Can you ride your bike SAFELY from Exmouth or Cranbrook to Exeter? And whatever happened to that National Cycle Route From Seaton to … somewhere that can’t even take you to Axminster!
And whatever happened (we know what happened) to the dedicated cycle officer at Devon County Council?
Warm words butter no parsnips, as they say!
“Congested roads and environmental concerns are leading many of us to get on our bikes — or the buses. Tim Palmer reveals the best spots in Britain for a car-free commute
Today is World Car-Free Day, that annual reminder of how much we would gain if we all spent a bit less time in those metal boxes on wheels.
We’d have more time — drivers in London spend 227 hours a year stuck in traffic jams, according to a survey by the data analyst Inrix — and money. A report by Kwik Fit found that the average motorist spends nearly £400 a month on their car.
We might be happier and healthier, too, according to Xavier Brice, chief executive of the charity Sustrans, which runs the National Cycle Network: “It sounds silly, but some of the biggest crises facing the country — climate change, air quality, obesity, mental health, loneliness — could be eased if we were less dependent on our cars.”
Nagging people isn’t the answer, he adds. Instead, the key is to make it easier for people to do the right thing and harder to do the wrong thing. The reason Cambridge is the most popular place in the UK for cyclists — more than half of adults there get on their bike every week — is that its narrow one-way streets are simpler to negotiate on two wheels than on four.
Yet ditching the car is easier said than done. Try going to the supermarket without one, taking the kids to football practice or, if you live in the country, going anywhere at all.
The long-term solution, Brice says, is to stop building cul-de-sacs miles from anywhere. Instead, we need to create “20-minute neighbourhoods”, where everything you need is within walking distance. For now, though, the simplest answer is to get on your bike. In some places that means taking your life in your hands, especially in London (despite that, 15% of commuters in Hackney still cycle to work), but if you look carefully, you should be able to find somewhere to live where getting around is easy.
For drivers, Bristol can be a pain — it’s the fifth most congested city in the UK — but it is Britain’s first official “cycling city”. Four National Cycle Routes converge here, at providing easy access to suburbs and satellite towns such as Easton and Portishead. The star attraction is the traffic-free Bristol & Bath Railway Path, which celebrates its 40th birthday this year. A 13-mile route used by more than 2.5m people every year, it’s a big draw for househunters.
Sara Ladkani-Knowles and her husband, Leif, spent a long time looking for the perfect base when they left London two years ago. They picked the suburb of Staple Hill because of its proximity to the path. “Leif uses it every day,” Sara says. “He can get from home to work at the university, in the city centre, in 30 minutes. On the bus, it would take him an hour. He loves it and it puts him in a good mood when he gets there — although it probably helps that it’s mostly downhill.”
They still have a car for longer trips, but Sara, 36, an environmental tutor, doesn’t drive. She uses the cycle path nearly every day, usually with their 16-month-old daughter, Noula, in tow. “It’s an amazing place to take her, because it’s away from busy roads and she’s not breathing in polluted air. There are three supermarkets on the route, so it’s really handy when I need to buy food. I don’t even have to see a car.”
Other places well served by traffic-free cycle paths include the up-and-coming Manchester suburb of Levenshulme, which has easy links to the rest of the city via the Fallowfield Loop bike path, good buses, a six-minute train service to Piccadilly station and affordable houses: three-bedroom terraces start at £150,000.
Glasgow has 36 miles of traffic-free cycle path to go with its excellent public transport — buses, local trains and the “Clockwork Orange” underground — as well as 400 public bikes for hire through its Nextbike scheme.
About 196,000 cyclists a year use the Nidderdale Greenway, in Harrogate, to get to work, the shops and the beautiful Yorkshire Dales countryside. In Wales, the Aberystwyth-Llanilar route provides an easy two-wheeled route between the lively seaside town and the surrounding villages. There’s a public bicycle repair station near the university in case of any mishaps.
Staying in Wales, Cardiff is setting an example to the UK’s other capital cities. The number of people commuting to work by bike more than doubled between 2005 and 2015, to 9.2%. It has a Nextbike hire scheme and a good network of cycle paths, including a route to Castell Coch that follows the River Taff and links neatly with Cardiff Central, Cardiff Bay and Radyr stations.
The trainee accountant Christopher Freestone, 24, pedals along the riverbank every day to get to work from his home in the city centre. “Cycling is the quickest, cheapest, easiest and most environmentally friendly way to get around,” he says. “And you don’t need all the gear — I never wear Lycra and my bike is worth about £80.”
Not everyone can get on a bike, though, which means relying on public transport. According to the Campaign for Better Transport, the best cities for this are Liverpool, thanks to the Tube-style Merseyrail network; Newcastle, which has the Metro system and good bus services; and, leading the pack, Nottingham.
Forty per cent of journeys here are by public transport, the highest figure outside London. The East Midlands city has a 20-mile tram network and fast and reliable buses, both of which have good links to rail services at the revamped station, paid for by the UK’s first workplace parking charge, levied on companies that provide parking spaces for their staff. It has raised £61m since 2012.
“Transport here is getting slicker and slicker,” says Emily Haslam-Jones, a yoga teacher who lives in Carrington, a suburb north of the city centre, with her husband, David, and their two young children. “There’s no need to look at a timetable — buses and trams are so frequent, you don’t have to plan anything.
David cycles to work, and she uses the buses and trams to get out and about. “It’s not a big city, and you can get around it easily. The children love travelling by bus and tram, and it means you get to meet other people who live locally, which you wouldn’t if you were travelling by car.”
Electric car hotspots
Sunderland, Orkney, Newcastle and Milton Keynes are all well stocked with charging points for electric cars, but if you don’t want to risk running out of juice, consider moving to Dundee. We picked the vibrant, creative city as our Best Place to Live in Scotland this year, and it has just invested £3m in pop-up electric chargers — vital if you don’t have a driveway — and a network of petrol station-style “charging hubs”.
Dundee is also pioneering a 350-strong sharing scheme for electric bikes to encourage people to cycle in an area where the topography is unforgiving.”
Source: Sunday Times (pay wall)