Millions pumped in to give region an easier ride

The wheels of change are in motion to bring cycling to the masses in Yorkshire.

Friday, 28th March 2014, 10:10 am
Metro chairman Coun James Lewis takes a cycling refresher course from Ginny Leonard, Cycling Development Officer at CTC - The national cycling charity, to help celebrate the green light for the £30m Leeds-Bradford cycleway.

Multi-million pound projects and ambitious legacy campaigns are being readied across the region to make the most of the once-in-a-lifetime arrival of the Tour de France in July.

And anticipation is already building a head of steam. The likes of Ilkley Cycling Club have reported record new member sign-ups; 20,000 free tickets for the start of stage two in York were snapped up within hours of being made available; and huge numbers of cyclists are riding the two Yorkshire Tour stage routes.

But tapping into the growing interest in road cycling long term in a way that makes our roads safer has sprung dozens of landmark schemes.

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Following the success of Yorkshire’s bid to host two stages of the world’s most watched annual sporting event, the Government waded in with an unprecedented £77m two-wheeled war chest in August aimed at “starting a cycling revolution” in the UK.

The headline plan came in the shape of a £30m cycling superhighway from east Leeds to Bradford funded by £18m from the Department for Transport and £11.2m from the local authorities and transport authority Metro.

The 14-mile route, which will touch on areas including Armley, Seacroft and Bramley in Leeds, will feature a cycle path separated from main roads by dropped kerbs or stone flags to make it safer and easier to cycle.

Coun James Lewis, chair of Metro, said the plan would also boost safety on the roads following 30 years of growth that “hasn’t been kind to cyclists in Leeds”.

He said: “Once the party has dulled we want to make sure there is a physical legacy.”

Though much of the work will be done post-July, the plans will see cycle parking facilities in Leeds city centre and resurfacing of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal towpath over the 16km stretch from Armley to Shipley put in place before the race begins.

Elsewhere in Yorkshire, around two-thirds of the £7.5m funding for cycleway improvements in the Peak District has been pledged by central government.

With the rest of the cash for the second phase of the Pedal Peak scheme coming from local councils, residents of South Yorkshire will be among the 3.5 million people within reach of four new cycle routes through the national park.

The new routes include the 12-mile Little Don Link, from Beeley Wood to Winscar Reservoir, the three-mile Little John Route and the soon-to-be-completed Hope Valley Link, from Bamford to Hathersage.

Further north £4m of road investments were unveiled by North Yorkshire County Council last month. It will resurface roads, improve cycle facilities and pedestrian links before July’s Grand Départ.

And it is these huge investments in infrastructure that should make cycling more of an accepted part of daily life.

Dr Louise Ellis, head of sustainability at the University of Leeds, said the projects will “break down barriers as well as perceptions” of how safe cycling on the roads can be.

She said: “Of course change and infrastructure is vital but we need to be able to support people to use that infrastructure, so we need to endorse what is safer cycling and have a holistic view.”

Creating that cycling future is the task of Cycle Yorkshire – the Tour de France’s official legacy campaign. It is backed by all 21 Yorkshire councils, Welcome to Yorkshire, the CTC and Sustrans and partners like British Cycling.

Led by City of York Council, the project aims for everyone in Yorkshire to have access to a bicycle by 2023. Regional director Graham Titchener hopes it will yield more velodromes, cycle tracks and Sky Rides through private sector sponsorship and existing council budgets.