A compact town where few urban journeys are over four miles, Chester should be an ideal location for cycling. However, the town has a number of physical barriers to cycling, which have kept cycling levels low. The Roman walls, inner ring road and a number of gaps in the current cycling network all present difficulties for people choosing to cycle, and the Cycle Chester programme aims to make cycling an easier travel choice.
Chester is quite demographically diverse, and Cycle Chester aims to better engage with local communities by establishing focus groups in four key areas of the city - Blacon, Lache, Upton and Hoole. Blacon and Lache have high levels of deprivation and unemployment. In contrast, Upton and Hoole are recognised as more affluent areas in Chester. The different barriers identified in these focus groups will be addressed within Cycle Chester’s activities.
Cycle Chester was officially launched at a cycle festival event in April 2009. The promotional campaign is now in full swing, including a Cycle Chester website, relationships with local radio stations and newspapers, and branded leaflets and flyers. As well as this, Cycle Chester has partnered with ‘Britain in Bloom’ and a complementary bike scheme called ‘Petal Power’ has been launched to promote cycling.
In year one, Cycle Chester made a start on its ambitious cycling infrastructure programme. This included extending a major greenway, which created a cycle route to the village of Mickle Trafford (situated just outside Chester). In year two a link between the Riverside canal and retail and city centre areas is being established - providing access for commuters and recreational cyclists. This scheme will also create a commuter route from Chester’s ever expanding University - helping cyclists reach the different educational centres across Chester.
Another important part of Cycle Chester’s infrastructure programme is the city centre permeability masterplan. This addresses the physical barriers to cycling in Chester, providing recommendations for cycling improvements that will encourage more people to get on their bikes. Schemes range from minor road improvements to major infrastructure schemes, but the flagship infrastructure project is the construction of a pedestrian and cycle-bridge over the River Dee. This bridge is due to be completed by 2013.
Underpinning these infrastructure developments, Cycle Chester has run community cycle schemes, including establishing a bike loan initiative. Cycle Chester provides bicycles to people who don’t usually cycle, in return for a record of the bike’s use.
A cycle training programme has also begun, with Bikeability levels 1 and 2 being delivered in every primary school in Chester. In addition to this, Community Safety Wardens have been trained as cycling instructors. Dr Bike and cycle maintenance courses are run regularly for children and adults in Chester, and the team has delivered cycle awareness training to car drivers in partnership with local driver training companies. In 2010 and 2011 the team will develop and deliver cycle awareness schemes for organisations with employees who drive large vehicles, with a view to rolling this out to other businesses in Chester.
Visit www.cyclechester.com for more information.