legacy and to harness the economic, health and congestion benefits that cycling offers – Leeds, Sheffield and other Yorkshire councils will need to make long-term commitments,” he said.

Of the eight largest economies outside of London, Grand Depart centres Leeds and Sheffield rank sixth and eighth respectively in the CTC’s league table based on the percentage of councillors backing the Space for Cycling campaign.

A major part of the attempts to secure a cycling legacy in Leeds is the plan for a £29million Cityconnect cycleway between east Leeds and Bradford, which was announced earlier this year. The scheme could be completed by December 2015.

But local campaigners have branded progress “slow”, claiming more needs to be done to tackle cycle safety.

Lizzie Reather, chair of the Leeds Cycling Campaign, said: “Leeds City Council is saying all the right things, but progress is slow on the ground. The Cityconnect project will show that it’s possible to create protected space on main roads, 20mph areas and liveable streets, but this is just one route and some of the junction designs don’t prioritise cycling and walking.”

The Space for Cycling campaign was sparked by the death of a student killed riding in a designated cycleway in London last year. Thousands of cyclists nationwide, including in Leeds, joined campaign support rides to raise awareness in May.

The Grand Depart saw 2.8m people venture out to witness Le Tour roll through Yorkshire.

Coun Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for transport and the economy, said: “Improving cycling in Leeds both now and in the future is not defined by all councillors signing up to one particular campaign, but by a real commitment by everyone in the city, including the council, to see long-lasting improvements made.”

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