New Essex cycling strategy a ‘positive step’ for the county

Thousands of people flocked to Finchingfield to  greet the the Tour de France as they speed through the village in 2014.

Thousands of people flocked to Finchingfield to greet the the Tour de France as they speed through the village in 2014.

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Spending on cycling within Essex is set to treble as County Hall has rolled out a new strategy to encourage more people onto two wheels.

Dutch-style cycle paths and urban “quietways” could be introduced as part of Essex County Council’s new Cycling Strategy.

Currently the authority spends between £2-3 per person annually on cycling, but the council wants to increase this to £10 – giving a total spend of around £17million – by 2025.

The wide-ranging document aims to encourage more people to give up their cars and use cycling for transport, as well as getting more people on their bike for recreation and sport as way of keeping fit and healthy.

As part of the strategy, a new cycling advocate will be appointed to oversee its implementation and to work with cycle groups.

Councillor Ray Gooding, cycling champion for County Hall, said: “The Cycling Strategy will build on the excitement and enthusiasm Essex has shown whilst playing host to recent international events such as the Olympic Mountain Biking and Tour de France.

“We want to ensure everyone understands and enjoys the benefits riding a bike brings. Not only are you preventing congestion, but you are improving your health and wellbeing at the same time.”

Eddie Johnson, county councillor for highways and transport, added: “We are investing in cycling through a number of avenues to get people on their bikes.

“Cycling is a cheap and easy way to get from A-to-B whilst enjoying some of the beautiful scenery Essex has to offer.

“This long-term strategy will help focus our efforts for years to come to improve infrastructure for riders across the county.”

Members of the cycling community have tentatively welcomed the strategy as a step in the right direction, but say it does not go far enough – with some of their consultation responses seemingly overlooked.

Paul Avison, former vice-chairman of the Colchester Cycling Campaign, said: “The strategy does have a lot of positive things in it. Continental standards would be welcomed.

“But there are parts which are wishy-washy and a lot of areas could have been improved. We want it to be the best it can be.

“There is talk of an Essex-specific design guide, but there are superb guidelines elsewhere. We don’t need to re-invent the wheel.

“More money will be good, but it is the minimum of the government guidelines which suggest spending £10-20 per head, and it does not say where it will come from – the government, developer contributions, or the council? It is only a target too, and it depends how it will be spent.”

Mr Avison added the strategy must appeal to all, not just the Lycra-clad community as shown with the image from the Tour de France in Essex on the front page, while the image on the second page of the strategy shows a bike which is illegal to ride on a UK road as it has only one brake.

Cabinet members will debate and vote on the new strategy when they meet on Tuesday.

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