For two and a half years Bristol was officially the Cycling City – how do we keep the momentum going? Everyone admires our lively cycling culture, but it is in some ways marginal – what are the practicalities of a strategy that will fill the whole city with people on bikes? How do our cycling ambitions fit in with public transport? And what about the vexed business of residents parking? Bristol has won the honour of being the 2015 European Green Capital – we are sure we can rise to the challenge, but what are the nuts and bolts?
The first Bristol Cycling Summit was convened to start thrashing out the game plan and it was an inspirational success. Speakers included Mayor George Ferguson who was clear about his determination to make the changes which will foster walking and cycling in the city despite the obstacles: “don’t think that there’s an easy way out … I’ve been subjected to a lot of bile on some things but you can take the bile if you know you’re doing it for a good reason. It’s important for you to realise that I need support – people who will publicly say that I am doing the right things”.
The afternoon kicked off with a passionate exposition of the Bristol Cycling Manifesto by Bristol Cycling Campaign strategist Eric Booth: “the argument has largely been won – it’s now all about implementation. Cycling City showed us a glimpse of what is possible, and we produced the Manifesto to drive that process forward”. This is not about existing cyclists – not about most of us in this room. People feel unable to move freely in their own city and that is simply not fair. People should feel comfortable in their own city”
That theme of fairness pervaded the afternoon. Peter Lipman from Sustrans sketched in the national and international context of the Bristolian active travel experiment and introduced the term “transport poverty” – everyone needs to able to get to things. He stressed the importance of real targets – countries with far higher rates of cycling than the UK have targets for improvement, while we just have vague ‘aspirations’.
A very basic form of fairness is that of public health as was made clear by Janet Maxwell, Bristol’s director of public health. And the related idea of inclusiveness was picked up by delegates from Lifecycle and the Green Capital team.
There were a total of thirteen speakers at the summit, seven of them using the Pecha Kucha (http://www.pechakucha.org/) format. There’s a lot happening here, a good foundation to build on, and many enthusiastic conversations took place in the break for tea.
The summit is just a beginning: a route map. How far will the journey have got by the next Cycling Summit in 2014?