Organisers of the £22.8m Cycling City project in Bristol have been told to stop talking and get on with the job by Cycling England, the public body which chose Bristol to be the UK's first Cycling City in the first place. At a meeting with council bosses and user groups yesterday Cycling England chairman Phillip Darnton warned that things need to start progressing quicker if the Bristol pilot scheme is to be a success.
In a report in the Bristol Evening Post Mr Darnton said Cycling England and Cycling City were "in this right up to our necks" and said it was better to press on with an imperfect scheme than endlessly delaying to try and improve it.
"There comes a time in a project where somebody has to say, 'B-plus is good enough'. If we have a B-plus and 100 per cent support it will be terrific. Worrying and worrying about whether you can get an A-plus plan, you are never starting and never starting. We have to get on with it. Getting it started now is far more important than having it perfect."
The most important part of the project for Mr Darnton was enthusing people to start cycling, not preaching to those already on two wheels. "We need to attract people who are not like us. We have got to persuade people that they can do it too."
Mr Darnton's comments are a public sharpening of Cycling England's attitude towards the running of its flagship project. In the summer a top Cycling England official told road.cc that while the organisation had been concerned at the slow start to the project they were now happier with the way it was being run and with the team in charge. A few months down the line it would seem that progress is still not fast enough and patience is once again wearing thin.
Bristol beat off some fierce competition to become England’s first Cycling City in June last year, and along with the 11 new Cycling Towns it has received the largest investment in cycling the country has ever seen.
Half of the money allocated to Cycling City – £11.4 million – comes from the Government. And the rest comes from both Bristol City and South Gloucestershire councils, and Cycling City has until March 2011 to spend the money or it loses it.
The project, to make Bristol more cycle-friendly and to double the number of regular cyclists in Greater Bristol, has seen various schemes and initiatives taking place, including cycle training in Bristol and South Gloucestershire schools, the installation of 800 cycle stands in the city, a new cycle path from St Werburgh’s to Muller Road, and the Prince Street bridge modifications.
Other initiatives have included a pilot scheme for a proposed maximum speed limit of 20mph in two residential areas to make cycling safer and more attractive and a Freewheel Ride in the summer which saw a long stretch of Ladies Mile on the Downs traffic-free for cyclists.
Cycling City project manager Ed Plowden said that when he took over six months ago things were not happening as he would have wanted but since then it had picked up pace, and in the next few months many more schemes will be announced.
And Bristol City Council chief executive Jan Ormondroyd and executive member for transport Jon Rogers said the project would be delivered on time.
Dr Rogers said: "We want to make this a real success. To double the number of cyclists in Bristol over the course of the project is an extremely optimistic timescale. It's not just about cycling. It's about walking, sharing the road, developing a different sort of city."