Cycling success for city

Cycling success
Melanie and Nat Connell

Liverpool is on the road to a healthier future, as more and more local people hop on their bikes.

New figures show that there has been a 20 per cent increase in the number of journeys made by bicycle in Liverpool over the past year. It means the city is already exceeding the target of 12 per cent set for 2011-15 in the Third Local Transport Plan for Merseyside (LTP3).

The figures – which reflect the city’s on-going efforts to increase cycling rates – come from the 2011-12 LTP3 Merseyside cycle monitoring report. The average daily flow of cyclists – measured at 65 sites, using automatic cycle counters – recorded a 16.9 per cent increase in cycling for the whole of Merseyside. Liverpool’s increase of 20 per cent is the highest in the region.

Cycling in the city is being boosted by a comprehensive cycling programme, which includes the free, family-friendly Cycle Liverpool South rides, co-ordinated by sustainable transport organisation Sustrans.

Led by trained volunteer cycle leaders, the rides help improve people’s confidence on a bike, using local cycle routes to visit places like the Mersey Promenade, Calderstones Park, Speke Hall and Speke Garston Coastal Reserve.

Cycle Liverpool South is backed up by a range of other free cycling initiatives, including Choose Freedom North Liverpool – regular rides for adults in and around the north of the city; Liverpool Wheels for All, which uses adapted bikes to make cycling accessible for people with disabilities; and Liverpool Community Health’s Cycle for Health rides, which help people who haven’t cycled for a while to get back on their bikes.

Two people who have benefited from the city’s cycling programme are 35-year Melanie Connell from Aigburth and her nine-year-old son Nat. Melanie had given up cycling at 12, but got back into it during Bike Week 2011, when she took part in a guided ride from the Pier Head to the Gormley statues on Crosby beach.

She hasn’t looked back, and now rides her bike daily, as well as attending at least one Cycle Liverpool South ride a fortnight. She is sharing her rediscovered passion for biking with Nat, and this year they have taken part in the Great Manchester Cycle, Wirral Bikathon, and the Manchester to Liverpool Bike Ride, to raise money for charity.

Melanie said: “I was delighted to find out about the free bike rides in south Liverpool. Cycling with a group has given me confidence about both myself and my son riding on roads. It has helped me discover new local routes as well as being a fantastic social outlet.”

Melanie, who now rarely uses her car anymore, said: “The main advantages of cycling, as opposed to driving, are that it is good for my health and keeps costs down, with no petrol or parking costs. There is also the feel- good factor, knowing that you are helping the environment.

“And cycling with my son, instead of sticking him in the car, keeps him engaged in journeys – for instance the trip of a few miles to visit family members – and helps keep him fit.”

Melanie has also taken advantage of the free Bikeability training offered in the city, through the TravelWise programme, funded by Liverpool Primary Care Trust. She can now fix punctures, replace gear and brake cables, and replace the drive chain, derailleur and freewheel. Not to be outdone, Nat has reached Bikeability Level 2, and can fix a puncture, adjust his brakes and carry out a safety check.

Melanie said: “I try to encourage all my family and friends to get out on their bikes – with varying success! I am trying to teach my mum to ride. She is 66 but she will get there, and it should really help her diabetes. I would encourage anyone who is thinking about taking up cycling to go to one of the Cycle Liverpool South rides and use one of the free pool bikes, first of all. If they enjoy it, they can get more training from Bikeright!.”

Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport, Councillor Tim Moore, said: “These are really encouraging figures, which show that our investment in sustainable transport is having a real impact on local people.

“Cycling is a fantastic form of exercise and environmentally friendly. It’s also a great way of getting around, both for commuters and for recreational purposes. We are working really hard to break down barriers to cycling, because we understand the huge benefits it can bring – so it’s great to see that this work is paying dividends.”

The Local Transport Plan for Merseyside aims to lay out the best possible strategy for improving travel throughout the region, including rail and bus networks and sustainable transport.

For more information about all the free cycling programmes, including bike rides and training, on offer in Liverpool, visit www.liverpool.gov.uk/cycling