‘Cycling is part of a solution to our transport problems’
Published at 11:21, Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Not every cyclist wants to take part in Craig’s extreme brand of cycling.
Many are content enjoying the more sedate routes around Cumbria, while others will see it as a cheaper, greener and healthier way of getting into town.
And every year Mark Brierley is noticing more and more of it.
Mark is Cumbria County Council’s cycling development officer. His job is not just to encourage people to take up cycling but also to ensure that it is as easy as possible – with all the necessary infrastructure of cycle paths and bridges.
For him it is the ideal job, as he has a longstanding love of cycling.
Mark, 48, worked for many years as an outdoors instructor before the county council created his current post and recruited him to fill it.
“I think for me it’s the pace of travel on a bike that I really like about it,” he says. “It’s a mode of travel where you feel part of the environment you’re going through.
“You are not sitting in a box as you are in a car. You have a lot more access to your surroundings, you see a lot more because you are going at a reasonable pace, but you can also cover some distance.”
Mark lives in Penrith and has an office at the council headquarters in Carlisle – often cycling the 20 miles each way.
But his job takes him all over the county and he says: “There has been a gradual increase in cycling in towns, year on year.
“At the county council we are getting more interest and more requests for cycle parking. Lots of big employers are offering cycle to work schemes.
“It was always gradual rather than dramatic. But if you talk to any of the cycle shops in Cumbria, they had a bumper year last year.”
Some of the increased popularity, he believes, is down to the cycle training now offered to all year six primary school pupils in Cumbria.
“That training is really well established now. Once parents know that their children have had proper training, they are asking: ‘Where can we go for a nice family ride?’”
The growing interest in cycling brings an economic benefit as well as an environmental one. Visitors to Cumbria are attracted by two cycling tourist attractions – the coast to coast cycle route and the Hadrian’s Wall cycleway.
The coast to coast route can start from Workington or Whitehaven and crosses England to the North Sea coast at Sunderland.
It has long been popular but Mark says: “The route along the Wall is getting increasingly popular.
“Many people cycle on the coast to coast route to the north-east and then come back along Hadrian’s Wall and make a week of it. A reasonably fit person can do the coast to coast in two or three days.”
Of course none of this would be possible without cycle paths, and Mark’s job involves ensuring there is a good network of them. The county council and green transport charity Sustrans work together to build and maintain the tracks through Cumbria.
It became an urgent job after the November floods, when bridges over the River Derwent were closed and the coast to coast cycle route was broken.
“There was a big push to get them open again in time for the tourist season.”
But work is going on all the time to make cycling easier in other areas, as Mark points out.
“There have been some substantial improvements. When the Caldew flood defences in Carlisle were finished we made sure there was a cycle route along them, so cyclists don’t have to travel along Denton Street.
“Most of the work now is about plugging the gaps, connecting up different stretches of path to make it a more joined-up network.”
And he believes the future is bright for bikes.
“Fuel prices are going to continue increasing and there will soon be a bigger urgency about tackling climate change.
“We need a solution to our transport problems and I think cycling is part of it.”
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk