Towns selected to run cycling scheme

A dozen English towns were today chosen by the Government to promote cycling in a £100 million investment scheme.

Pride of place goes to Bristol which was appointed as the UK's first official Cycling City by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly.

Eleven other urban areas have been designated Cycling Demonstration Towns in an attempt to encourage 2.5 million more people to take up cycling, improve their fitness and beat the traffic.

The 11 towns are Blackpool, Cambridge, Chester, Colchester, Leighton/Linslade in Bedfordshire, Shrewsbury, Southend on Sea, Southport with Ainsdale, Stoke, Woking and York.

There are currently six Cycling Demonstration Towns - Aylesbury, Brighton, Darlington, Derby, Exeter and Lancaster.

Bristol wants to double the number of people cycling over the next three years.

Its plans include creating the UK's first on-street bike rental network modelled on the successful Paris scheme, showers and lockers for biking workers, and a doubling of the number of children receiving cycling training.

Ms Kelly said Bristol and the 11 new demonstration towns would "pioneer new ways of encouraging people to get on their bikes".

She went on: "A quarter of journeys made every day by car are less than two miles. Cycling is an alternative that could bring real health benefits to millions of adults and children, as well as helping them save money and beat congestion.

"The first step in persuading people to leave their cars at home is to offer them a real choice. Providing a step change in cycling facilities, dedicated cycle lanes, more training and information will have a big impact on how people choose to travel.

"I look forward to seeing these towns and cities put their plans into action and urge other communities across the country to follow their lead."

Phillip Darnton, chairman of Cycling England, said:

"We have learnt from our European neighbours, such as the Netherlands, that increased and sustained investment is the key to getting more people enjoying the benefits of cycling.

"The funding that Bristol and the other 11 towns have been awarded is designed to create a real step change in levels of cycling, starting in 2008 and for years to come."