Initiatives designed to increase greater levels of cycling to work should not be considered in isolation from other schemes intended to raise the profile of cycling in the U.K. Most fundamentally there is a need to create a general culture in which cycling is considered to be a valid mode of transport (that is for cycling ‘to be taken seriously’, as it is in most European countries). Secondly, it is also necessary to develop ways in which non-cyclists can develop the confidence, skills and fitness necessary to introduce cycling into their ‘personal travel plans’.
The first goal may addressed by various Marketing Activities, such as those promoted during the National Bike Week. The second goal can be addressed by ‘getting bums on saddles’ via leisure orientated guides rides, adult cycle training schemes and mentoring initiatives. A number of such schemes have been run very successfully in the Midlands area and have helped many to bridge the gap between being a non-cyclist and becoming a regular utility cyclist.
Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council have long being enthusiastic supporters of the annual National Bike/ Festival of Cycling Week and related initiatives such as the ‘In Town without my car!’ and ‘Don’t choke Britain’ schemes.
In Nottingham it is usual to run 5 or 6 promotional events in the run up to the National Cycling Week along with promotion of the event via the Authorities Intranet and the operation of an ‘Open door’ policy whereby information or advice is available at any time, for example, via E-mail. The promotional events run have included the following:
1) The post coding of any cycle brought to work so as to increase their recoverability should they ever be stolen.
2) ‘Doctor Bike’ sessions using mechanics provided by Halfords. These have offered a general roadworthyness check and the completion of minor repairs with parts paid for by owner. This has proved to be a very popular initiative.
3) Bike to work events with all participants being provided with a free ‘cyclists breakfast’. This is intended to offer a small incentive to take part, to provide a selling point when promoting the event and to make the event a social one where the less confident can receive support and encouragement from more committed cyclists.
4) Beginners bike rides. Again these have a strong social and supportive aspect.
5) Care has also been taken to include external offices. For example, participants were requested to send in details of their ride to work and qualified for ‘freebies’ offered to participants.
6) The Authority has also negotiated ‘rewards’ for those taking part. For example, free post coding provided by the police and subsequently ‘Data tagging’ offered through negotiation with the Datatag company at a cost of £5 rather then the usual £20. Other rewards have included the free Halfords maintenance check up sessions and items such as cycling bottles, also provided by Halfords.
7) Services like Central Park Bike Rental
As well as participating in the June national Cycle Weeks the authority has for the last 6 years promoted a Newark Cycle Week each July. This initiative aims to build on the already high levels of cycle use in Newark where currently 14-15% of commuters travel by bicycle.
Nottinghamshire County Council’s participation in the European ‘In town without my car!’ days has been very successful with a ‘Quality Street Event’, again being held in Newark. This involved the closure of Carter Gate, Bridge Street and part of Balderton Gate to motor vehicles, with these streets being transformed into a ‘family-centred, traffic-free environment’. These streets hosted a range of events including, music, street entertainment and a ‘transport vision for Newark’ mobile exhibition unit. This initiative is featured in the Department for Transport’s ‘In town without my car!’ good practice guide.
Nottinghamshire County Council, in conjunction with Nottingham City Council, the local ‘Pedals’ cycling group, CTC members and others have promoted a series of recreational rides for the last 17 years. These aim to form a bridge between utility and leisure cycling and have a large voluntary input. They have proved to be very successful with each ride having an average of almost 20 participants who range in age from 2 to 60. Overall the rides attract between 1500 and 2000 participants per year. The whole series of rides costs £4000 annually in order to cover the costs of the booklet, leader T-shirts, First aid courses and local advertisements. Both Durham and Lincolnshire have looked at the Nottinghamshire scheme with the intention of setting up their own rural rides scheme.
The Cycling in Sandwell group also promote a series of ‘Family Bike Rides’, directed by Dene Stevens, the local Walking and Cycling for Health Development Worker who is based at the Rowley, Regis and Tipton NHS Primary Care Trust. (Telephone 1021 500 1660). Many of these rides take advantage of the areas canal paths.
‘Cyclists fare best when they are recognised to be and act as the operators of vehicles’ is a universal maxim, perhaps best expressed in the Stationary Office cycling manual ‘Cyclecraft’ written by John Franklin. Central to the ‘vehicular cycling’ approach are the principles of assertive and defensive cycling. These call for a very different set of skills to those traditionally taught to school children whose cycle training acknowledges the fact that they may lack the cognitive and perceptual skills needed to ride in heavy traffic safely.
There is now a growing recognition that there is a need to offer specialised adult cycle training courses that draw on the training offered for motor vehicles, in particular the ‘defensive riding’ skills taught to motorcyclists. The CTC: The UK’s National Cyclist’s Organisation has now developed a set of training guidelines agreed with The Department for Transport and will be offering courses to ‘train the trainers’.
Other pioneers of adult cycle training include York City Council and steps have already been taken to develop similar schemes in Nottinghamshire with one project being run in conjunction with The Health Initiatives Group, a section of Nottingham City Council Primary care Trust. This scheme involved offering training to adult heart patients who had been recommended to take up cycling as part of a ‘Prescription for health’.
Nottinghamshire County Council contracted Cleary Hughes Associates and John Clark to produce a feasibility study into the provision of Adult Cycle Training. This was published in February 2002. This report considered what schemes were already available, the attitudes of cycling bodies, local users and retailers towards adult cycle training, possible sources of funding, scheme promotion (and the need to emphasis the speed, convenience and, especially, the health benefits of cycling) likely target users, trainer recruitment and project management. The recommendations were used to set up a pilot scheme and the authority is now looking to extend its adult cycle training program in the future.