Prior to the start of the Cycling Demonstration Town project, Lancaster City Council’s cycling focus had been on investment in infrastructure. With Lancaster and Morecambe being only five kilometres apart and the greenway off-road cycle route joining them, the geography is well suited to cycling.
The main focus of the Lancaster with Morecambe Cycling Town programme is the journey to work and school, although more broadly the aim is to encourage all cycle trips. The first three years of the programme concentrated on expanding the district’s cycle route network, including a link between Morecambe Promenade and the Canal Towpath at Hest Bank, providing an additional 20 kilometres of cycle routes.
A number of infrastructure improvements have been made since the start of the second phase of the programme. The Salt Ayre race circuit improvement project (funded by Sport England with a contribution from Cycling England) was successfully completed in spring 2008, and is now operational. The race circuit is 1.3 kilometres and is used for a variety of races, time-trials and Go Ride events. The track was widened and resurfaced with improved signage, and saw the addition of a new cycle skills area so cycle training can be carried out in a safe traffic free environment. A number of footpaths have been converted to shared use, bringing key destinations such as Lancaster & Morecambe College onto the cycle network.
Other completed infrastructure work includes implementation of advance stop lines on the A6 in Lancaster and over 700 new cycle parking spaces have been installed (including 16 new secure lockers at Lancaster Railway Station). In July 2009 a link connecting Lancaster Canal to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary site was opened on a 12 month trial basis. This has been well received by staff, visitors and the neighbouring school. Further infrastructure improvements, specifically expanding cycling provision within Lancaster city centre, will be a priority in 2010. Plans include upgrades to the gyratory system and the creation of east/west and north/south links into and across the town centre.
Work with schools remains a priority for the Lancaster team, and the programme continues to support Bike It by providing funds for both classroom and after-school activities, such as bike maintenance workshops and Bikeability training. In 2009 Bikeability was offered to all local schools and over 1,200 children have taken part in Bikeability training.
Lancaster also pioneered the Round the World scheme initiative - a virtual bike race around the world whereby every time a child cycles to school, their miles are added to their school’s virtual ‘Journey Round the World.’ This continues to be successful at encouraging new young cyclists and the idea has since been rolled out nationally. The team also offers a range of cycling training to all children in the school holidays as part of the Council’s Holiday Activity Programme. This includes Cycle Skills, Bikeability and Learn to Cycle courses (for ages four plus).
Getting more women cycling is another of the team’s key aims. Since 2007 monthly ‘Women on Wheels’ rides have been run and the team regularly offers a number of women-only activities, including maintenance training. In summer 2009 Lancaster held a number of women-only cycling activities, kicked off by the publication of the first ‘Women on Wheels’ newsletter, an eight page guide offering tips and advice. Activities included an introduction to mountain biking, bike rides, maintenance sessions and a two day skills course for beginners.
Lancaster with Morecambe has a dedicated Workplace Cycling Officer whose remit is to get more people cycling to work. The focused work with six of the largest employers in the district ensures there is an ongoing support package delivered. This includes Bicycle User Groups (BUGs), Bike to Work days, guided cycle rides and cycle maintenance courses.
There has been a significant increase in cycling at Lancaster University amongst both staff and students. The proportion of staff cycling to work is one of the highest in the region at over 13 per cent whilst the number of students living off-campus and cycling to University has doubled to over 10 per cent in less than two years. The success is brought about by a number of measures implemented by Lancaster University in conjunction with the Cycling Town project team, including improved routes and signage to campus, secure cycle parking and a range of regular promotional activities. Future initiatives on campus include a fully equipped bike workshop.
The Cycling Town team offers a comprehensive training programme to increase bike confidence, riding skills & cycle maintenance skills for adults, employees and families. This includes bike maintenance courses, bespoke sessions for small groups and individuals, bike buddies and tailored cycle training for employers including the Primary Care Trust (PCT) and Lancashire Police (advanced level 3 training). Since 2006 around 2,100 people have participated in some form of cycle training.
The team carries out a range of activities including events, led rides and roadshows as well as producing a range of different publications. To get more residents and visitors familiar with the local network, around 70,000 copies of the cycle map have been distributed.
May 2009 saw the launch of the ‘Quicker, Healthier, Cheaper’ campaign with ads on the back of local buses, promoting the benefits of travelling by bike. This theme will be continued throughout 2010. Other promotional activities will also continue in 2010, including a regular Friday cycling roadshow in Market Square, publication of new maps, an events guide, ‘Breakfast on the Bridge’ for commuters, and the annual Bike Film Festival.
Visit www.celebratingcycling.org for more information.